Windows 7 Was My Idea


One of the greatest things on television are advertisements by computer companies.

Okay – maybe that’s a stretch – but the ad battle between computer companies over the last several years is pretty entertaining and competitive. From ridiculous comedy to bullying, computer speak and little girls who can barely talk, many different angles have been hit to engage audiences of every age, socioeconomic status and tech savvy level.

The recent battle was put into full swing with Apple’s “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials that started a few years ago, making Macs look way cool and forever staining Justin Long’s acting career. Since then we’ve had a lot of ideas that have led us to current times. While many of these ads, on both Apple and Microsoft’s fronts, have been attacked as useless, ineffective, or childish, it is my opinion (and yes, it’s an opinion) that the new “My Idea” commercials is one of the more successful campaigns in a while. Keep in mind I am an avid, daily user of both Mac and PC platforms who understands the pros and cons of both systems and doesn’t have a particular preference for either. I like writing about ads for that very reason. I’m not a marketing executive, but a consumer of both products. Commercials are for the consumers, and that’s me – and you.

Let’s review some of what we’ve seen over the past few years, and now that many of the campaigns have come and gone, the general response by the majority to each attempt. Keep in mind this is for computer-based ads only, not iPods or anything else.

Get a Mac: “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC”

2006 – Present

Obviously a hit, these commercials are still in production. Originally, these were genius. Focusing on certain points where Macs generally excel over PCs, they use humor and delivery to engage the audience. Many people enjoy them for their laughability, as the PC fellow is usually suffering from something the general population is familiar with. Still, they showcase the highlights of the Mac solely by bashing the PC, not by actually illuminating or providing supporting evidence as to why the Mac is better. It’s sort of a “you suck, so by comparison, I am better, though I won’t say why” approach, which bothers a lot of people. Many consumers already see Apple as a snoody, high-brow company, so these commercials only play to that image.

Where they work:

Everyone knows about them. They’re going to go down as a classic ad campaign. In 20 years, we’ll pull one up on the internet and have an “oh yeah!” moment. They’re funny, sharp and catchy. They’re also financially efficient on Apple’s part, because they look like they cost about $2.25 to produce. A few of them come out every year, which keeps them in our minds. They’re also able to last over time because they solely use Windows’ weaknesses as their subject matter, regardless of the OS. As long as Windows exists, these ads will be able to find something to bash.

Where they fail:

Underneath the jokes and with the cuteness factor removed, they’re low-brow. Aside from the occasional exception where they actually mention Apple products (like the iLife software bundle), they generally tell you nothing about a Mac. They just joke about a PC failing, which is supposed to make the Mac look better by means of juxtaposition. As a heavy user of both platforms, I can admit that blue screen of death and viruses aside, I’ve had just as many problems with iMacs and MacBooks as I have Windows machines. They make the assumption every computer running Windows has a bevvy of problems, which isn’t true.

Additionally, while their platform allows for near-endless versions of the commercial, they’ve run their course. I used to adore these, but even fans are growing tired of the dynamic. Are we really moving to enter our fourth year of these? For a company that prides itself on creativity, that’s not very original. This is literally the only commercial campaign they’ve had since 2006.

Apple’s Machine-Specific Ads

Whenever one is released

Aside from the Mac/PC ads, a few model-specific ads are the only computer commercials Apple has run over the past few years. When the Intel iMacs came out, they had their spots. When the MacBook Air came out, they had that lame commercial where they pulled it out of a manila envelope. All the commercials essentially follow the same template for presentation. There’s the computer being filmed from all angles to make it look sexy, lots of reflection and fancy editing, some guy’s hand doing things with the machine, and a hip song by an up-and-coming artist that gets slammed into popularity because of the ad. They end with some little phrase like “Meet the next generation of notebooks” printed on the screen followed by the Apple logo.

Every now and then, one will tell you something about the product and not just put it there for you to look at.

