Microsoft recently started their new ad campaign where seemingly normal people try to buy a new computer. They’re given a budget and if they find one that fills their requirements, they can keep it.
The first advert follows Lauren with a budget of $1000. She wants a laptop that’s fast, has a comfortable keyboard and a 17” screen. On her quest for a laptop she visits the Apple store and comes out saying they are over her budget and that she’s just not cool enough to be a Mac person. She has no trouble finding a suitable laptop in regular electronics store and ends up purchasing a HP Pavilion. The second advert follows Giampaolo with a slightly bigger budget of $1500. He wants a laptop that’s portable, has good battery life and power. Once again there is a poke at Apple. This time they are more about aesthetics rather then power and that he doesn’t want to be paying for a brand. And once again he ends up with a HP Pavilion (Oh, HP, that’ll be the brand you just paid for then).
My problem with the adverts isn’t the poke at Apple, but rather they are promoting a non-message. If I’m going out to buy a new computer and I don’t want a Mac or want a Mac but don’t want to save for it, I have no choice but to buy a PC. I can’t see them swaying the people who have made the choice to switch and have the money ready to buy a Mac. So who are these adverts aimed at? There’s no competition in the sub $1500-$2000 range, so is it even worth doing at all. Honda make ads to stand out amongst Toyota, Ford etc. They don’t make adverts in the hope that they’ll stop people that are thinking of splashing out on an expensive sports car, and sway them to settle for a Civic instead. This and the previous ”I’m a PC” series of adverts just end up legitimising Apple’s presence. Apple is a tiny dog biting at the heels of a giant, yet Microsoft feel like they need to gear their entire consumer TV advertising campaign to take them on. The campaign may well be just insurance for Microsoft. How many heads would roll if they decided to ignore Apple completely, or not even bother advertising to consumers, and then their market share tanked. Perhaps it’s better to appear to do something, then to not do anything at all. On the other hand though, could all that money be better spent doing something else.
All of which leads me onto what I would do if I was Microsoft. Simply, I would advertise Windows 7 and IE8. I’d give people hope once again in Microsoft products (Hopefully the products would match the hype). But I’d ram it down people’s throats day and night. “Forget what you thought about Vista, Windows 7 is coming”. “Experience the web like you’ve never done before. IE8 has arrived”. That sort of stuff.
Perhaps that’s what I find so alluring about the “Apple way”. When you see them in use, you feel like you’re being taken to a time and place beyond the normal preconceptions of how technology works. Microsoft used to have that. Microsoft used to ask “Where do you want to go today?”, with the promise of taking you there, no matter how far fetched your dreams were. Now they just state “Your potential. Our passion.”, which leaves you with the sinking feeling that really over the years a massive void has grown between us and them.