Daniel Eran Dilger
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Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” Millions Actually Promoting the Mac

Daniel Eran Dilger
Poor Microsoft. In its efforts to ’embrace and extend’ Apple’s Get a Mac advertising for its own purposes, it has only managed to funnel $300 million into Mac brand awareness. Here’s why Microsoft’s latest “I’m a PC” campaign is such an epic fail.

Microsoft $300 Million Ads
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
Microsoft’s “Windows vs Walls” Ad Tries to Think Different, Fails
Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” Millions Actually Promoting the Mac
Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Campaign Keeps Getting Stranger (With Videos)
I’m a PC too… touché
Compare Apple’s Ads

Brand advertising can have a number of goals. Apple’s Think Different campaign didn’t even show the company’s products, but associated Apple with the freethinking, trailblazing individuals the ads profiled.

Apple desperately needed to run the Think Different ads because its image throughout the decade of the 90s had slipped from PowerBook innovator to a second rate platform that couldn’t even keep up with its own Mac OS cloner licensees.

Think Different signaled a departure from Apple’s existing muddled strategies to emulate Microsoft’s software licensing business model to a new one where the company would compete with hardware products worthy of attention. The Switch and Get a Mac campaigns reinforced that intent with invitations to try Apple products.

 Wp-Content Uploads 2008 08 200808292339

Two Decades of Portable Macs: 1989 – 2009
Gates, Seinfeld and the $300 Million Ad to Nowhere

Microsoft’s Forgettable Ad Copy Copy.

Quick, name a Microsoft ad campaign. You probably can’t. The company has pooped out a series of forgettable campaigns, but none of them mattered or even needed to because the company doesn’t have to advertise the PC or even Windows. It’s the default option, and Microsoft has held a monopoly position for so long that it’s never really had to compete in a free and open market.

The company is currently advertising “Windows vs Walls,” an attempt to use uplifting prose to signal the company’s mission, but a striking failure compared to the Think Different text its attempts to copy. Microsoft also copied the Switcher ads, promoting “confessions of a Mac to PC convert” before admitting that the woman being portrayed was just a stock photography image paired with invented ad copy relating experiences that never happened.

 Media Images 38342000 Jpg  38342411 Fakead-Msoft300

Now the company is copying Get A Mac. But rather than advertising Microsoft’s own products as a superior alternatives to its competitors as Apple is, Microsoft comes across as belligerently defensive about its image, demanding conformity, and really only draws more attention to Apple.

Microsoft’s “Windows vs Walls” Ad Tries to Think Different, Fails
iPod vs Zune: Microsoft’s Slippery Astroturf

Microsoft’s Defensive Advertising

Lately, Microsoft has been forced to advertise defensively. It has worked diligently to attack Linux in an effort to portray free server software as more expensive than its own very expensive server software.

Faced with a failing brand value, Microsoft also attempted to create the impression that bloggers were interested in chatting about Microsoft’s nebulous strategies with the “People Ready” campaign, which really said nothing but handed out bloggers money to repeat the “people ready” catch phrase in an attempt to turn it into a valuable brand slogan. After being exposed, Microsoft slinked away from the “pay to say” People Ready campaign.

After Vista went on sale, Microsoft blew out an expensive “Wow” campaign that fell as flat on its face as Vista itself. Now that Apple has been advertising its Mac in comparison with the generic PC, Microsoft has jumped first to defend Vista with the Mojave Experiment, then to defend Bill Gates’ “cool” with the Seinfeld ads, and now to the defense of the PC, which Microsoft calls “stereotyped.”

Defense is reactionary. Microsoft isn’t aiming for where the puck is going to be, it’s demanding that everyone recognize that it once owned the puck and wouldn’t let anyone else in the game. This isn’t a very interesting message anymore, and advertising it doesn’t do anything for Microsoft.

Daniel Lyons Cries Wolf: The Real Bill Gates Behind the Fake Steve Jobs: People Ready
Gates, Seinfeld and the $300 Million Ad to Nowhere

The Epic Failure of ‘I’m a PC’ Ads.

The primary problem with Microsoft taking Apple’s ad slogan and attempting to turn it into its own proprietary self serving message is that Apple and Microsoft aren’t competing against each other to sell widgets. Apple sells premium PCs it calls Macs, while Microsoft sells an invisible software license installed on most new PCs, software that most users aren’t even really aware of when they make a computer purchase.

Nobody really buys a PC to get Windows. Today, most consumers buy a new PC to use email and the web, things that don’t even require Windows at all. There are now prominent PC products from Dell and Acer that don’t even include Windows, and that trend is just getting started.

By stealing Apple’s advertising line, Microsoft has unwittingly poured money into advertising “the computer” rather than its own software. It doesn’t (and can’t) mention Macs directly or make any direct comparisons, as doing so would only bring additional attention toward Apple as the generic PC’s minority competitor.

However, by prominently saying “I’m a PC” and dressing up like Apple’s John Hodgman, Microsoft is spending its $300 million to reinforce the idea of Apple’s ads. When you see and hear “I’m a PC,” you think “where’s the ‘I’m a Mac’ guy? Oh right, it’s not an Apple commercial, it’s about the PC that is competing with Apple.”

Streisand Effect Advertising.

Rather than providing any competitive reason to not use a Mac, the “I’m a PC” ads only defensively attempt to shout down an unflattering comparison, subsequently draw attention to that comparison instead. This is similar the Streisand Effect, named after Barbra Streisand’s $50 million lawsuit aimed at stopping distribution of photos of her house. All of the resulting publicity just caused Streisand’s otherwise uninteresting photos to be plastered all over the Internet.

Similarly, Microsoft’s multimillion dollar efforts to hijack the “conversation about Windows” only has people talking about how the PC ads compare to Apple’s Mac ads, and therefore serve Apple’s goals more than Microsoft’s. After all, Microsoft doesn’t really need to promote the use of the PC. It needs to promote Vista and its other products. Rather than having anyone talk about Vista, the ads direct attention to the Mac and discussion about how effective they were compared to their obvious target.

