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Should you answer back to their ad?

September 21st, 2008 · 26 Comments · Marketing, Media, Strategy

Last week, I wrote about not letting your competitors’ actions lure you off your path.  (There were some really smart comments, so check them out.) 

And then, lo and behold…an excellent example for us to discuss appeared.  Everyone is familiar with the brilliant Apple campaign Mac versus PC.  Just in case you’re not…here’s an example.

And now, Microsoft has come out with a TV spot that answers the Apple campaign.  (Sorry for the quality, it’s the best I could find.)

Good idea or bad?  Do they sound defensive?  Look reactive?  Do they do a good job of making their point? Do they change your perceptions?  Would this influence your buying decision?

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • Jonis P.

    Hey Drew,

    Here’s all 3 ads with high quality
    link to brainstorm9.com.br

  • Eamon

    Drew. Thanks for comment on my blog. Still tweaking list, and added another of your entries (Wagon ..stuck) to post list under Marketing cat.

  • Karin H.

    Well Drew, to be honest the MAC-PC one went straight over my head ;-) (Could be just this one commercial) which tells me that MAC’s are for those persons who know an awful lot about computer technology.
    So, if Apple wanted to attract more pc owners and have them switch to MAC, they failed miserably.

    Compared with the Windows one, that brings the message with it their product can be understood by everyone. They do make a good point, a better one than Apple in this case. So even if it may sound defensive – and only those who’ve seen the MAC-PC commercial would notice that I think – it is the right thing to do to get that specific message acros: a pc is for everyone ;-)

    Karin H. (I’m a pc)

  • Dave MacDonald

    Drew,

    In general I think it’s dangerous to respond to other companies attacks unless they are false and need to be corrected.

    That said, I’m really excited about this new battle. The MAC-PC battle has been going on for years in the dorms of universities around the country. Prior to the Apple ads only some Mac users were thought to be hip trendy people – after the ads started every Mac user was hip and trendy.

    This left PC users at a disadvantage in the conversation – regardless of who they were they certainly could not be the same as the Mac user because Apple had defined the arguement.

    The new spots finally allow PC users to answer back that they are all types of people and that many more people are included.

    I hope Apple responds and we get a good fight on our hands – It will take the attention off those terrible political ads.

  • BIG Kahuna

    The whole thing makes me laugh. First PC sales squash Apple’s. Not even close. And Apple never wants to be a commodity, Apple’s AREN’t for everyone. My designers use them but I use a PC.

    Next, Microsoft doesn’t even sell PC’s. Why they feel the need to defend PC’s is beyond me. Where’s Dell, HP, Acer in all this? They actually sell PC’s.

    But the new ads are really good. They show that the MAJORITY of human beings use PC’s and why. for the .00000025% of Apple users they can keep the cool tag.

  • Lewis Green

    Drew,

    I’m a PC and I’m a rock ‘n roller, a business person, a family guy and all-around-just-as-cool as a Mac user. The Mac ads never once moved me to consider switching. Thanks MS for responding and giving me a voice. Good conversation Drew.

  • Chris Posey

    Typically, I would agree that companies need to stay proactive in their ad campaigns, not allowing themselves to be lured off path by their competitors. But I think that the “I’m a PC” spot was a pretty good move. I think that there are two things that make the spot successful.

    First, the reaction to Mac is only one aspect of the commercial. While it does react, it also has a very proactive side that that defines what a PC user is.

    Consequently, the second thing that the spot does is it politely says, “for those of you who have come to believe Mac propaganda, you have been misled.” I agree with commenter Karin H. above, that such ads should come when an outside attack is false and needs to be corrected. This is what the PC ad does.

    One might assert that Mac has been led off the path by its competitor throughout their entire ad campaign, as this most recent campaign is truly nothing more than a very subjective PC-bash. I think the response by PC was appropriately timed and effective.

    And as far as the other Gates/Seinfeld dialogue spots: they may not be for everyone (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I do feel that PC scored with “I am a PC.”

  • Chris Posey

    Whoops-I meant “commenter Dave MacDonald above.”

  • Jess

    These new ads do look reactive, but in a completely appropriate way.

    They sound defensive, but also resolute and strong. They’re not defending the technology (more on that later), they’re defending the people who use PCs.

    They serve to change the perception that the Mac ads created about PC users.

    But Dave MacDonald is right…Why is this a Microsoft ad? Shouldn’t they be focusing on the operating systems? Doesn’t Microsoft have Mac compatible software?

    No matter…I’d also like to see a good fight between Apple and PC and relive the years of the Coke/Pepsi Wars.

  • Jess

    These new ads do look reactive, but in a completely appropriate way.

    They sound defensive, but also resolute and strong. They’re not defending the technology (more on that later), they’re defending the people who use PCs.

    They serve to change the perception that the Mac ads created about PC users.

    But Kig Kahuna is right…Why is this a Microsoft ad? Shouldn’t they be focusing on the operating systems? Doesn’t Microsoft have Mac compatible software?

    No matter…I’d also like to see a good fight between Apple and PC and relive the years of the Coke/Pepsi Wars.

  • Karl Staib - Work Happy Now

    I think they’ve should have tried this tactic over a year ago. Now it’s too late. They look slow and foolish.

