In Defense of Uncle Bill

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Time for a little heresy.

I like Microsoft’s advertising.

There, I said it.  Bring on the ire.  I welcome it.

Yes, I am a fan of a infamous Gates/Seinfeld ads (solely due to the fact I am a rabid Seinfeld fan), yes I enjoy the campy I’m a PC ads, and yes I am fond of the new Laptop Hunters ad campaign – the most recent of which can be seen below.

Now why would I dare admit to this, especially given the fact that I work for a tech company (in the marketing department to boot), within an industry that is home to the vast majority of Mac zealots (myself included), and where it is quite fashionable to bash anything Microsoft puts out.

Simple.  Looking at their advertising objectively, Microsoft’s ads smart, pointed, and consumer-focused.  This will get results.

One of the commandments of advertising, if there ever was such a thing, is that you want to create an emotional connection with your audience, and the easiest way to do this is to get them to relate to the context of the ad in question.  Think about the wildly successful Dove Campaign for Real Beauty ads.  These were successful not because they were a radical departure of airbrushed supermodels hawking their products, but because the target market saw that it could be ANYONE in those ads.

The same is happening with the recent Microsoft ads, the Gates/Seinfeld debacle notwithstanding.  Joe consumer will be able to relate to the regular people in these ads, in regular buying situations, and this will undoubtedly drive sales.  At this point the argument over pricing, features, viruses, and durability is irrelevant; it is much harder to create that connection with stilted caricatures like in the “Mac vs. PC” ads, that in my opinion sometimes go as far as to be smug and condescending, rather then relate-able.  I don’t know about you, but talking down to me isn’t going to sell me on your product no matter how hip/vogue it might be.

By now you are probably all thinking, “OK Chris, you can get off the soapbox anytime…” and you will be happy to know I am almost done my little rant, save for a small real estate take-away.

A couple weeks ago I was perusing the Homes section of our local newspaper when I came across an ad for a real estate agent advertising their services.  The agent in question was standing in front of their luxury automobile and boasted about how they were a “top producer” and in some sort of exclusive selling club for being so unbelievably awesome – the specifics escape me because I could not longer take it and stopped reading all together.

Rather then extol the benefits of themselves or the service they are providing, said agent should take a page from the Microsoft book of marketing and position their ad to relate to what customers are looking for when buying or selling.  Why not just say, “Look I know what you are going through in the buying/selling – I am here to help.”  You are going to come across much more approachable, and won’t completely turn off younger people like myself who see this type of advertising as borderline offensive.

The bottom line is this.  Just like Microsoft, your advertising should be a mirror of the consumer experience rather then a pulpit for you to launch into a speech about the benefits of your product/service in hopes that it meshes with someone that happens to hear it.

Now where is my Mac, I need to get some work done around here…

7 Comments

  • James says:

    You’re right about one thing – agents with megalomaniacal advertising….they need to get real.

    However, you’re totally off-base on Microsoft’s ads. There’s a reason why Microsoft’s advertising company uses Macs to produce Microsoft’s advertising…lol. I think the only results they will get are the percentage of people out there that do absolutely no real research before purchasing a computer or can’t afford a Mac or barely ever use a computer, etc…and this number of people, albeit a large percentage, is dwindling.

    Actually I think Microsoft’s ads show very little imagination or practicality. Also, it should be noted that Microsoft is *mostly* a software company, whereas Apple is a hardware company that also designs their own software to run on their hardware. So the entire premise of Microsoft’s recent ad campaign is a bit skewed. (Exactly which operating system are they advertising? 10 yr old XP? Flop Vista? 7 not released yet?)

    My recommendation would be that agents take a page from Apple’s book and come up with unique and creative advertising, even if it does poke fun at the stereotypical competitor’s corny ads and weaknesses.

    (You let your Mac out of your sight, what were you thinking?)

  • Carey says:

    I actually agree with you Chris.

    Apple’s brand is going to get gnawed on by its growth more and more as Apple becomes more mainstream, gobbles up more market share, and therefore cannot squeeze much more mileage out of the whole hipster-fanatic-glamour-brand-exclusivity track.

    Vanity never looks good in a recession – what resonates instead are things like value, reasonability, family, diligence and hard work – all of which are encapsulated in the Laptop Hunter spot.

    ‘I’m a Megan’ is not a big enough step in that direction. The Windows 7 fireworks, whether it sucks or not, are going to be fun to watch 🙂

  • Bryan Larson says:

    I’m going to side with James on this one. The PC commercial posted above depicts a young girl shopping for computer hardware, and she opts Dell. I get zero impression that the software has anything to do with the purchase – I mean, she spends more time lifting laptops than using the actual software.

    You’re right that the consumer experience is mirrored more accurately in the PC ad, but is it really as unoffensive as you think? I can’t help but get turned off by the closing quote: “I got exactly what I wanted” – “she usually does.” I would argue that the “high-rolling” agent has more in common with the “gets what she wants” teen than he does with the Mac hipster.

  • Megan says:

    I have to add my two cents here. I think you’re right Bryan – this particular Laptop Hunter commerical does place more emphasis on the Dell rather than software or operating system, and that’s too bad. Some of the other ads are a bit more effective I think.

    But, I still like these Laptop Hunter commercials. I find them entertaining. I used to enjoy the Mac vs. PC ads but find that more recently they smack of condescension. It’s just not the type of marketing that I personally respond to.

    And, I AM a Megan (and I use a PC).

  • Carey says:

    Actually that’s the best part.

    The software friggin’ sucks. Vista is a horrible product.

    But rather than trying to spread frosting on that Hamburger Helper cupcake by disingenuously extolling the virtues of a poor product, they actually choose not to mention the software at all.

    They have a deal with Dell. Buy a Dell and you buy Windows (yes, yes I know you can get one with Linux, but only JFB) so who cares whether you’re buying it for the hardware or the software?

    Microsoft makes a sale of their crappy OS and they manage to make that sale without ever mentioning the crappy OS.

    I love it.

    (For the record, I thought the “I’m a PC” campaign was terrible and that the Seinfeld campaign was a successful one, but only because it bombed badly enough to get $10Mil worth of attention :))

  • Quentin says:

    OK, I’ll bite.

    All of you are forgetting one important thing: the Microsoft / Dell / HP campaign is based on two simple factors: a blue-collar consumer and price. I didn’t say cost of ownership, I said price…as in “ring it up.”

    So there. You’ve got a Dell and you’ve got Window’s XP/ Vista or whatever you want to run under the hood, including virtually tens of thousands of potential freeware, shareware and third-party titles along with it…. most of them pretty good, too. Go to school, go to work, what have you.

    Then something happens. You need to update firmware and clean a bunch of freeware titles that seemed important at the time, but really are just eating up valuable disk space. And those patches. And virus alerts. What about peripherals? What about customer service after the fact? What about the downtime when things go wrong? Is that ‘cost’ worth anything to anybody? Do consumers even consider reliability or construction or quality when buying electronic devices? Well, get the best possible ‘UPFRONT” deal from virtually any brick-and-mortar / online merchant willing to hang a shingle as yet another Windows-PC vendor, and you’ll soon forget how much trouble your new Dell might cost you, because the darn thing was more affordable than a pair of Celine Dion tickets. “I can afford to spend a bit of effort keeping this baby running, didn’t you see the deal I got?”

    How many people here can say they bought a personal computer and without doing any major updates or upgrades to it, are still using it after four years? Five years? Six years? Well, I can.

    To me, a major purchase decision is weighed far more on how much I get to use it vs. how much I paid to get it.

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