Anyone searching for “I’m a PC” will see Google results of Microsoft’s ads being compared to Apple’s, a link to Apple’s Get a Mac Ads, a spoof of Apple’s ads, more links to Apple’s ads, and Apple’s site explaining why “Why your next PC should be a Mac.”

In YouTube, where many users go to check the ads out, they’re similarly bunched up with Get a Mac ads, and of course Get a Mac parodies. The I’m a PC ad is really itself a Get a Mac parody.

Isn’t Apple Advertising the PC Back?

Apple’s Get a Mac ads contrast the Mac with a generic PC. Apple doesn’t call attention to Dell or HP or other specific vendors, nor does it talk a lot about Windows, apart from mentioning problems with Vista.

That makes Apple’s ad effective; it’s comparing the experience of a PC with that of a Mac. Microsoft’s talk about users ‘being a PC’ does the opposite, aligning users as either being PC or not PC. Because Microsoft isn’t even bothering to promote Windows, the people in the ad could just as well be Mac users, as Macs are premium PCs.

Notable is the fact that Microsoft can’t promote users as saying they ‘are Vista PCs,’ as most users couldn’t identify with that, nor would they associate ‘being Vista’ with a good thing.

The next segment will look at additional I’m a PC segments, which, believe it or not, only get worse.

Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Campaign Keeps Getting Stranger (With Videos)
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  • isserley

    “Quick, name a Microsoft ad campaign. You probably can’t.”

    Wrong question, or rather wrong audience. – The typical consumer probably wouldn´t be able to recall any Microsoft ad campaign. – The Macheads reading and posting here OTOH probably do remember some of the biggest blunders. ;-)
    People_ready comes to mind first, and the excellent daringfireball had back in the day.

  • isserley

    here´s the link

  • isserley
  • mshettles

    “Quick, name a Microsoft ad campaign. You probably can’t.”

    Yeah I don’t know what world you were living or rock you slept under during the Windows 95 launch but the “Start Me Up ” ad campaign was enormously successful.

    Frankly I wish Apple would drop the smug D-list actor Justin Long. He is annoying and smug, just like he seems to be in real life from all his interviews. It’s sad that the “PC” character is the highlight of the advertisements.

  • PerGrenerfors

    I think Justin Long’s character in the “Get a Mac” ads is a smug a-hole and I certainly wouldn’t want him as a computer on my desk. But it’s of little relevance to the ads effectiveness. It’s about pointing out that the culture surrounding generic PCs has problems. It has technical problems, it has aesthetic problems and it has marketing problems. Now, having John Hodgeman as the PC is kind of like saying “YOU SUCK!!” without being a total jerk. He’s the center of the campaign, he’s the one who makes it work (as Jobs said himself). Imagine how it would be like if PC really was some douche in a suit and Mac was a guy who was actually likeable and not just “cool”. That would just make Apple the choice of jerks around the world.

  • murdocdv

    You really need to read John Gruber’s latest called Digging Deeper about the ads: http://daringfireball.net/2008/09/digging_deeper

    I also expanded on Gruber’s idea a bit on my blog:

    And Mac as personified by Justin Long is not smug. He is calm, cool, serene, confident, and empathic. That isn’t smug, look up the definition, you can be confident without being prideful about it. Remember Mac is a PC, just one that is special and doesn’t have the problem’s that generic PC has, read my blog for the 3 kinds of ads Apple makes in this series. Mac sympathizes with PC, it’s PC that is erratic, emotional, reactionary, schizophrenic, and of course funny.

  • fatbarstard

    I agree… PC in the Mac ads is the centre of it all – Mac guy is just a prop to get the message about PC’s across – Hodgeman deserves the credit because he is playing the fall guy.

    But back onto the point about Microsoft’s ads… I just don’t get it… I still can’t see what the message is… the ads are boring, dull and meaningless to most people… I’m a PC? I’m politically correct?? Naff off!

    Dan is right – Windows is invisible to most consumers… its just there… how can you advertise a product no one really thinks is there? its like trying to advertise electricity… it just is…

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    “There are now prominent PC products from Dell and Acer that don’t even include Windows, and that trend is just getting started.”

    I’m glad to hear the attention is shifting away from Microsoft. Maybe there will be place for questions like: “When will HP bring their own operating system?” or: “Will Sony finally leverage their Playstation platform for PC and mobile markets?”

    Meanwhile Microsoft can slowly drift to what always has been their destination: a merger with IBM where they can write expensive corporate software for big companies that can afford to pay the bill.

  • lehenbauer

    I don’t know, man. You have sussed out all this meaning, but the thing for people will mostly be whether or not they like the ads, and I think they will. I would have preferred for the ads to be terrible (talkin’ about video here), but actually I think they are quite good.

    [Quite good at what? The point isn’t whether you or I like them, but what they accomplish. Likable ads aren’t necessarily effective and vice versa. ]

  • nat

    I always like to see what kind of context-sensitive ads are generated on this site. While I didn’t find a particularly interesting ad on this article, on Dan’s The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack I saw a Ford ad for a “Multi-Panel Vista Roof.” Hmm, now I’ve seen a number of Ford ads about SYNC, Microsoft’s in-car voice system, on RDM and when I clicked on the Ford Vista ad, below was an ad for SYNC. Does anyone think this is part of Microsoft’s deal with Ford? A way to associate the word vista with something good?

    Here’s a link to a screen capture of the ad:

    And here’s the page the ad led to when clicked:

  • Phildikian

    @ those who think of Justin Long as “smug”

    I have seen a lot of people say this and every time I question what it is that makes him smug – no one seems to answer. I think Justin is perfect as the Mac guy. The two of them (Hodgeman & Long) are like a funny version of Abbot & Costello.

    Is it because Long has no “funny” lines that makes him smug? If you look closely at his body language and how he delivers his lines, he never acts in a condescending way. Most of the actual dialog in the spots are from PC not Mac.

    I think a lot of people that perceive Justin Long’s character as smug are simply projecting that perception due to some sort of insecurities.

  • celeduc

    @lehenbauer +1 — just because we’re all smart and sophisticated here and care about the subtle layers of significance in Microsoft’s ad campaign doesn’t mean that most PC users will reject these messages. Microsoft is talking to their installed base here, reinforcing their loyalty, giving them emotional reasons not to walk away, and I think they’re being pretty darn effective.

