The Wall Street Journal profiles the new installment of Windows and Microsoft’s efforts to strike back at Apple and its enormously successful John Hodgman and Justin Long “Get a Mac” campaign.
In a new chapter to its ad campaign that will begin airing during the NCAA basketball playoffs on CBS Thursday evening, Microsoft will begin hammering on a theme that could resonate in these times of economic hardship: how much less expensive Windows PCs are than Macs. For the commercials, Microsoft’s advertising agency, Crispin Porter + Boguksy, recruited prospective computer shoppers in the Los Angeles area through Craigslist and other sites, with a tantalizing offer to give them between $700 and $2,000 to purchase a new PC.
According to Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows consumer product marketing at Microsoft, the agency told recruits it was a market research firm and didn’t mention it was working with Microsoft. The recruits were told they could keep whatever money they didn’t spend on a PC so they had incentives to look for good values.
The first installment using Jerry Seinfeld was apparently confusing (though I liked the ads). The next set of commercials “I’m a PC” were bland and disappeared into the background.
As the WSJ excerpt above says, this time the agency is using cost as a hook during the recession. The ad is relatively effective; the message is “you can get a Windows PC for much less than a Mac.” With sarcasm the ad also “disses” Mac owners’ arrogance (as perceived by Microsoft and its agency): “I’m not cool enough to be a Mac person.”
However, there are two potential problems with this “price” campaign as I see it:
- The message that Windows machines are “cheaper” could reinforce the product’s lower quality image in the market
- Taking the argument to its logical conclusion takes us to netbooks. The WSJ article, though not the ad itself, mentions that you can get a netbook for $300 (or less).
The least expensive Windows machines are indeed netbooks, which are trendy, offer utility and even a “cool” dimension (overcoming the “low-quality perception” issue with more conventional laptops). But Microsoft is ambivalent about netbooks and doesn’t really want people buying that many netbooks because they cut into margins.
Still the campaign has a decent chance during this recession to make some gains with consumers, more of whom are shopping price than before. If I were at Microsoft’s agency for the campaign, Crispin Porter + Boguksy, I would emphasize the value one gets for the money rather than focusing largely on “cheaper.” (Could also focus on data like this.)