Comparing Apples and Windows

Last week, Microsoft unveiled its first television commercial in its new $300 million campaign to “highlight how Windows has become an indispensable part of the lives of a billion people around the globe” (Microsoft press release). I’ve been amused by the Mac vs PC ads that have been around for a bit, and Windows has been working to counter them with a this new advertising scheme that features the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.

Some of the responses I read, including a blog post by David Zeiler of The Baltimore Sun, give responses that I think are just a bit too negative (but some of the comments on Zeiler’s post expand the conversation in really smart ways). Is this the first ad that sells a product without showing the product? Certainly not. It’s risky, but sometimes it works. (For one of my favorites, take a look at what Haagen Dazs is doing these days.) I think in this case the ad is more powerful than some are giving it credit.

Just recently, a member of a listserv to which I subscribe posted a link to a very interesting episode from Frontline called “The Persuaders.” I watched only the first chapter (which was really good, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it), and what it presented resonates with the Apple and Windows ad campaigns: When our culture is already imbued with advertising, creating a flavor that pops out from the rest is difficult but is what every ad agency tries to do, and as those agencies continue to compete, they increasingly blur the (already unclear) distinction between culture and advertising. That’s precisely what Microsoft is doing with this first commercial and apparently what it will do with its entire campaign.

So far, however, I’m more a fan of the Mac vs PC ad campaign. The commercials do well in their simplicity, comedy, and visual representation of the two operating systems/software/hardware bundles (I’m not quite sure how to describe them when “Apple” refers to all three components and “Microsoft” refers to the first two). The Mac guy is confident but not pompous, competitive but sensitive, and very human and fun. The PC guy is the nerd with glasses who could use some exercise, needs to get out of the office, and should work on catching up with the times. Would I take such a simplistic approach in identifying people in real life? No. But I do think it works here.

But I’ll let you decide.

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2 thoughts on “Comparing Apples and Windows

  1. PC guy=Bill Gates: Nerdy four eyes who is out of touch but friendly, clumsly, and endearing.

    Mac guy=Seinfeld: Cool, informal, hip, but a bit condescending and irritating.

    I think that Microsoft did enough focus groups to figure out that many people actually liked and/or identified with PC guy and found Mac guy a bit off-putting, so they cast for the part. The Seinfeld character–funny and hip but irritating and narrow minded–was a brilliant choice as foil to Bill Gates (who needs help shopping).

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