    Yes, Microsoft produces a shit product, and Windows users already know that. But they have extensive investments in their expertise and the 3rd party software they’ve purchased, and this extensive advertising campaign is designed to make them feel better about their inertia, and that helps Microsoft defends their market. Microsoft doesn’t actually believe that they’ll get any tattooed teenage thrashers to buy a PC because of these ads, but they know that if they can keep their current batch of suckers on the teat it will pay off a heck of a lot more than $300M.

    Trash-talking the lack of genius in their ads totally misses the point. Microsoft is trying to stem the bleeding, and if they can do that, they achieve their goal. When you already have total world domination, defense is what it’s all about.

  • celeduc

    @Phildikian Justin Long is a stereotypical design dude, the archetype of the Mac user that stayed with Apple through the darkest days of the late 90s. He’s humourless and superior, metrosexual and fit, bland and good-natured, he does hourly yoga, he drinks only free-trade organic ayurvedic soy paste for breakfast, and he drives a solar-powered scooter. He has a yin-yang tattoo on his ass and he votes for Nader. He’s never self-deprecating, and this, combined with his perfection, makes him smug.

  • harrywolf

    If you find Justin Long ‘smug’, you are revealing your own issues, not finding some quality called ‘smug’ in an actor.
    His job is to appear as a foil to Hodgman, and to stress the simplicity of Macs – he is meant to be a bit confused as to the Windows problems, because his world doesnt have them.
    If anything, he is meant to be unaware of computer issues – he has a life.

    The point of the ads is to show that Windows users are overly engaged with their computers to the detriment of their lives, and that Mac users have lives in which their computers play a background, functional and supporting role.

    If anything, this reveals the trend towards the eventual shrinking of the OS and the rise of the Applications we use.
    Apple seems to realise this and always mentions the Apps that come with the Mac.

    Eventually, Microsoft will become less important because they dont make computers – HP and Dell and the rest, seeing Apples success, are going to link with software companies (or buy them) and develop an Apple-style integrated solution, without Windows.

    Microsoft’s next move will be to drop the price of Windows so as to stop the PC makers from developing. It wont work.

    Or they might buy Dell and have a new brand – the DellSoft or something.
    It wont work either.

    Microsoft is in a decline that wont stop until all the old rich guys that work there have retired.
    New blood isnt welcome at Microsoft, as Gates struggles with his aging self – and his ridiculous narcissism.
    He doesnt want young cool people around him – it reminds him of what an old fart he is.

    As Julius Caesar said, a few months before his demise, “Let me have men about me that are fat – yonder Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”

  • harrywolf

    Aaah, no, celeduc, those qualities that you attribute so humorously to Justin Long simply make you envious.
    Like me, you must be over 30….and quite correct, naturally!

  • celeduc

    @harrywolf I know a lot about Justin Long’s character because I own a mirror.

  • Realtosh

    @ Berend Schotanus

    Wishful thinking. IBM neither needs Microsoft to sell software to corporations, nor are they inclined to pay the cost of Microsoft’s valuation in order to continue doing what IBM already does quite successfully.

    If anything, IBM will continue to move forward, trying to make the Wndows/Microsoft portion increasingly more optional and unnecessary.

    IBM is moving aggressively to deliver many of their services on top of Linux instead of Windows. By providing the same services, without having to pay the Microsoft licensing taxes, means there’s lots more left over for IBM’s bottom line. Also, since the margins on Windows-free solutions are fatter, IBM can afford to lower the pricing on a case-by-case basis and still remain profitable.

    It is in IBM interest to continue to put distance between themselves and Windows. Doing so keeps more profits at IBM instead of sending them to Redmond.

    The last thing IBM needs is to increase the cost of their business by having to amortize the cost of acquiring Microsoft.

    Similar to the huge cost of amortizing the acquisition cost of Yahoo, if Microsoft were actually able buy Yahoo. The only difference is that Yahoo’s revenue and earnings haven’t been as consistent as Microsoft’s, so Yahoo’s stock has been under attack. Some of these short sellers are the same Wall St investment bankers, that brought us the subprime mortgage mess, and the same ones that will be lining up to charge M&A fees to both Microsoft and Yahoo for services rendered in the merger of the two behemoths.

    Now, if a majority of PC hardware companies dump Windows and use Linux. Combine that with Apple taking the premium market. Then, we’ve got a different game altogether; Microsoft may in fact implode. That is something that I didn’t think feasible even 6 months ago.

    If that happens and Microsoft revenues and share price drop in the tiolet, then all bets are off. There would be a number of companies in Silicon Valley that may want to pick up a bruised Microsoft at a fire sale price.

    Could be IBM, Oracle, Apple, Google, Intel, etc. There are number of companies that may want to pick up Microsoft for differing reasons. The most important reasons revolve around 1) all the IP – Intellectual Property owned by Microsoft through heir research, and 2) their people – engineers, researchers, sales organizations, etc. Different companies can use differing portions of that mess.

    But for any of this to even becoem remotely possible, major Windows PC OEMS would have to abandon Windows for most o their PCs or PC replacing products, such that Microsoft revenue drops by at least half.

    Keep in mind that Microsoft’s revenue has never dropped. They consistently keep increasing the total amount of blood they extract from the computer industry. Unless that changes, then there’s no game to play here.

    In conclusion, I’m not saying any of this is likely. But Steve Jobs did recently say that we were at a tipping point. At such a tipping point, both 1) Apple can break through previous barriers of market penetration and 2) other OEM can dump Windows altogether, or use it sparingly.

    That’s something to think about.

  • beanie

    Daniel wrote:
    ” Today, most consumers buy a new PC to use email and the web, things that don’t even require Windows at all.”

    Downloading software is also one of the top uses. It just happens most software is for Windows.

    ” There are now prominent PC products from Dell and Acer that don’t even include Windows, and that trend is just getting started.”

    Are you talking about netbooks? But the WindowsXP version outsells the Linux version. So when given a choice, people choose Windows. Netbooks are closer to appliances than a true PC.