    The thing is…if we break it all down…they don’t need good advertising. They need better products that stir up the imagination. It’s why Apple is gaining so much ground. They intrigue through innovation not advertising.

  • Drew McLellan

    Eamon,

    Thanks for your efforts. I know it’s appreciated by many.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Karin,

    I might have selected a bad Mac versus PC ad to use as my example. We have seen all of them often here in the states, so I assumed everyone was familiar with the campaign.

    A good reminder about assumptions. So for you, the Microsoft commercial rang true and made you feel good about your PC status?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Scott (just really can’t call you Big Kahuna – a bit too Annette Funicello for me),

    I don’t think Apple ever said they wanted to be a commodity. I think their spots are just a very funny version of a comparison ad.

    But especially if the PCs are the dominant force…is it a good idea for them to respond to the Apple ads?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Dave,

    I don’t know how old you are, but these spots remind me a bit of the old McDonalds versus Burger King ads in the 70s and early 80s.

    Do you think the PC ads will make the PC user feel cool, like the Mac ads do for the Mac users?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Lewis,

    So…for you, did the PC ad make using a PC cool? Or did it just answer back to the Mac spots?

    And Lew — not all PC users are as cool as you. Just saying.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Chris,

    Your point about the spot being more than just an answer to Mac is an excellent one. They deal with the Mac message in the first shot…but then go on to give us a sense of the depth of the PC user base.

    Maybe that’s the art of the “shot back across the bow” kind of ad. It has to take it to the next level, rather than just firing back.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Jess,

    Ahh, Pepsi versus Coke. That was another good rivalry series. Did those ads make you change your soft drink of choice or did they reinforce your already established buying decision?

    I suppose (guessing here) that Microsoft took on Mac because they’re big enough and have a huge stake in PCs selling well. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Dell or one of the other big PC makers have tried the same tactic?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Karl,

    I have to admit, I wondered what took them so long. Mac has been running these spots for quite a while. It’s not a huge series of spots and nothing Microsoft is going to do will dwarf that huge edge that the Mac folks have in terms of reliability and memorability.

    And you are so right — no amount of advertising can make up for being boring.

    Drew

  • Karin H.

    Hi Drew

    I had a look at more of the MAC-PC commercials but they are all ‘the same’ (but of course ;-))
    They sound funny, but still think the MAC’s portrait as a one trick pony and for those who like fun or need to do a lot of fancy stuff on their computer.

    That’s what made the Windows one stand out more I think: everyone uses one and gets out of it what they need – even fancy stuff ;-)

    Karin H.

  • Drew McLellan

    Karin,

    Just goes to prove that we all bring our perspective to the media we view. And that perspective can drastically alter the way we perceive something.

    Fascinating stuff, this marketing.

    Drew

  • sleeping in my party dress

    I think it’s too defensive for Microsoft, a far larger company, to respond (like this) to the Mac/PC ads.

    Maybe it’s a petty critique, this Microsoft campaign doesn’t seem to respond to the Mac-v-PC commercials. Apple isn’t calling the PC user unhip; John Hodgman’s character personifies Microsoft’s awkward products. Nothing here addresses the criticism in the Mac/PC commercials.

    This brings me to Microsoft’s real problem, which isn’t its advertising, but its products that are difficult and messy to use. As Jeremy, my colleague, says, “In the post-advertising age, everything you do is marketing, including the products you make. Even CP+B + $300 million can’t fix MS Office 2007.”

  • Justin Brady

    Of course this ad is defensive. But that is the way Microsoft has been rolling for the past 7 years now. A majority of “innovation” they do is simply reacting, or dare I say, copying Apple’s innovation.
    Microsoft would be wise to advertise without responding. It is a game Apple is good at, and they are so behind already. They need to not once again follow Apple, but prove “they are the better solution” and focus elsewhere.
    The unfortunate thing for Microsoft is that they spend all this money to advertise PCs. (Technically defined as a computer that is not a Mac) The irony in this is that Dell and Acer, because of Vista anguish, are now looking into alternate OS options, such as a new version of Linux. If this deal goes down, Microsoft will have spent 500 mil. advertising dollars helping out their competition.
    In other news, Apple is also using Jerry Seinfeld as a spokesperson? The market share Microsoft is losing is to a younger “trendy” crowd who doesn’t care much for him.
    I think they should stick with the Mojave Experiment. That was clever. It was effective in showing that it truly was a “great OS” and at the same time, it made the Apple commercials look like untruthful lies.
    (I use Vista at work, and Mac OSX at home. Vista IS quite terrible, I long for XP)

  • Drew McLellan

    Andrea,

    So…do you always sleep in party dresses or was this a special occasion? :)

    Your partner is right. Marketing cannot fix a bad product. But a bad product is a part of your marketing mix.

    From everything I’ve heard about Vista…advertising is not the answer.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Justin,

    You make my point about not playing the competition’s game at the expense of your own. Almost always…your own game plan is set up so you can win. While reacting to what the competition is momentarily satisfying and probably rallies the internal troops — odds are, it’s not you in your best light.

    So….if you could use a Mac at work, would you?

    Drew

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