I've never been keen on Apple's "Get a Mac" ads. It just doesn't seem sporting to knock the competition directly. I much prefer to see advertising that focuses on positive messages. However, it's hard to deny the success of the campaign.
Whilst the initial ads concerned legitimate differences between Macs and PCs, such as Apple's bundled iLife software, the campaign took a different turn with the problematic release of Vista, and started to tackle perceived shortcomings in Microsoft's new OS directly.
When I first heard that Microsoft was finally going to respond to the Apple campaign, I thought that our favorite computer company may be in for some payback. After all, for every blue-screen, there's surely a spinning beach-ball. And with the help of Seinfeld, an ideal frontman for this sort of thing, what could go wrong?
Plenty, apparently. Microsoft's first two ads were frankly bizarre - focusing on the already affable Gates, who is largely un-afflicted by Microsoft's current image problem, and who has recently left the company. We got lots of Gates, but no articulation of Microsoft's product vision.
Let's be honest - Microsoft's switch to the new "I'm a PC" campaign is every bit as much of a U-turn as Apple's last minute switch from a 4/8GB nano to an 8/16GB offering (for which, ironically we have Microsoft to thank).
So how do the new ads measure up? Somewhat better, surely, but I'm not convinced that it's entirely dignified for Microsoft to be crediting Apple's negative campaign with such a direct response. It also opens them to further comeback from Apple.
I predict an Apple "Get a Mac" ad in response as follows:
Mac: "Hello, I'm a Mac"
PC: "Hello, I'm a PC"
2nd PC, dressed as cowboy: "Hello, I'm a PC"
3rd PC, dressed as astronaut: "Hello, I'm a PC"
4th PC, dressed as a woman: "Hello, I'm a PC"
Mac: "What's all this about PC? Who are all these people?"
PC: "Oh, them? They're all PCs like me. We get all over the place you know - and we're really cool."
Mac: "Well, of course, everyone knows that there are PCs everywhere, but I still don't get why you're doing this."
PC (looking crestfallen): "Because apparently when people see me in these ads, they don't like me very much. They don't think I'm 'cool' like you"
Mac: "Well, I like you, PC. I like you just the way you are."
Mac: "Sure. I think we get along just fine. These days you'll find both of us together all over the place - at home, at work, on the ranch..." gestures to cowboy PC.
PC (reaches out arms in conciliatory gesture): "Group hug?"
Mac (weary expression, embraces PC and pats on back)
Other PCs (join in the group hug)
Mac (rolls eyes)
Update (20/10/08): Apple has now responded, with two ads arguing that Microsoft is attempting to gloss over problems with Vista by spending money on advertising.