    When it comes to a full PC, Linux does not sell well. Dell seems to have a little success selling Ubuntu PCs. So if there is some secret clause in Windows OEM licenses that disallow use of other operating systems, how come OEMs are using Linux? Did Microsoft give the OK sign to Linux?

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    If the only significant Microsoft ad you can come up with is from 1995, then thank you for helping me to make my point. That was 18 years ago. Had you thought of it, you could have had yourself a child on the edge of adulthood in that span of time.

    Also, the point of ads is not to find people who “like them,” but to change impressions and voice a message. This ad has Windows Enthusiasts applauding, but Microsoft didn’t need to pay $300 million for that (it’s free!). The ads make the general public think about and talk about Macs, and if they look up the ads, they’ll find Apple ads.

    So no, I don’t think they are effective.

    And Beanie, thank you for your devil advocacy. What software do you download? The kids nowadays download torrents, which they can do with free software. Yes, there is also games, and Microsoft is doing a great job holding on to that market. But when the top three PC vendors are actively pursuing Windows alternatives, it does not look good for Microsoft’s record profits. The gravy train is out of coal.

  • Realtosh

    @ lehenbauer

    I agree with you, that people will like the ads. In that sense they’ll be quite good.

    The analysis that Dan is presenting is that the effectiveness of the ads will be quite low. I’ve already read press accounts of Bogusky, the ad agency CP & B’s point man, who’s name is on the stationary, explaining how effective the campaign that they just canceled has been. I’ve heard the same kind of crap from marketing guys and ad guys on a Fortune 50 account that I was dealing with. I was crap there, and it’s crap coming from CP & B. It’s something along the lines,” It’s OK for your company to spend $100’s of millions of dollars on an ad campaign, and that’s OK because the ‘people’ – target audience will have warm fuzzy feelings about your brand.

    Anyway, as it turns out I was right, and that previous brand dropped from #1 in their industry to also ran. In fact the same corporation has even positioned at 2-3 other brands as premium to their previously #1 brand. They are now a shop with 7 dwarfs, in stead of the previous #1 brand, with the previous highest revenue in the market. The current #1 brand does almost as much business under one brand as the little dwarfs branding company does with 7 or so little brands. Does anyone wonder which way it will likely turn out.

    The results of $100M+ advertising campaigns should not be fuzzy math; a moniker that Al Gore was saddled with in the 2000 debates, by none other than Dan’s favorite “W”.

    The stated goals of these campaigns, and mostly all campaigns should be to rack up increased sales. Microsoft already has humongous sales. hey may just be going after, engendering good feeling so that customers, particularly big customers, don’t drop them.

    The problem is that the product has to do that, as Dan as already pointed out in this article or one of the several that he’s already written on the topic this week. If the product is not worthy, then there only so much marketing can do to help. Inertia can only it all going for so long.

    Eventually, Microsoft is likely to reach a tipping point because their product just isn’t keeping up.

    Just as the investment banks reached a tipping point recently. With the lack of transparency, most folks were throwing out the baby with the bath water. All financial stocks are treated like they’ve caught a contagious disease. All investment banks and many insurance companies were subject to getting plowed over, even the one that had little or no sub-prime derivatives activity, and even possibly the gold standards of IB houses, Goldman Sachs that has continued to make billions betting that these mortgage CDOs (derivative products) were worth less than market value and would go down further. So even an investment bank like GS, who from the likes of it has little to no exposure to the mortgage mess were now in risk of going under because capital was almost impossible to come by. Since the game was turning ugly with so many getting bloodied, the boys with the balls (the capital) and no desire to risk their balls, went home and are just sitting on the sidelines.

    Dan is also hoping that we’re reaching a political tipping point. That so many Americans are just so disillusioned with politics that we’d have a wholesale revolution. That voters would vote for anything, as long as it was the opposite or different that whatever it is that we have. Reacting to the Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove mess by embracing the liberal politics of the thugs of the move-on gangs of the liberal left would not be what this country needs or deserves. That would be like burning down the house to get rid of a couple of cockroaches, as I’ve said previously here.

    In the anonymous, to protect the stupid and the guilty, Fortune 50 example that I used here, they also reached a tipping point. They were also in a leading position in their market like Microsoft. They had a new brand message every year; there just wasn’t any consistency. But the biggest overall problem was that there wasn’t enough of a value proposition, for the consumer to pick Brand X over the competition, who eventually surpassed Brand X, and sued Brand X to compel them to stop advertising themselves as #1 in the industry, contradicting the new #1. The new #1 had a consistent message that they had the best service and the best people. The reality is that neither is so good as to differentiate themselves that significantly, but the perception stuck. But it wasn’t the perception that got them to #1, it was hand-to hand combat in the streets, outselling Brand X one customer at a time. They did a better job of measuring their performance, holding their people accountable to their performance to the last rung in their company, and by providing the sales support to achieve these results. The new #1 wasn’t any better, but Brand X wasn’t good enough to hold off a good organized ground assault, that was relentless year after year. (If you can ever figure out what industry I’m talking about, you’ll be able to figure out the parties involved, by looking at the annual sales numbers for each brand.

    So, as far as Microsoft goes, they’ve got a great army, from their sales force to the IT folks who are mentally and financially invested in Microsoft products, to the huge installed base of PCs around the world. But their products are not so good. People realize this. And the Apple campaign has done a good job of crystalizing this reality of Microsoft’s product shortcomings. No amount of astronauts and shark cages will unbend that reality without a good product.

    Microsoft already sees the writing on the wall. The may just be sticking a finger in the dike, trying to hold back a surge of customer unrest. A rupture would be the tipping point that Jobs alludes to, when large corporations, PC manufacturers, and IT folks would en masse realize that they can use alternatives to Microsoft products and have less grief and spend less money without the world coming to an end. Once everyone sees that a post PC world exists, or more specifically a post-Windows world can exist, and that it can be orderly and good, then many buying decisions can change in the blink of an eye, forever changing the invincibility of Windows and opening up a more level playing field.

    In that world, Microsoft would have to compete on the merit of its’ products. That would not be a nice world to Microsoft. Microsoft has screwed many going up the ladder. Now they’ll all get a whck at screwing Microsoft going back down the ladder. The ultimate irony and a completion of the karma that Microsoft seeded in this world.

