Daniel Eran Dilger
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Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Ads Created On Macs

I'm A PC
Daniel Eran Dilger
After dumping its $10 million contract with Jerry Seinfeld after just three ads (only two of which even aired) Microsoft has created new ad copy where regular people and a few celebrities say, “I’m a PC!” One problem with the campaign’s credibility: the ad work was created using Macs.

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I’m a PC too… touché
Flickr user LuisDS found that metadata on the creative copy of the “stereotyped PC user” and other photos appearing on Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” website revealed that they were produced using Macs running Adobe Creative Suite 3. One might expect that Microsoft would use Windows PCs running its own Microsoft Expression Studio software, which as the company advertises, “takes your creative possibilities to a new level.”

Apparently, neither Windows PCs nor Expression Studio are up to the task of taking on Apple and destroying its globe enshrouding “Get a Mac” campaign. The image of John Hodgman as a troubled PC struggling with Vista-related problems has pushed Microsoft to defend itself with a $300 million campaign to take control of the “conversation about Windows,” using Macs as needed to get the message produced.

When LuisDS checked on the photos again this morning after publishing the metadata details on Flickr last night, he found that Microsoft has scrubbed the revealing details from the work, an effort that also resulted in the 272 KB photo ballooning to 852 KB.


Priceless! on Flickr

[Update: “the ads were also audio mixed on Macs” according to an unnamed source.]

You Paid $300 Million For What?

Microsoft has previously taken heat for its Mojave Experiment and got blank stares from users blown away by the Seinfield ads about nothing, which portrayed Bill Gates as a spendthrift billionaire who complains about leftovers served by his host as he struggles to get “in touch with ordinary American life” and turns out “to be an unimpressive tipper,” according to the work featured on the Windows ad site.

Microsoft PressPass – Windows

Microsoft’s Mojave Attempts to Wet Vista’s Desert
Microsoft’s Mojave Experiment Exposes Serious Vista Problems
Paul Thurrott calls Apple “the Bad Guys” of Microsoft’s $300 Million Ads
Gates, Seinfeld and the $300 Million Ad to Nowhere
Microsoft’s $300 million ad campaign tumbles with new PC ads

No CP+B, That’s a Little Too Much Like ‘Get a Mac.’

Once it was revealed that Microsoft’s marketing company for the ads, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was profiled on Apple’s Pro site as an enthusiastic user of Macs, the profile was pulled from Apple Canada’s website. Here’s the original profile:

Crispin Porter + Bogusky: A Crash Course in Taxi Driving

By Barbara Gibson

Watching the gypsy cab — a shiny black Volkswagen Rabbit with checkerboard side stripes — pull onto Fifth Avenue, you probably wouldn’t know that its driver, Steve from Colorado, had never driven in New York City. Or, in fact, ever been to New York.

But in a reality-video experiment called the Gypsy Cab Project, Steve cruised the streets of Manhattan for 14 days, offering perfect strangers free taxi rides in an effort to demonstrate the Rabbit’s ability to negotiate extreme city traffic.

The brainchild of Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, the Gypsy Cab project documented, via spy cameras, Steve’s efforts explaining the project and getting 100 people to trust him to take them where they wanted to go — in spite of traffic jams, fire trucks, garbage trucks, delivery trucks, bicycle messengers, oblivious pedestrians, and 12,187 other cabbies.

CP+B captured the digital video using four Mac minis stored in the Rabbit’s wheel well, then broadcast the footage — first raw and later edited — on the Gypsy Cab website.

It’s No Accident
“One of our logistical challenges with Gypsy Cab was to find a way to mount four cameras in the vehicle and record everything so we could edit it later,” says interactive producer Marcelino Alvarez.

Working with technical director Scott Prindle and system architect Adam Heathcott, Alvarez suggested the Mac minis. “Most of the company works on Macs and I knew we’d be editing on Final Cut Pro systems,” Alvarez says. “The easiest way for me to approach this was, get the footage already digitized, give it to our editors in a format they can use, and just feed everything up.

