Article: Weighing in on the New Microsoft Ads

by on March 30, 2009

Word has spread about a new ad from Microsoft promoting PCs as the best choice for people who want a lot of computer for not a lot of money. The first ad has been airing and generating some buzz. There are some things to take away from that.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out:

<a href=";playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7&#038;showPlaylist=true&#038;from=shared" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

As you can see, the ad features a young woman who is trying to buy a laptop for $1000 or less, but it has to fit some requirements (17″ screen). She hits up an Apple store and promptly leaves, declaring that she’s “not cool enough for a Mac”. Yeah, you saw the rest. What is the point of this ad?

Selling Windows

This is the obvious reason, but in the ad, Windows is never mentioned. In fact, only the logo is shown. No points are mentioned, and we don’t know if Microsoft is pushing Vista or the upcoming Windows 7. There is no comparison or comment about WIndows XP, which is really the users that they need to be targeting.

Bashing Apple

Microsoft has taken a beating from Apple’s humorous ads, but Microsoft is never named specifically. “Vista” is used in a few, but the competition is merely known as “PC”. Besides that, Apple has a tiny market share compared to all of the PC manufacturers. This is no different than Pepsi picking on Coke. They’re fighting to grow.

However, it seems a bit weird that Microsoft feels the need to make this ad about Apple. If you remove Lauren’s trip to the Apple store, the ad loses any point.

Pointing Out that PCs are Cheap

We get it – you can get a rather capable computer for $700 at a Buy More, but as many have pointed out in other commentaries, this ad cedes the higher end market to Apple. Although many present the analogy of computers to cars, Apple is more like the Honda or Toyota (maybe even Mazda), rather than BMW or Mercedes. Macs may have a slightly higher up-front cost, but in many cases, provide a more satisfactory user experience and seem to have more brand loyalty. If you gave someone $12000 and said “go buy a new compact car”, someone would not be able to buy a Civic (or even a Fit), but could get an Aveo.

I don’t think this is the message Microsoft wants to be sending, especially since the ad does not actually sell Windows (but rather the computers it runs on). This would be like GM running an ad campaign that just says “buy an American car”. Instead, GM has been running various ads comparing their products to models from Honda and Toyota and pointing out the various positives.

What Can We Take Away From This?

I don’t want this to turn into a Mac vs. Windows debate, but I think this ad campaign may actually help Apple. In a world of $400 laptops, $250 netbooks, and a terrible economy, Apple needs to respond. I’m not saying Apple needs to have dirt-cheap computers, but the Mac mini needs to go back to the $499 price point, and there needs to be a lower-priced laptop. Maybe it could be a stripped-down MacBook (especially if it were based off of the unibody models). A netbook is not the answer, because, as demonstrated even in the ad, size matters — many people don’t think in terms of resolution vs screen size or even that a netbook could do most tasks people would need.

I’m not sure where this ad campaign is going to go next, but I think that the average TV viewer will see that this is a rather weak response to Apple’s ad campaign…almost desperate.

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