    The aim of Microsoft’s advertising campaign, is likely just to delay the inevitable, in the hopes that the good engineers at Microsoft can clean up their business and their products and make a comeback that is worthy of the Jobsian comeback transformed every ounce of Apple. Microsoft has already lost many talented people over the years, to Google, to Apple and others, but Microsoft still has lots of great scientists in Redmond and at various facilities throughout the world. Plus, Microsoft has still has major buck and a business that still generates billions in free cash flow dollars every month. Microsoft can afford a long, hard fight, if they can ever figure out how to do the fighting.

    This campaign may be just to slow the exodus of talent, to prevent defections from the ranks of its’ OEMs, IT staffs, and major corporate customers.

    Good luck to them, but I’d rather be playing Apple hand right now. It’s all Aces. Well at least for everything except MobileMe and ATT 3G. No wonder Apple didn’t release 3G last year with the first iPhone. ATT just isn’t there yet. Apple, however, is relentless. They will not tolerate a mediocre product. The current version of MobileMe will only be a shadow of the Internet services that are to come from Apple. ATT will improve their network, or they’ll get replaced. Apple has gotten rid of vendors, when their product didn’t live up to the quality that Apple consistently demands of all of its’ products. Only when Microsoft reaches that level of expectation both internally and from their customers, can Microsoft expect to emulate Apple’s comeback. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  • celeduc

    smug Irritatingly pleased with oneself; self-satisfied.

  • luisd

    I cannot but wonder about Apple’s reaction to this campaign. What will their next marketing move be like?

    We all know the contrast between the secretiveness of Apple vs the heralding with trumpets and fanfares long in advance of anything MS does. There were reports in the press about the MS campaign months ago, and the tone was always clear that they were going to react/attack the Get a Mac campaign.

    So Apple’s marketing department has have a long time to prepare their next step. Probably the first two adds left them thinking WTF, but most likely the “second stage” of the campaign must have been amongst the possible scenarios of an attack campaign; embrace your competitors marketing and turn it around.

    How will Apple long thought response be? Will they counterattack using the same PC and Mac characters? Will they stop those commercials abruptly and move on? Will they make a smooth transition to a new angle of attack? Will they take advantage of the reactionary response of MS, and behave now as #1 and have a new campaign focused on Mac products alone ignoring the competition?

  • isserley

    “I cannot but wonder about Apple’s reaction to this campaign. What will their next marketing move be like?”

    I certainly what the dumbest reaction is and what Apple certainly WON´T do: Counter with “I´m a Mac” ads where they show how diverse the users of Macintosh are :)

  • luisd

    “I certainly what the dumbest reaction is and what Apple certainly WON´T do: Counter with “I´m a Mac” ads where they show how diverse the users of Macintosh are :)”

    But it would be funny, wouldn’t it ;)

  • Realtosh


    Apple won’t react to these ads at all. Apple will just continue their campaign, which is very effective. That would just add to the irrelevancy of the Microsoft campaign.

    Microsoft’s campaign may in fact reinforce Apple’s campaign especially if they continue to use the “I’m a PC” language.”

  • Realtosh

    @ luisd

    Apple could duplicate the Microsoft campaign. Doing so would completely erase the Microsoft campaign.

    Unless the Apple campaign that provides specific and direct content with a strategic message, the Microsoft campaign is just a soft, fuzzy feel good campaign without a compelling message that would be easy for Apple to erase.

    In fact Apple can use the Microsoft ads to catapult itself as equal to Microsoft. Apple can show just as great a variety of people and can use most of the language of the Microsoft campaign, except 1 billion people.

    Doing so would make Apple Microsoft equal. Plus Apple current campaign pointing out that Macs are better than PCs; together they would be devastating to Microsoft.

    Apple can use their diversity-themed campaign, if they chose to do such a campaign to also break out of their perceived niches of artists and education.

    Not only would they neutralize the Windows campaign, but would also reposition the Mac brand as beyond certain niches to encompass whatever markets Apple wanted to pursue.

    For example, Apple could do a, “I use a Mac” campaign which would include I) the expected such as designers, musicians, teachers, students, plus II) astronauts, shark cage diver, etc (that’s the copy and neutralize part, “anyhing he can do, I can do better.”), plus III) whatever markets Apple wants to highlight and to incorporate into the mythology of the brand, people such as I’m a dentist, lawyer, investment banker, IT guy, CEO, Nobel Laureate, doctor, antiques shop owner. This third part is the most important. Apple could go anywhere with it they chose.

    It would be a perfect complement to Microsoft’s “Where do you want to go today.” Apple’s response is we can go anywhere we want. It would be a visual response, and the implied message is that you the consumer can go anywhere with my Mac. The Mac is a powerful tool that knows no limits and can catapult its’ users to greatness. “I can be great with my Mac.”

    Microsoft will be stuck with fuddy-duddy soft like-me please message. It will smell of desperation. This is because they will not have a product that they can show is superior. So their marketing, no matter how good will reflect that major short-coming.

    Apple can flank the feel good campaign with a similar one that for Apple would have the benefit of extending the brand into markets where Apple has not been historically strong. But at the same time, Apple can continue it’s current campaign that differentiates its’ products in a positive light. That’s an option that Microsoft does not realistically have.

    Microsoft has used shills to lie in tech publications to try to even the playing field. Such a blatant attempt at lying about the Microsoft experience in a major campaign that would not resonate with people’s experiences would expose inauthenticity and cause a more rapid alienation of the brand and could have the paradoxical effect of decreasing the Microsoft brand value.

    Oh the humanity.

  • LuisDias

    Funny to find another Luis in here, specially a Luis”D”. Coincidences abound.

