Microsoft ads, phase 2: "I'm a PC" takes on Apple
After two weeks of ads about nothing to get the public's attention, Microsoft took to the airwaves again Thursday with a new spot meant...
Seattle Times technology reporter
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After two weeks of ads about nothing to get the public's attention, Microsoft took to the airwaves again Thursday with a new spot meant to reclaim the image of its most important product from rival Apple.
The "I'm a PC" spot opens with Microsoft employee Sean Siler standing against a white background and channeling the frustrated "PC" character from Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign, which has been bashing Microsoft and its flagship Windows Vista operating system since 2006.
"Hello. I'm a PC. And I've been made into a stereotype," Siler says with a wave.
The 60-second spot, which will see heavy rotation on prime-time network television and on the Web, continues with a series of testimonials by Microsoft employees (including Bill Gates), ordinary people and celebrities in diverse settings around the world who proclaim, "I'm a PC."
Mind-body medicine expert Deepak Chopra intones, "I am a PC and I am a human being. Not a human doing. Not a human thinking. A human being."
The spot closes with the tag line "Windows: Life without Walls," which Microsoft tested globally for a year, said Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group. It's part of the company's $300 million marketing blitz, including print, Web, television and outdoor advertising.
Veghte said the "I'm a PC" spot, which is titled "Pride," is meant to emphasize that Windows is an inclusive brand, countering the stodgy, uncool box Apple's campaign has put it in.
"It's not a stereotype," he said. "It's an inclusive set of experiences that celebrate and support diversity and individuality and choice."
Kathy Sharpe, chief executive of digital marketing agency Sharpe Partners, said Microsoft is running a risk by making such a clear reference to a rival's campaign.
"They have a very tough competitor and they may be looking at them too much."
Even though the spot quickly departs from the austere white background of the Apple campaign, the obvious reference "gives a lot of power to your competitor," Sharpe said. "I'm sure they're very happy at Apple."
She also found the campaign's change in direction a bit jarring.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is not in the latest ad, though a Microsoft spokesman said he may return in future spots.
He starred with Gates in a set of ads beginning two weeks ago that were less about Windows and more about reintroducing the company to an audience that has seen little in the way of Microsoft television commercials recently, save for a short campaign around Vista's launch in early 2007.
While many online pundits speculated that the Seinfeld ads were pulled early, this is what Microsoft and its edgy Miami ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, had in mind from the beginning. It's a departure from the normal model of running a campaign, but Sharpe said if any agency can pull it off, Crispin can.
"It's Crispin and it's unprecedented and that's what they do," Sharpe said.
Veghte said he was pleased with the initial response to the Seinfeld ads, which generated more than half a billion impressions on television and the Web, exceeding the company's goal.
Despite that broad distribution, the ads didn't do much to raise awareness of the Microsoft brand — though more people view the company favorably than they did two weeks ago, according to surveys conducted by YouGovPolimetrix, which takes daily measure of consumer sentiments on 1,025 brands.
Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager of the survey firm's brand group, said about 38 to 40 percent had heard something about Microsoft, positive or negative, in the past two weeks. That's about where the company's figure stood earlier in the year, he said.
Microsoft's "buzz score" — the percentage of U.S. consumers who had heard something positive about the company, minus the percent who'd heard something negative — increased from 11 percent on Sept. 4 when the Seinfeld ads began to 18 percent now.
That gives Microsoft "a reasonable claim that the advertising has been effective," Marzilli said.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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