Microsoft founder Bill Gates once famously said that he "didn't get" Apple's attack ads on Microsoft. After all, both companies trying to do the same thing -- create ultra-functional OS systems that met all the users’ needs. Indeed, for a long time Microsoft was dumbfounded as to how to combat Apple campaign which was based largely on exaggeration, vague accusations, and unfounded insults.
Microsoft finally announced that it would be fighting back with a $300M USD advertising campaign. For the first round it recruited Jerry Seinfeld, only to see the expensive commercials meet with mixed reviews. From a public reaction standpoint, the successor to those commercials, the "I'm a PC" commercials were much more effective, appealing to many who were sick of Apple's campaign of PC abuse.
Now Microsoft has come up with perhaps its cleverest barb yet -- pointing out how much cheaper PCs are than Macs for the same hardware.
The ad gurus at Crispin Porter + Boguksy, who Microsoft has hired to do the ads, contacted computer shoppers in Los Angeles area through Craigslist and other sites. Posing as market researchers they offered people $700 to $2,000 to buy a new computer, not telling the people that they were with Microsoft according to the Wall Street Journal. The customers were motivated to bargain hunt as they were told they could keep the rest of the money after the computer purchase.
The first commercial features a woman named Lauren who was given $1,000. She wanted to get a 17-inch screen and a comfortable keyboard. She went to the Apple store only to leave disappointed as their cheapest computer (the $999 MacBook) only had a 13-inch screen and featured a narrow keyboard.
"I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person," the fashionable Californian sarcastically remarks as driving off.
She ends up at Best Buy instead, where she finds a HP Pavilion notebook with a 17-inch screen that's $699.99 before tax. She's able to get the computer and a printer for $900, pocketing the extra $100. At the end of the commercial, she states, "I’m a PC, and I got just what I wanted."
Microsoft began airing the programs last night during the popular NCAA men's basketball tournament, broadcast on CBS. The ads mark the latest chapter in a series of jabs made by Microsoft at Apple over price. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently remarked that Apple customers were paying $500 more than PC customers "for a logo."
Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows consumer product marketing at Microsoft, says that he "swears on a stack of Bibles" that the contracted ad agency didn't steer customers towards PCs -- they were simply the natural choice as they were cheaper and more full-featured. He states, "Value is on the top of everybody’s mind these days with the economic situation we’re in."
Indeed, Apple's sales of its pricey desktops and laptops dropped in February, falling 16 percent, while PCs continued to post better sales, thanks to ultra-cheap netbook sales. Apple is faced with the challenge of wooing the cash-strapped consumer -- it has a couple of entries below $1,000 -- the Mac Mini desktop and the MacBook -- but most of its computers are much more. For example, the only computer it announced at MacWorld -- the new 17" MacBook Pro starts at a cool $2,799.