    I’m amazed at this storyline, and I agree with some posters in here that Microsoft, Apple, Linux and all the other hardware vendors are entering in a place of unexpected outcomes, where anything may be possible. I couldn’t possibly have predicted this months ago, though I hoped for it! (I utterly dislike bore things)

    The premises are subtle and the general public (and I’ll include most of the “pundits” out there) is completely unaware of it. When confronted to the threat that Apple has become to MS, they’ll repeat the mantra of the 2% of market share vs 90+%. But this battle does not deal in these grounds. We should instead focus on the 10% (and increasing by 30-50% a year) share of macs inside the US, which are eating into the other hardware vendors of PCs. In this fight, Apple isn’t 2% vs 98%. It’s 10% vs 14, 10, 8, 7%. Same magnitude.

    The key part is that these vendors are asking themselves what is screwing our numbers up?, and while they can come up with more hardware design, more thinking outside the box and etc., there’s also the other bottleneck they’ll look at: Windows Vista.

    This is the main reason why MS is so pissed at at Apple, it’s hardware vendors are starting to become tired of MS incompetence, lack of competitiveness, and burdensome tax. And they are starting to look at alternatives, something they haven’t done for decades!

    And yes, Linux is still not up for the job. Windows XP is still superior in usability issues than Linux (sorry it’s true). But now that it is starting to have real computers from “real” companies in shops with the 50$ difference in their boxes, people are starting to look at them. When these companies start giving out more driver support (imagine HP giving all its pheripherals Linux support!), and perhaps even fund / develop such OS towards open standards and interoperability, they might really piss off MS for good.

    MS will never lose its huge revenue, but the “tipping point” for the battle against its monopoly has clearly started.

    – Google with Chrome, Google Gears, Docs and Gmail;

    – Apple with insanely good products that steal other hardware vendors’ share and make them Apple-envy and MS-pissed;

    – Availability and further development of Linux by said Apple-envy hardware vendors;

    – Open Office.

    The pieces are placed, the masters have a plan. Let the games begin!

  • Jaxboro

    Someone is saying Long’s character represents smugness because he’s fit, good natured and he doesn’t make jokes on himself to make other people feel better about themselves? That’s ridiculous and speaks volumes about yourself.

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  • Realtosh

    @ Luis Dias

    Thanks for clarifying. I was wondering if luisd was also your screen name.

    As far as the tipping point:

    We’re not there yet. It hasn’t tipped. Although the Mac is showing extreme strength. This is typical of a lead up to a tipping point.

    Apple is quickly building up to a tipping point.

    Other observations: iPhone is taking off. Zune and Windows Mobile is blowing chunks. iPod and iTunes ecosystem is a glowing success. Microsoft DRM has gone nowhere. These are all indications of an approaching tipping point.

    But a tipping point happens almost suddenly. The ground work is there. In fact in some markets the Mac may have already tipped. In the college student market, a Mac is not perceived to be at a disadvantage to a Windows PC, and sells competitively in that market.

    But there is still that perception in many business and IT circles. They may consider the Mac better, but say actually converting the company to Mac wouldn’t be possible for X, Y, Z reasons. Those are pre-tipping point perceptions.

    But consider the retail over $1,000 laptop and retail over $1,000 desktop categories. Macs already have a majority of that market in the US against all PC vendors combined. That’s a strong result.

    This is a very strong indication that the market is about to tip.

    But there are still many more under $1,000 units sold in the US and abroad. The decreased margin warning during that Apple conference call a while back may be foreshadowing an aggressive assault by Apple to a attack a wider range of the PC market to cause the market to break in their favor, which could be the tipping point.

    Also consider the iPhone. If Apple delivers 40-45m units over the next 12 months as Apple has hinted to, that would be both incredible and an clearly contributory to a tipping point. I would not doubt Apple, they’ve been consistent at predicting their future sales accurately. This number of iPhone units sold would be more than double the number of PCs sold by either HP or Dell. Put another way, Apple would sell more iPhones than Dell and HP sold PCs combined.

    That combined with the 50 million iPods sold annually and the nearly 10 million Macs sold, and and growing at a fast pace.

    So the tipping point would be a moment where the changes are so dramatic that it would seem that it could not go back.

    I would expect that as part of a tipping point, Microsoft revenues would at least have to start decreasing in revenue, likely dramatically.

    I think the last barrier to a tipping point would be the opening of the large corporate market to Macs at an even footing with Windows PCs.

    It could even include one or all of the top 5 PC OEMs switching a bulk of their PC production to MacOS X. This could include IBM adding Apple Macs to their roster of products sold to businesses, while deploying all of their software products on Mac OS X. It could also include adding Dell or HP to the Mac OS X bandwagon. I wouldn’t see Apple selling Mac OS X at retail, certainly not right away if ever. But Apple could set up a special Mac OS deal with an OEM with configurations that would be approved by Apple, so that they could grow the MAc market but in a controlled way, rather than willy-nilly. Again, this is a stretch and not at necessary for a tipping point. But a real tipping point without some kind of Mac OS X licensing would result in a number of companies who’s revenue would indeed have to decrease substantially.

    Apple’s growth rate has accelerated gradually over the last couple of years. If Apple Mac sales have a dramatic increase in sales, which seems likely to happen at any moment, that would be the tipping point.

    It would likely mean that Apple would break into the corporate market with one of the above or some other means. Part of this would be likely involve Apple addressing the low-cost PC market in some way.

    Certainly Apple revenue and earnings from their three legged stool, iPods, iPhones, and Macs is increasing. Maybe the iPhone alone would provide enough acceleration to cause a tipping point.

    Let’s see what fireworks looks like.

  • LuisDias


    You misunderstood me completely. The tipping point I’m talking about is not Apple’s, but the market’s. Apple is growing like hell, but please, it will never get to anywhere near 20/30% worlwide adopted. It’s almost a niche product and quite expensive. Key programs are simply missing. Enterprise is totally lacking in features, functionalities and programs. There is no point for an enterprise to “switch” at all given the price points and the lack of programs.

    Having said that, I do think Apple can grow a lot still, but mostly at people’s homes (except for extreme games, that is). Key point in here is that Apple grabs a lot of high end market, which is the profitable one. This upsets the other hardware vendors the most, which will, in turn, try to get alternatives to the ubber expensive and bloated windows vista.

    To do this, their only option is Linux, that if properly developed will be a zero cost operating system which will give them a better difference in price to Apple’s computers. This means Windows gets hammered in both the left and the right.