”Besides, with regular tapes,“ Alvarez adds, ”we would have needed four tape decks. They only have about an hour to record, so we would have spent all our time switching out tapes, labeling the tapes, digitizing the tapes and probably missing some good footage when a fare ran over an hour. With the Mac minis, we could record over 10 hours continuously.“

Rookie on View
Alvarez also set up a wireless network in the back of the Rabbit and added an amplifier to the wireless signal. ”We had a MacBook Pro in the chase vehicle so we could monitor the video and control the recording on each camera using Apple Remote Desktop,“ Alvarez says. ”Steve also had an earpiece so we could talk to him from the chase car.“

One fare Steve picked up, a producer for a major network news show, asked, ”So where are your big chase vehicles?“

Steve: ”Everyone’s running everything from a laptop in the car behind us.“

”You only have one car? You don’t have four?“

”When the news producer does shows, he has four chase vehicles and microwave technology, and everything’s beamed somewhere else,“ Alvarez explains. ”We had everything stored in the back of the Rabbit. Those are the really cool, key moments when you can step back and look at what you’re doing and you say, ‘Wow, this is kind of ahead of the curve, and it’s working.’“

Unifying Theory
For compression and editing, Alvarez and Prindle set up seven Power Mac G5s in a New York apartment. ”We decided to go with the G5s with quad processors because we wanted to compress the footage and post it to the website within 24 hours,“ says Alvarez.

Two editors matched the video to real-time GPS data the Gypsy Cab collected, then compressed and uploaded the raw footage. Two others worked in Final Cut Pro to create edited versions of Steve’s Favorite Fares.

Even Prindle was impressed by the video the production team was able to compress and upload in such a short period of time. ”One of the producers who worked with us on the Gypsy Cab project had also worked on ‘Taxi Cab Confessions’ for HBO,“ Prindle says. ”He told us that it took them more than a month of shooting before they could fill an hour time slot on the show.

“We were turning video around left and right. Here we had these Mac Minis buried down in a wheel well, underneath people’s luggage, and we could count on them being dependable and reliable throughout the process.”


Microsoft’s Meanest Envy.

The new “I’m a PC” ads portray a Hodgman lookalike as a stereotype, making it unclear if Microsoft is trying to portray the PC character as an unrealistic and unflattering attack by Apple (which the rest of the ad underscores), or if the company is trying to hijack Apple’s character as the “kind person you would rather have a beer with,” the message being presented by Windows Enthusiast pundits ever since the Get a Mac ads began playing.

That idea of the everyman PC is subtly hinted to in the sean@windows.com email address that appears in the Mac-created photos. Is it there to tempt readers into sending love letters to the stereotypical PC character? Why isn’t it bill@windows.com? Why doesn’t it credit Apple?

The solo PC character creates an immediate association with Apple’s ads, which probably wasn’t the best way to spend $300 million, but certainly no worse than Mojave or the ‘Antisocial Gates’ short films. Where was Mac? Apparently, he was iding behind the scenes to produce everything.

Macs at Microsoft.

In 2003, Microsoft fired an employee who posted a photo of new PowerMac G5 systems being delivered to the company onto his blog.

At the same time, the company has no problem showing the vast numbers of Macs it buys to test builds of Office for Mac within the MacBU. Microsoft is apparently still the largest Mac developer outside of Apple.

eclecticism » Even Microsoft wants G5s
David Weiss: A Tour of Microsoft’s Mac Lab

Next: Microsoft’s “Windows vs Walls” Ad Tries to Think Different, Fails

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  • gus2000


  • JohnWatkins

    “One might expect that Microsoft would use Windows PCs running its own Microsoft Expression Studio software . . . ”

    One might if one didn’t have the slightest idea how ad media is developed. As you point out, Microsoft didn’t make the ads. They paid CP+B to do it. Are we still in the days where Microsoft forces the choice of tools upon their workmen? Do the workmen still put up with that?
    $300 million?!!! No problem!

  • SamLowry

    “I’m a PC and I sell fish”

    right. we knew that but thank you, microsoft.

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  • talonhawk

    @ JohnWatkins

    My impression is that the article is more about the strange cover-up Microsoft did and other related inconsistencies regarding their behavior toward macs in general.

    M$ obviously likes macs when they can sell Office apps to mac users, but they feel the need to be defensive about their OS offerings instead of actually dealing with the issues their OS clearly has.

  • mr_kitty

    TAUW had a brilliant insight on the latest ad:
    …”What Get a Mac suggests is that your Mac is your kinda cool, but laid-back and easy-going friend that’ll help you get things done. In other words, your Mac is your friend, not who you yourself are.

    “On the other hand, the I’m a PC ads say exactly that: you (the user) are a PC. Who the heck would want to be that? What they’re trying to maintain is that PC users are unfairly being stereotyped as besuited, boring, glasses-wearing losers. But with the repeated exclamation “I’m a PC,” the ads actually suggest a kind of Borg-like insistence that I as a user have to be assimilated into my computer.”

    And in fairness, the MicroSurf was fired for posting the photo of those G5 because they weren’t destined for the MBU. As I recall, they were destined for the Xbox team, because the new Xbox was using the same G5 processor (and the photo was unsanctioned, and unvetted by Microsoft’s PR teams… aka “Executive Dating Pool”).