Are these useful? Well, at least they tell us a new product exists. Though if you’re like me, when you see the MacBook Air being pulled from a manila envelope, you don’t automatically think “wow, look how thin!” but “wow, that thing is so thin it doesn’t even have a CD drive or anything else I need every day.”

Where they work:

They announce new products. They show them to you. They’re not abstract or ridiculous. In that sense, they’re like old-time commercials from back in the day that actually advertised things. It’s up to you to go online and read about the specs, features and the undoubtedly high price. But at least you know what’s being advertised, what it’s called, and where to find it. You’ll also find out about a new song that will be stuck in your head for the next three weeks.

Where they fail:

Just like the “Get a Mac” ads, they’re all the same. There isn’t anything memorable about them, and people forget about them. “Oh, is that the one that had the computer on a white background with some fingers and stuff?” Yes, yes it is.

The Bill Gates / Jerry Seinfeld Ads


Any time Jerry Seinfeld is going to be on TV, it’s a big deal. He recently served as the first guest on Leno’s new 10pm show. A Seinfeld reunion episode is planned for this season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. TV Guide named Seinfeld the #1 show of all time. He’s a television icon, and he is beloved. He is one of my favorite people in the world.

Seinfeld Fanboy ranting aside, there was a lot of talk about the Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld ads when they came out. Especially since they cost $300 million. Jerry doesn’t come cheap.

Unfortunately, the commercials were a huge, epic, bizarre “WTF?” and the talk they generated was more bewilderment as to what in the world they were about, and less praise for them being masters of the computer advertisement domain. Conquistador shoes? Churros? Bill Gates using his mugshot on a discount card? What in the world…?

Where they work:

They were sort of funny, in a very obscure way. Not hilarious, gut-busting laughter funny, but chuckle awkwardly like you’re watching a three-legged squirrel chase a nut funny. If you totally ignored the fact that they were advertising Microsoft and watched them as some sort of minute-long silly short film, they showed Bill Gates in an atmosphere that normal people experience. He looked approachable, funny, and cute. Not like the intimidating, powerful, richest man in the world he actually is. Coupled with one of the richest people in entertainment history, they needed to, as Jerry said in the “Family” ad, “connect with real people.”

A Microsoft spokesperson said the aim of the ads wasn’t to discuss products, talk about Bill Gates or even talk about Windows, but to get people talking in general. Buzz generation was the ticket, and if that’s true, it definitely worked. The ads were discussed in plenty all over the internet, print and news. They certainly got people talking – even if they didn’t know what they were talking about. The spokespeople also claimed it was one of many attempts to combat the “Get a Mac” ads. The idea – PCs can be hip and silly, too, and not just a clumsy fellow in a brown suit.

Where they fail:

These ads never talk about the company, the products, or the services. Most people don’t think like marketing executives. The general consumer doesn’t get it. They hear that Jerry Seinfeld made more money for this worthless commercial than an entire street worth of people in middle America make in their lifetimes, and it just confuses and annoys them. It doesn’t amplify brand image, it shows a rich company being wasteful without concern. $300 million could have been better spent giving every citizen of the United States $1. A Microsoft stimulus plan. Then we all could have used our Microsoft dollars to go buy our own churros.

One Computer World blogger called these ads “the worst, most pointless ads in history.” The New York Times reported they didn’t help company image at all. Brand Keys said viewers were likely to leave with a more negative image of Microsoft. They may make some people chuckle, but that’s not the point of an ad – that’s why Seinfeld runs in syndication 24 hours a day.

Microsoft: Laptop Hunters

Spring 2009

The most noticeable thing this campaign had going for it was that it wasn’t an “I’m an OS” thing. The target here was to show you could get more computer for your money by buying a PC over a Mac. I wrote an article about these back in April ( from a Mac perspective. Today we’re looking at it from an effective advertising perspective. The documentary-style commercials followed people as they went around a store trying to find a machine to fit their needs within a certain budget. The way I see it, the secondary, hidden target of these ads was to make up for Vista.

