My Take on Microsoft’s I’m a PC Commercials


Revenge of the Nerds

Nearly everyone is familiar with the barrage of Apple ads.  They mainly feature two characters that are meant to iconify a typical Apple and PC user.  Of course, the Apple character is a cool twenty-something dude and the PC (played by humorist John Hodgman) is an outdated business-person who just can’t be as cool.  These advertisements apparently have been very effective, because they caught the attention of Microsoft, who is issuing a direct response with their own marketing campaign.

The last time I remember two companies fighting out in the open like this was back in the 80s when Coke and Pepsi went head-to-head in cutthroat fashion.  Sure, companies mention their competitors all the time, but you don’t see commercials that directly mock or attack each other…

Earlier this month, Microsoft issues a campaign featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.  It seemed like a good idea, matching up one of the greatest comedians with the King of all Technology.  The ads were just a rambling that really didn’t have much to do with anything, I guess trying to tie into the theme of the Seinfeld sitcom, which was essentially “a show about nothing”.  At the end of the commercial, you get the Vista logo, which I guess is marketing genius… entertain the crowd and then flash your logo when their mind is open and relaxed.  It backfired though, because the comedy was weak, unrelatable, and essentially just didn’t entertain.

Microsoft is now directly responding to Apple’s “buy a mac” commercials with their adament “I’m a PC” commercials.  The commercial starts out with a John Hodgman lookalike pretty much demanding an apology from Apple for stereotyping PC users.  The commercial then shows people from all walks of life; from cool laid-back twenty-somethings to doctors, students, researchers, and even Bill Gates himself proclaiming that it’s great to be a PC, and we refuse to be cast into a mold.

I had mixed emotions after analyzing the commercial.  On one hand I thought the commercial was very pretentious, and made the corporate giant look like they can’t take a joke, essentially edifying Apple’s message.  One the other hand, it had an uplifting message and I appreciate someone standing up essentially saying that PCs (and nerds) are awesome… which they are.

No matter what you think about the new ad, it is a great marketing campaign because it works.  Like it or hate it, everyone is thinking about it… which is more than what the ho-hum Seinfeld commercials were doing.  One of my rules of a great movie is if you’re thinking about it the next day.  You may go to a movie and hate the bejesus out of it, but if it gets you intellectually stimulated then it was well worth the $5 and two hours you spent.

The end result of this ad is to promote Windows Vista, and it is unfortunate that it has to go through such a PR battle.  Statistically speaking, Vista has sold better than Windows XP, but is still considered a commercial failure.

I personally don’t understand why Vista has this image (or stereotype, if you will).  Most of the people I have talked to about running Vista have either never tried it, or they tried it in the early days when there was little driver support.  Remember Windows 2000?  It had a completely new architecture, which required new drivers and it took two years before the drivers were as ubiquitous as they currently are for Vista.

The driver case is even worse for the 64-bit version of XP.  Nearly every device that works in Vista has an equivilant 64-bit driver… which is saying a great deal about what the industry has overcome, especially when compared with the failure driver availability with previous operating systems.

So, Microsoft’s new “I’m a PC” marketing campaign works.  It has a message that everyone can get behind: Everyone is a nerd at something, and we refuse to be cast into a mold.

Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.