    Microsoft DOES still maintain a draconian hold over the hardware most it’s partners use, but they can hardly put that kind of demand on an ad agency that they’re likely only using for this one campaign.

    Finally, Apple spends an excessive amount of money every year on Industrial Design, yet there are still NO functional ID tools for the Mac. That means, somewhere in the bowels of Cupertino there are some machines running Windows software…

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  • JohnWatkins

    @ 4talonhawk
    Actually I was speaking a bit facetiously.
    My (admittedly obscure) points were:
    1.) That of course any self respecting ad firm is mostly using macs for much of their creative production.
    2.) This incident is unsurprising. Its happened before (originally about 10 or 15 years ago I think but many times since) and MS went through all sorts of gyrations to avoid it . Whole companies were founded in Redmond just to service this weird “PCs only” need of MS’s. Finally, I though they had given up.
    3.) Isn’t it silly to proscribe to your professional crafts people what brand of tools they must use to do work for you?
    4.) For a taste of a $300 million ad campaign don’t you think you could accommodate MS’s weird, inconvenient, peccadilloes? Just charge them 2 or 3 times as much as you normally would and bite the bullet.

  • Al T

    So what does it mean that the apple store uses handhelds running windows mobile? (Oh. I’m sorry I meant M$ windoze) . It means nothing.

    the vast majority of people don’t care what they use, only if it gets the job done. The only ones that really care are bloggers and fanboys.

    Such childishness.

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  • JohnWatkins

    Enjoyed your post but take exception with one part.
    Certainly there are Windows based PCs that are used in the development of Apple products, after all they are tools. But “NO functional ID tools for the Mac” ? There sure isn’t the variety that are available for the PC, but there are some great ones. I particularly like Ashlar’s cross-platform Cobalt. You can do just about everything on it from soup to nuts. Sketch, form find, solid model, render, all the way to tool design.
    And there are some others too.
    Burt Rutan likes it

  • gus2000

    I’m guessing most advertising agencies use Macs, since Dell was busted last year using Garageband loops in their ads:


  • lightstriker

    the Life Without Walls remind me of the old Apple pictures showing the power of MacPro to run multiple monitor. That started more than 3 years ago? Apple just recently took it off their site. Is this another example of MS one step behind Apple again?

  • lightstriker

    @mr_kitty “That means, somewhere in the bowels of Cupertino there are some machines running Windows software…”

    Yeah they are Macs running Bootcamp to test iTunes, Quicktime, Safari…

  • GotsOne

    Feel free to use this still from the next Billy G. / Seinfeld ad… It actually makes sense…

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  • paulhart

    Are we still in the days where Microsoft forces the choice of tools upon their workmen? Do the workmen still put up with that?

    Simple answer: yes. I used to work for an ad agency that landed Microsoft as a client. The Lotus Notes email system disappeared shortly thereafter, replaced by an Exchange monstrosity. Many other things changed over time too, generally in a Windows-related direction.

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  • nelsonart


    See if you can pry into Microsoft and find out how in the hell those 2 commercials, both of which were utter flops, cost anywhere near $300 million. We know $10M went to Jerry. About $50 went to those shoes. What about the other $290 million? Even if they blasted it all over the networks, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

    If I were an MS shareholder, I’d expect a little more than watching Bill adjust his shorts and a copy of Apple’s I’m a PC campaign.

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  • xyzxy

    So what! The point of the ad isn’t how it was created, it’s about the people in the ads.

    And even his highness Steve Jobs is immune from using content created my PCs (http://jdeber.blogspot.com/2007/06/gigapixel-of-irony.html) last years WDC keynote Stevie Boy showing off large images CREATED ON WINDOWS.

    [Nobody thinks that Windows isn’t in use in the world. The point of the article, which I shouldn’t have to explain, is that Microsoft can’t even discount the Mac with its “3.5% worldwide market share” when it makes ads about how great PCs are. ]

  • http://home.comcast.net/~daguy daGUY

    “…metadata on the creative copy of the ‘stereotyped PC user’ and other photos appearing on Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ website revealed that they were produced using Macs running Adobe Creative Suite 3. One might expect that Microsoft would use Windows PCs running its own Microsoft Expression Studio software…”

    Why? Did Microsoft produce the ads in-house? No, they hired an outside company. The fact that the outside company uses Macs says nothing about Microsoft.

    Ever notice how Apple Store employees carry portable credit card readers that run Windows Mobile? You wrote up a whole article about it. So you can turn this around quite easily:

    “One might expect that Apple would use iPhone or iPod Touch handhelds running its own OS X operating system to scan credit cards and process transactions…”

    Would you use this as evidence of how inferior mobile OS X is? No, so why use this same argument against Microsoft?