These ads were all about price. Money is the sole decision-maker, which was a smart move for this past spring. The economy was beat, Macs were coming out at very high prices, and it was the right time for a financially-fueled campaign. They also never mentioned Windows (aside from one logo at the end), but focused on advertising “PCs.” This was a smart choice since they came out during a time when Vista-hate was super high. It was fairly successful creative marketing battling the campaign on coolness Apple had been winning for years. It also made it harder for Apple to justify their price points, particularly when they announced a $2700 MacBook Pro during the running of this campaign.

The other important note is that these ads were about hardware. Generally, Apple advertises hardware and Microsoft advertises software. Apple doesn’t open up for third party distribution the way Microsoft does. These ads were for the company by means of third-party. When creating an ad for PCs, they’re inadvertently creating an ad for Windows, and this was sort of a different approach for the company.

Where they work:

For some, specs and benchmarks and comparisons will never justify buying a $2,000 laptop over a $500 one. Period. Additionally, they came at a time where most people don’t have enough money for a Mac, but they have enough for a cheap PC. Even if it’s a low-end eMachine from Wal-Mart, at least they can afford it – which is good enough for a lot of folks.

Where they fail:
Many Mac users argue you get what you pay for. If you buy a $400 piece of junk PC filled with bloatware and garbage for your 11 year-old son, you’re going to replace it in a year. If you buy a $2,000 MacBook Pro, you’re going to have it for years. Even if you subscribe to that argument, it’s still cheaper to buy a new $400 PC every year for four years than buy a $2,000 Mac once. It also implies that Macs at every price point function well for many years, which isn’t always true. I owned a G4 PowerMac that sold for over $2,500 at the time of purchase that ran like a champ for nearly five years. I currently own a white MacBook that sold for $1,000, which is starting to run like garbage at a year and a half old. But that’s all neither here nor there, as this isn’t a brand superiority argument.

Everyone has their brand affiliations and opinions. As I see it, consumers are getting smarter and more tech savvy. Technology is a huge part of our lives. People are educated about technology and make their own decisions. Whether they feel Macs run better or know how to maintain their PCs is whatever. I just can’t see too many people falling blindly for an ad campaign that focuses on nothing but price. People are smart enough to know price is meaningless by itself. There’s a big market share difference between Microsoft and Apple that destroys the stand-alone price argument.

As a side note, the ads also unwittingly implies that PCs aren’t as sexy or appealing as Macs, as one of the people says Macs are cool but too focused on aesthetics.

And then, we get into Windows 7 ads. I’d love to hear your feedback on these.

Kylie Teasers”

Summer 2009

Ahh, Kylie. The cute five-year-old girl who teased us about Windows 7 over the past few months. As the starting point for the Windows 7 campaign, the Kylie ads are generally liked for cuteness, but not necessarily for telling you anything about the new OS.

The first ads had her looking at “happy words” on her dad’s computer, then making a slideshow out of them – complete with unicorns, marshmallows, and “The Final Countdown” by Europe. They make you grin, and I’m sure a bounty of single-digit aged boys out there now have the pre-pubescent hots for Kylie. It gives me a chuckle when she tries to say “responsive,” and the commercials are undeniably endearing. We get a glimpse of favorable reviews about Windows 7, but nothing that tells us why. Arguably, though, it’s a teaser – so we’re not meant to get details.

Where they work:

Kylie is cute. 80’s songs are cheesy and fun. They contain both things. They let people know that there are reviewers and critics out there giving praise to Windows 7 – and since nobody likes Vista, that’s a good thing. Everyone wants this OS to be better, and it foreshadows the possibility of that being the case. There are few details about what actually makes it better, but as I said, it’s a teaser. Teasers don’t have details. Cute sells just as well as sex. The ads’ intentions are to make you feel good about the product and go into it with a positive mindset, and that’s why it’s a silly, feel-good ad. Additionally, they shows her doing/creating some things with ease – an angle usually used by Apple.

