Regardless of the benefits and/or appeal of its computers, Apple was never able to make a dent in the market share that Microsoft had established. That was until last year, when Vista became a monumental headache for many a Microsoft customer, myself included. The Apple ads began to sway some PC users over to the Apple side of the force and continued to raise awareness and interest for its products. It was brilliant advertising.
Recently the Apple ads have become a bit annoying, which is the risk you run with any campaign: How do you know when to pull the plug? How to recognize when you cross over from intriguing and pervasive to repetitive and annoying? That line may have been dragged closer with the most recent Microsoft campaign, which reeks of its own form of brilliance by reminding the viewer just how grown-up Microsoft truly is.
I am not speaking of the Jerry Seinfeld ads. Those are a colossal waste of dollars, I think, because they try to be pithy and funny but leave me scratching my head and trying to understand what strategy they truly fulfill. The ads I'm speaking about are the ones where they show all sorts of users who are "Proud to be a PC." The ad blends just the right amount of common, everyday user with celebrity and sentimentality. The ads defend the PC by demonstrating the wide array of ways that a PC is used in everyday life. They're used to save lives, to save spreadsheets, to balance the books and to balance your personal day. They're used to make music and they're used to connect millions of people around the world. In one simple 30-second spot, they remind you of why you use a PC -- and that the majority of PCs are powered by Microsoft.
I am not defending Windows Vista. I believe it has its flaws, but so does the Apple operating system. In one simple ad, Microsoft reminds us that nobody's perfect, and that being hip doesn't mean you need to switch or that you need to have a pretty silver case with a piece of fruit on the cover. I remain a huge fan of Apple products like the iPod and the iPhone, but I remain a diehard PC user -- and this ad makes it OK!
Microsoft will need to be careful with this campaign, because over time these ads could smack of arrogance, but for right now they strike the perfect balance of a mature brand built for you, the everyday user. They make it OK to be a PC user and to even be a PC lover, and that is no small feat given the state of Microsft's business over the last few years.
I also saw the Microsoft "Mojave" ads, which are a strong supplementary campaign because they show everyday users being surprised with Vista. You never see what they're looking at -- and these ads still provide an opportunity for cynicism in my eyes, but as a support message for the broader campaign they succeed very well. So to whoever is writing these new series of ads (and I can assure you I have never met that person), I say, "bravo!" Strong copywriting and solid art direction have succeeded in defending the Microsoft brand in a simple 30 seconds against a message that has been building for more than a year now.
Here's to my PC!