    It will also mean that Windows will fail to “dominate” the next decade’s bubble, whatever that is (the cloud or something else), but rather will lose more and more power to leverage against its own clients.

    Make no mistake though. Windows is here to stay and Mac OS is no real “competition” to it. It will fade away, yes, but very, very slowly.

  • tundraboy

    I think we passed the tipping point already. If you mean by tipping point something like an inflection point where the trajectory of a graph changes.

    It’s just that when people decide what their next computer is, they don’t go out and buy it that day. ‘Next’ means when the time comes to replace the current one. I would say it takes about three years from the time the decision is made to its execution. I bought my first Mac in ’03. After that ‘tryout’ I decided any succeeding computers for my family will be Macs. The next Mac didn’t come until 2007, then another one at ’08, and one is planned in a few months.

    So, the wholesale shift to a Mac has begun and it’s spearheaded by high schoolers, college entrants and twentysomethings, i.e. the next generation of computer users. I’m sure Microsoft has been doing some private market research that is showing them this trend and they are quaking in their boots as they frantically search for a solution.

    There’s probably as solution out there but I’m willing to bet it includes replacing Ballmer and the whole top echelon of Microsoft’s management. Well, that means there will be no solution.

  • Sigma902

    I edited together an “I’m a PC” ad with Apple’s “Touché” ad (from awhile ago) to see the effect. Seen in this way, it underscores that Microsoft’s current ad has very little to say.

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    @Daniel “If the only significant Microsoft ad you can come up with is from 1995, then thank you for helping me to make my point. That was 18 years ago. ”

    Erm, what time warp has hit you, sir? I’m in 2008, only 13 years from the 1995 Windows blitz.

    If you’re five years in the future, can you tell us who won the 2008 and 20012 presidential elections? After seeing my 50 years of retirement savings go down the toilet, I’d sure like to bet what’s left on a sure thing. :-)

    [Yes I’m not a very good subtractor apparently. I also have no interest in the 20012 election as I don’t expect to be alive at that point. ]

  • lehenbauer

    I think the most effective ads are liked. I can’t think of a disliked ad that was known for causing sales of the product it was promoting.

    People have a growing sense that Microsoft is fucked. If Microsoft is fucked, then, as Windows users, they are fucked. If all these ads do is give Windows users comfort that they are not as fucked as they were beginning to wonder if they might be, they will have been effective, and valuable to Microsoft.

    [Spam is effective and hated. So are most TV ads, like ridiculous infomercials or crazy screaming car salesmen. Annoying works very well sadly.

    But the thing about Windows is that nobody buys it. People buy computers and usually happen to get Windows on the thing. But as Macs increase and Dell/HP/Acer begin selling more Linux PCs and investigate other options, the people buying computers will increasing get less Windows. And it won’t matter to them. It will matter to Microsoft. ]

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  • The Mad Hatter

    Yeah I don’t know what world you were living or rock you slept under during the Windows 95 launch but the “Start Me Up ” ad campaign was enormously successful.

    Actually the “Start Me Up” campaign was mediocre at best. It did nothing to attract users of competing products to Windows, it only let current Microsoft users know that something new had been released, WHICH THEY WOULD HAVE SEEN ANYWAY AT THE COMPUTER STORE.

    I’m in sales and marketing, heavily involved in designing and implementing our company’s campaigns. The main point of advertising is increased sales. That ad didn’t increase Microsoft’s sales. All it did was waste Microsoft’s money. Any ad that waste’s your money is worth than useless, it damages your company.

  • Realtosh

    @ tundraboy

    At your family level, owning your first Mac was a tipping point for your family, yes. But that is not a tipping point for the universe, or even the global or US use of Macs. You’re only looking at a micro level and everyone is interested of a macro level tipping point.

    I worded Jobs mention of the approaching tipping point a bit sloppy. I said, “But Steve Jobs did recently say that we were at a tipping point.” I meant to say, ” Jobs recently said we’re approaching a tipping point.”

    I would even say that the US college student market has tipped. I would even say that the premium retail computer market has tipped, over $1,000 laptops and desktops.

    The velocity of Mac growth over the last couple of years is much greater than historical levels, that is the year over year growth of Macs at 30%-50% every quarter is higher than in previous years.

    All of these realities are setting us up for a tipping point. We’ll need an event or policy change or something to send us over the edge to the point of no return.

    I think we can tip only when the Mac become an acceptable alternative for most businesses. We need an inspirational or game-changing event.

    That’s why I went into so much detail giving examples of possible tipping scenarios. For example, it could be as simple as IBM starts selling Macs to its’ business customers, causing Mac sales to double overnight, and still continuing to grow.

    We need a precipitating event, that can take advantage of a world that is increasingly primed for a tipping point.

    I highly recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” I was a good quick read.

  • isserley

    “That combined with the 50 million iPods sold annually and the nearly 10 million Macs sold, and and growing at a fast pace.

    So the tipping point would be a moment where the changes are so dramatic that it would seem that it could not go back.”

    Tell you what: The day Apple surpasses 50% marketshare in units sold in the US, will be the day MS sues for monopoly abuse.

  • Realtosh

    I stand corrected. I was right the first time.

    I went back and listened to the CNBC interview a second time. When asked about Apple’s momentum in Mac sales and reaching the 2 million per quarter milestone and Apple’s sustained impressive Mac sales growth, Steve Jobs said,
    “Well, I think people have finally looked at the Mac and said this is a viable alternative to Windows. And we’ve reached a tipping point where a lot of people are starting to feel that way. The other interesting thing that’s happening is that people used to buy a computer for home because they used it at work. But now, there’s enough momentum of Mac in the home that people are starting to say why can’t I use this easy to use computer at work too.”

    It will be easier to discern the actual tipping point, when looking back at all these events from an historical perspective. My alternative theory that I’ve been considering and that Steve feels very strongly about is that the higher velocity of Mac sales (that the interviewer’s question referenced) can be seen as a sign of the tipping point having been reached.

    I’ve admitted that we’ve reached many tipping points in the non-business market. I’m very interested in the second part of Steve’s comment. How does the Mac break the barriers of entry to high and irreversible corporate/business Mac sales?

