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How Should Apple Answer Microsoft’s New Ad Campaign?

This weekend, more of Apple’s neat Mac versus PC vignettes came out. While the usual Windows flaws, such as susceptibility to malware, were covered, Apple was careful not to respond to Microsoft’s latest marketing attempts to regain lost ground for the Windows platform.

It’s not as if Apple didn’t respond at all. Corporate communications rep Bill Evans previously made a few pithy comments to the tech media that “”A PC is no bargain when it doesn’t do what you want.”

Naturally, he was referencing those frenetic ads in which Microsoft sends someone into a store to buy a note-book computer with a fixed budget. In each case, the buyers acquire an HP portable with questionable performance, one that wasn’t likely to perform to their expectations. But at least they had a choice.

When you look at those ads, you have to wonder what possessed these people to make those selections, unless, of course, HP secretly paid part of the bill. Even then, HP has a huge product lineup, and they have models that would have been more competitive with the Macs and likely would have better suited the needs of these buyers. So I suppose it also proves that someone who buys a PC with Windows, when given a lot of choices, will tend to make poor selections.

Take that Microsoft!

I’m not altogether sure whether Microsoft even realizes the sort of message they’ve conveyed. Their intention, of course, was to prove that you have more options at lower prices with their platform, but you have to recall what Bill Evans said about that. In the auto industry, you can also purchase products that lack basic features in order to save money, but does that also represent your best choice?

Now, despite the obvious flaws, it’s always possible that Microsoft’s expanded ad campaign will actually have a positive result, and halt Apple’s growing curve beyond the end of the current recession. After all, most people are not going to be able to deconstruct these ads in the way the Mac media has been doing. The images will just flash by and perhaps there will be some sort of impact. Perhaps. Unfortunately, I’m not in the ad business, so I wouldn’t presume to be able to offer a qualified opinion.

Putting myself in the position of the consumer, however, I don’t think these ads, with their frantic style, are going to have much of an impact. The message that you have a choice on the Windows platform isn’t well conveyed, and there are few choice moments to recall. This is quite unlike the truly effective Windows ads that have been broadcast from time to time, featuring children who are able to do such things as easily edit photos on their PCs.

Indeed, that specific campaign caught my attention above the usual clutter, and it carried a message that Microsoft, for whatever reason, seems unable to expand upon.

As far as Apple is concerned, I don’t think they need to do anything beyond what they’ve done already. The concern about Microsoft’s ads was discussed in the tech media, and that’s where Apple confined its response.

The rest of the public, most of whom don’t follow PC platform debates, were given, instead, a new lineup of Apple ads that present the same friendly Mac versus PC rivalry that has been so successful in the past, with the same basic concepts. Macs are simple to use and secure, while Windows PCs are malware-ridden machines that create endless frustration. End of story.

Anything that truly addresses the specifics of Microsoft’s ad campaign — whichever one they choose to concentrate on this week — would only draw more attention to the originals. A defensive attitude of that sort would surely best serve Microsoft’s interests, so it won’t happen.

It’s also questionable just where Microsoft will focus their efforts next. They could, perhaps, continue to pour modest sums of money into the hands of preselected shills and follow them around with video cameras expecting them to make the appropriate purchase decisions, as they will. After all, that’s the essence of the marching orders they received when they agreed to participate.

I also hope they at least get proper union wages for appearing in those ads, and residuals when they are repeated. Isn’t that the way the standard contracts are written?

Then again, Apple will continue to do best by ignoring the media, ignoring (for the most part) Microsoft’s pathetic efforts to save their falling market share, and producing ads that not only attract attention but remain memorable.

More to the point, Apple continues to build products that basically back up the claims. Could you say the same of Microsoft? How many of their campaigns truly relate to their products in a similar fashion?

Consider that famous campaign for Windows ’95 that featured “Start Me Up!” by The Rolling Stones. Did Microsoft ever read the lyrics, particularly the phrase “You make a grown man cry”?

Anyone who has spent extended face time coping with Windows bugs and malware would agree.