They’re also the first ads in a while to mention the OS. As we know, previous Microsoft ads were targeting PCs, not Windows – so it’s back to basics.

Where they fail:

They’re teasers, so it’s hard to “fail.” They won’t appeal to some people, but nothing appeals to everyone.

Coolness Campaign”

Fall 2009

Windows 7 is taking no chances and has put out an onslaught of ads. Right after Kylie, we got hit with these stylized ads focusing on the cool. They’re to show us that Windows 7 is just as cool and stylish as anything else, with a few fancy ads that exemplify different elements of artiness.

While reviews for Windows 7 have been very favorable thus far, Microsoft knows they still have a lot of convincing to do after Vista, so they’re going after every angle possible with their ads this fall. These ones speak to style. They want to show us different things Windows 7 can do, how streamlined they all are, and how easily you can navigate through your system while doing said tasks.

Where they work:

They are hip, and I’m sure many people will appreciate the fact they don’t focus on bashing Apple. They’re straight-up product ads that are designed to interest the consumer with a creative mind. It’s awesome that they aim to focus on the product and aren’t attack ads – a refreshing change for the industry as a whole.

Where they fail:

They might actually be too artistic. I can’t really tell what all of this means for me in a practical context. The features are buried within art, and it’s hard to discern what they can actually do for consumers on an everyday basis.

My Idea”

Fall 2009

The latest batch of Windows 7 ads, just a few weeks after the previous artsy ones, are the “My Idea” ads. With these ads, Microsoft is telling users that they realize Vista was a bomb, they’ve listened to their suggestions and complaints, and used them in the design for Windows 7. As such, Windows 7 is the idea of the people – people like you and me. Through our complaining and hatred, we’ve created the OS that will redeem Microsoft.

The biggest problem Microsoft has faced has been the negative public opinion of Vista. Windows 7 is a savior of sorts to all PC users, and the largest concern is whether or not it will fix the problems users have had with Vista’s interface. Creating an ad campaign that speaks not only to the improvements, but tells us that they are a direct result of people’s feedback, is genius. It will instill hope in anyone who was left lacking by Vista.

The “My Idea” ads show regular, everyday people in regular, everyday settings taking credit for Windows 7 features. The guy in his bedroom talks about how he wished his PC could have snapping windows. The dad in his house wants all the computer equipment in his house to work together. These things are now features of Windows 7, and thus, their ideas. The idea is to show that normal people influenced the design of the OS, which should make it exactly what people want.

Where they work:

These ads don’t resort to childish bashing or exaggerating. They don’t paint pictures through obscurity. They don’t gloat without supporting evidence. They don’t make their argument based on shallow points. They simply pick a feature, talk about it, and give credit to the masses for their great suggestions. They tell you things that will be present in Windows 7. While they still won’t tell you much about the product as a whole, they aim to let the community know that they, as a company, are listening to people’s concerns and utilizing them in their software development. And really, that’s what any good company should do – customer service is key. The features they choose to talk about are ones that they feel will benefit large amounts of people, and make them go “hey, I wished that, too! Windows 7 is my idea!”

Geeky people already know whether or not they’re going to use the OS. Tech-savvy folks will read up about all the features and benefits. These ads are for the average person who has struggled with Vista and voiced their complaints. It’s professional and poignant.

Where they fail:

For me, there is little wrong with these ads. Microsoft has launched their stylish ads, their cute ads, and these are the first of their functional ads for Windows 7.

I’d love to hear your input on the ads, particularly the new Windows 7 pieces. If you don’t like them, it’d interest me to know why. For me, it’s simply nice to see Microsoft creating ads that actually have a purpose, as the past few years have shown some pretty rocky campaigns that didn’t do a lot for the brand. It’s also nice to see the company pay tribute to its users and respect their feedback about their last failure. Apple is being lost by their inability to realize the “Get a Mac” ads are a has-been, and the success of the Windows 7 campaigns may force them to come up with a new tactic.

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