  • luisd

    “How does the Mac break the barriers of entry to high and irreversible corporate/business Mac sales?”

    I remember about 5 years ago, I was waiting for a bus and saw an iPod add, clearly aimed at teenagers. And I remember this feeling of understanding and awe. Apple’s strategy was a very long term one.

    At the time Apple also had education discounts and deals with the education sector both in the US and several places in Europe. They were clearly targeting the kids, but for 2 reasons, firstly to introduce Apple to the parents, second to ensure they had a costumer base in the next generation of empowered costumers, those going to college now.

    The other end of the strategy was crystal clear with the MBA, clearly targeted to the CEO’s and alike in companies. They had seen their kids raving about Apple products, and many of them were already using them at home.

    As said in your post Jobs stated that people are saying why cannot I have this ease of use at work. CEO’s take decisions in companies, workers are starting to demand a usable operating system, and the new generation of workers graduating in the last few years will push even further the change.

    Then, the stopper is the cost of changing infrastructure, which is not negligible. Apple will start leasing computers to small companies. No need to have up-front capital, test drive the equipment if you want. After 2 years of this approach, seeing the reduction in IT staff costs, the capital investment to switch completely will be small compared to staff costs. Larger companies will follow.

    How do I know Apple will lease equipment, because they sent me an e-mail with such an offer, “for a limited time only”. It looks like a pilot programme to test the waters.

    I think the tipping point is very close.

  • Tardis


    You asked your readers:

    “Quick, name a Microsoft ad campaign. You probably can’t…… ”

    and no-one answered, except for the poor guy who mentioned the Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up”, which Microsoft used to herald the introduction of Windows 95, which brought in the dreaded Start Button, and you gave him shit because it was so last century, plus or minus a few years.

    I do remember that there was a series of Microsoft ads about “where do you want to go today?” Or was it “what do you want to be today”?

    I didn’t particularly get the point then, but if there was one, it was that computers help you do things, and that Microsoft was there too.

    Anyway, brilliant analysis, great that you get so many people talking. Just a pity that some of them are not quite up to your level. Try not to let them upset you.

    Seriously Dan, if I was running your website, certain people (and they probably do not know who they are) would be fish food by know. I appreciate your patience in responding to them point-by-point, but why not just zap their entire existence?

    I do agree with your basic point, that Microsoft’s recent advertising sales have not helped their corporate image, and that if any of the advertising was directed against Apple , it has had the opposite effect.

    So, what can we expect from the next Microsoft anti-Apple ads?

  • gus2000

    Until comments become personally abusive and bereft of redeeming value, I see no reason to banish dissent (regardless of how irrational it may be). If this were my blog I’d be swinging that banhammer like I was Thor, but then I’d be here alone talking to myself. Which is why I don’t blog. I’m smug. And I’m better than you.

    Which brings me to Justin Long and his “smug” perception. I’m pretty sure this comes from the reputation for smugness of some Mac users. I will take the blame for that one. No one is better at smugness than me. I’m just that good.

    I remember the Win95 ad blitz, but only because the Rolling Stones at first told Gates to bugger off. MS simply upped the licensing fee enough to pay for several more rounds of relapse/rehab for Keith Richards.

    I don’t like the new MS ads at all. But I did like the polar bear. Can’t we use Macs to save them?

  • http://www.ecphorizer.com Tod

    @gus: I think I used to see you cruising 101 near Sunnyvale in your BMW- I’d recognize that smug look anywhere, especially with the matching Rolex and Gucci shades. :-)

    I just about fell out of my chair with the remark about Richards!

    I do recall those ads where they have a setting and some animator drew in white chalk marks all around to show just where you can go with your imagination or even with a lot of hard work. They were fine but I hated them simply because I hate all things M$, which my therapist used to say I was “projecting” anger onto M$. Then he walked into an Apple Store, played around for half an hour or so, and walked out with a MB. The next counseling session, he told me that perhaps his initial diagnosis of my hatred of M$ was perhaps due to other more material reasons. He said he’d had the BSOD once too often and made the switch. This was during those ads.

  • Realtosh

    @ isserley 39

    Apple wouldn’t have to get anywhere near 50% market share to tip the market. They would need to get enough market presence to break the back of Microsoft.

    Once the market tips, and there is an open playing field where Apple, Microsoft and even Linux compete equally based on merits. If Microsoft stops being the default option, and if Apple takes the entire premium market. The that will leave very little for Microsoft. If Microsoft is relegated to bargain-priced PCs, then the OEM will squeeze Microsoft margins, because there is not enough profit in that sector to maintain Microsoft revenues.

    Remember,and I keep coming back to it, Microsoft gets crazy amounts of revenue from the business side. So if Apple can make a successful entry in business, the results would be devastating for Microsoft.

    You wouldn’t need to take away much share from Microsoft, just the most profitable sales. Basically, repeat Apples success at home in the business sector.

    Once Microsoft’s margins start deteriorating and their revenue starts to drop, that would be the market tipping point.

    Microsoft might have to get into the hardware business, like they did with Zune, in order to stay in the game. Attacks from Mac and Linux could change the dynamics of their market so much that Microsoft would have to adapt just to survive. Once you take away the monopoly default status of Windows and Office, the slide could be very quick indeed. Microsoft would have to compete the strength, or rather lack thereof, of their products. It would be a hard ride for Microsoft.

    But this is all dependent on Apple breaking in to the business market. It could be with Mac OS X Dells or it could be with IBM reselling Apples. The latter makes more sense for me, if Steve can put it together.

    Apple has the 8-10% of the PC market. This basically includes most of the premium PC market. If Apple can get another 8-10% but mostly from the premium end of the business sector, would be enough to change all of the dynamics across the entire PC industry. First, it would be devastating to Microsoft. It may force Microsoft in radical changes in their business model.

    Apple doesn’t need most of the market, just the most profitable bits. The Microsoft mythology is damaged. It would likely not be able to withstand a properly orchestrated and well-organized assault on the business sector market. Apple can go in and take the best sectors and leave Microsoft to fight with Linux for the bargain-hunters.

    That is the reason for the $300M ad campaign. To delay the inevitable.

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