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Friday, July 10, 2009

PC versus Mac

"Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people."
David Sarnoff

Sadly, this quote seems to ring true of Crispin’s new work for Microsoft Windows. It seems their run as the hottest advertising agency has come to an abrupt end. I will admit that this is not a blog topic I had ever intended writing on but the more I am forced to see Microsoft’s new TV campaign aimed at making Windows “cool” again, the more I cringe and the more I feel compelled to break my silence.

My pain first started with Windows’ answer to Apple’s ‘Hello I’m a Mac’ campaign, which personified the PC and Mac cleverly using humor, even if it did represent the actual facts in shall we say, a rather liberal manner. But the “I am a PC” campaign that ensued as a fight back had neither humor, nor wit and only served to make me cower in shame at every new PC user it identified; or more appropriately one that I would rather not want to be identified with. I don’t know about you, but it seemed to have quite the opposite effect on me – I was seriously considering switching to Mac or at the very least lying about being a PC in public. Many words come to mind when I think of Deepak Chopra, spiritual, healthy living and Guru are a few of them but ‘Cool’ is certainly not one of them. Besides, I have always felt that taking a bunch of really famous people and getting them to simply admit that they use your product smacks of defensiveness and desperation not confidence and cool. And then there was the Seinfeld and Gates advertisement. Take it from a career ad man that screwing up a commercial with the ability to feature both Jerry and Bill Gates takes a lot of hard work and a serious lack of talent. Thankfully, someone at Microsoft no doubt saw their dominant market share rapidly decline in the near future, along with the current fear and embarrassment in many PC user eyes and put the kibosh on that bit of wasted Eastman Kodak film and then they came up with something completely different.

On winning the Microsoft Windows business, Crispin’s CEO said, “There was a time when it was Avis against Hertz, Coke against Pepsi, and Visa against American Express. I think Microsoft is at the epicenter of the great brand challenge of the next decade - or millennium.” Based on this quote alone, forget Crispin’s recent track record, I was rather hopeful that the first campaign was merely a rough pitch placeholder, even if soulless and creatively void. A momentary lapse of advertising reason, a blip on the path to the sublime, as it were, while Crispin was hard at work on the real campaign, which like ’The Burger King’, would make Microsoft's operating system King of computer cool.

Alas, it was not to be, as the “I am a PC’ campaign was replaced after a brief interlude with a really confusing advertisement about some ‘Mohave Dessert Experiment’ (which I thought was a reminder about how we must be careful not to let our PC’s overheat, to prevent the batteries from catching fire and exploding again) by an even more soulless and mind numbing ‘$1,000 PC shopping challenge’. So the whole point of this campaign is to proudly proclaim to the world that if you pay someone $1,000 cash to buy a PC, for up to or under a $1,000, they will end up buying a PC for up to or under a $1,000…Pray, someone please tell me, am I getting this right? Ok, so maybe I am being a little facetious but was ‘bribery’ the most interesting and imaginative way to inform less than 10% of the world’s non-Windows using population that PC’s offer a range of features at under $1,000…it also tells me that Mac users are willing to pay more for their machines, and don’t even need to get any cash in return.

The reality is that my wife’s Mac has crashed far more often than my PC. I even have Windows Vista, Microsoft’s biggest OS failure to date, and still have a less frustrating time with freezing screens and involuntary shut downs than she does on her Mac. Also, it’s a myth that Mac’s are immune to viruses. Global market share data for 2008 put PC’s at 90.73% and Mac at 8.03% and this is the reason why hackers spend countless hours devising nasty viruses for PC’s and not for Mac’s – lack of impact. At less than 9% global share, it would cause little to no disruption in the general population and virtually no chaos in the corporate world. And have you ever tried playing 3-D or Internet games on a Mac – there is a reason why most gamers use a PC.

I am not planning to list a long and laborious set of comparisons here but my point is that if in the space of 5-10 minutes and a few clicks on Ask (I don’t use that other search engine) I found some interesting things to say about my PC, versus a Mac. Then why, with a $300 million ad budget and countless creative superstars at their disposal, was a highly paid agency unable to find even ONE single remotely compelling or evocative reason to buy a PC?

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