  • Scott

    Why is daGuy trolling a Mac fan blog/site?

  • Scott

    The point is: Microsoft has the tool and they claim they are better than what the competition offers, so why not use them in their own ads? Apple has no POS system for their handhelds and that is why they use WM, get it? When they develop their own POS they will obviously drop the WM POS.

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  • obiwan

    “The point is: Microsoft has the tool and they claim they are better than what the competition offers, so why not use them in their own ads?”

    Except that Microsoft did not produce the ad. CP+B did it for them.
    (Besides, where did Microsoft claim that CS3 runs better on Windows, than on a Mac. Do you have a link?)

    “Apple has no POS system for their handhelds and that is why they use WM, get it? When they develop their own POS they will obviously drop the WM POS.”

    There is basically no difference here. Apple would have to invest money to develop their own POS, CP+B would have to invest money to switch to Windows. But why should they, if their current solutions work.

  • BigDan

    A couple of observations…
    I think MS has killed the Get a Mac ads and that was their intention all along. The only way Apple can save the campaign is an immediate and really funny direct retaliation centered around the fact that MS always, always copies Apple and never leads.

    The often quoted stat that MS is the biggest Apple developer outside Apple surely shows how overmanned, bloated and unproductive they are. Compare their output to Adobe’s for example.

    I’m also surprised with this ‘life without walls’ slogan. Another super-meaningless phrase that rather shoots itself in the foot by pointing out that if you don’t need walls, you will most certainly have no need for windows. A strange choice indeed…

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  • LuisDias

    Scott, why are you trolling about trolls? Seriously, daGuy did present a good thought. I’ts very ironic that the 300 million dollar ads made by MS to clearly bite Apple were made on Apple Hardware and software all along, and I did chuckle at the post, but it’s not that surprising nor a scandal of any sorts.

  • softie

    Wow, this is really a big deal for you guys! I guess you haven’t really thought about the point of this campaign. Whether you think the Seinfeld ads were funny or not (I thought they were), or whether you think the i’maPC ads are copies of Mac ads or not, you’re all spending an *awful* lot of time dissecting and analyzing them. Have you heard the cliche “There’s no such thing as bad press?”

    Yes, Microsoft prefers partners who use their products. Guess what? So does Apple, Oracle, IBM, Coca Cola and almost every other commercial entity out there. Try walking into an HP facility to make a sales pitch with a Dell laptop and tell me how successful you’ll be. Similarly, are you going to carry a Dasani water bottle into a Pepsi meeting? These are basic business sensitivities/considerations. Should CP+B have considered this when generating the ads on Macs, using Adobe software? Maybe. Does this compromise the point of the ads? Again, there’s no such thing as bad press, so keep talking about it. Please, find something else relatively insignificant and focus on that so that this whole campaign gets even more free press.

    [Somewhat ironic to say, given that Microsoft’s $300 million campaign has people talking about how it relates with the Apple ads its copies, rather than anything Microsoft actually sells.]

    I think the Mini Cooper is the neatest little car around. To me, it’s the Mac of autos. Why don’t I have one? Because I have two kids and there’s no way that “cool car” can meet the requirements I have for a car. We need something larger; it’s as simple as that. Do I think people who drive Minis are better or worse people? No more so than I think that Mac users are better or worse people. The Microsoft ads don’t say that we *are* our PCs, any more than the Mac ads say you’re going to transform from a boring office worker to a cool, hip dude who dates movie stars just by getting a Mac. The ads are illustrating the point that not all people who use a PC look like a frumpy office worker.

    So many of you equate Apple, Google, Red Hat and others not only with being cool, but with altruism and integrity. You think Microsoft is the “evil empire.” Have you really taken an objective look at the commercial activities of these companies, and compared them with Microsoft? They all have balance sheets, they all want to increase profits, they all want to beat their competitors, etc. Tell me what Apple does that makes them “better” than Microsoft (other than hiring better marketing agencies).

    [Apple supports open protocols and open standards and open source; it doesn’t break the law, violate consent decrees, and hasn’t held back technology for two decades. It doesn’t’ ship mediocre products that the world is forced to use because it has prevented a competitive marketplace. For starters….]

    You may think that the Mac, iPod and iPhone are the be-all and end-all, but when you get into your cars, when you buy something at the Apple Store, when you buy a Coke from a vending machine, when you check in at the airport on a kiosk, you’re using Windows. I hate to break it to you, but you’re a PC too.


    [Are you sure soda vending machines run Windows? In any event, the point isn’t that Macs are better than Windows due to branding, but that Microsoft is a desperately flailing company with no sense, no taste, and no original ideas. I think your over the top pride is a bit overstated. ]

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