New Apple and Microsoft Ads Fail

I’m not loving new “Get a Mac” and “Laptop Hunters” commercials that debuted this week. After four homers, Microsoft fouls out with “Lauren and Sue.” Apple  simply strikes out with “Elimination,” which is sorry response to Microsoft’s Laptop Hunters series.

Lauren and Sue debut tonight in Prime Time, although their 60-sec spot already is online. Lauren, a blonde bombshell, is the best thing about the commercial. Otherwise it’s a disastrous stereotype of the other four. Worse, the ad doesn’t feel real, unlike the others. From just one viewing I came away feeling somebody staged most of the interaction. The feeling intensified repeatedly watching the ad. Perhaps someone botched the editing.

The Mac jab is groundless mockery, whereas the other commercials made valid digs about Apple laptops’ shortcomings.

The four earlier ads followed clear progressions, each adding something to the previous ones:

  • Budgets moved from $1,000 to $1,500 to $2,000
  • Each emphasized different points of value within the budgets
  • The protagonists all were “every shoppers” meaning you or me
  • The purchased notebooks looked better in each of the commercials

By comparison, the Lauren and Sue ad flops because:

  • The budget goes down to the odd price of $1,700
  • There’s no real value gained for the price paid
  • Lauren doesn’t feel like every shopper or someone who would buy a Dell
  • Dude, she got a Dell—and it’s kind of ugly for about $1,000

“I’m about to be a law student, and portability is important to me,” Lauren explains. That statement means she will likely end up with a laptop with 14-inch or smaller display. Lauren and her mom shop at Best Buy, first looking at some larger Windows laptops. Size matters to Lauren, and smaller is better. She moves on to Best Buy’s mini-Apple store.

“This Mac is $2,000, and that’s before adding anything,” Lauren says about the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro. Oh? What about the $1,599 MacBook, Lauren, which is in your budget, has the same size screen as the Dell and meets your criteria of “speed, portability and battery life?” The MacBook weighs less, too. Granted, the MacBook costs $600 more than the Dell, but its design compliments your beauty and suits law school (Aren’t lawyers very image conscious?).

Mom Sue asks, “Why would you pay twice the price?” “I wouldn’t,” Lauren answers. But the MacBook Pro isn’t twice the price of her budget. It is twice the price of the Dell Studio XPS 13 she buys. But, supposedly, at this point in the commercial, Lauren hasn’t made her choice yet. So how can the MacBook Pro be twice the price? The interaction feels staged, where something is out of sequence.

Safely back in the Windows PC section, Lauren coos over a pink Sony VAIO laptop: “I like the color of this one.” Have you seen movie “Legally Blonde,” Lauren? The Sony would have been a good choice for you at law school.

Lauren pays $971.99 for her Dell—the last one—that comes with 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (3MB cache/1066MHz front-side bus), 13.3-inch display (1280 x 800 resolution), 4GB of DDR3 memory, nVidia GeForce 9400M graphics, 320GB hard drive (7200 rpm), DVD burner, 802.11 b/g/n and Windows Vista Home Premium Service Pack 1 64-bit.

I like Apple’s “Elimination” commercial even less. It’s a bad stereotype of all the earlier commercials, and it mocks them, too. This is Apple’s response to Microsoft’s effective Laptop Hunters campaign? It’s awfully weak and condescends most would-be buyers.

Microsoft rightly created its Laptop Hunters campaign around fundamentals of computer shopping:

  • There are clear buying criteria, like screen size and performance
  • People have fixed budgets
  • Among Windows PCs there are many choices (and few among Macs)
  • Value matters—getting the most features for the lowest price

Elimination opens with the Mac and PC characters and computer shopper Megan. Behind PC is a long line of the suit-wearing, uncool looking PC characters. Megan wants a “big screen” and a ” fast processor” and something else: “I just need something that works without crashing or viruses or a ton of headaches.: That criteria eliminates all the PCs.

Apple really blows the messaging, which comes down to this: After eliminating all the reasons for buying a computer, the only choice is a Mac. Of course, those reason, which include price and value, don’t matter. They can’t in the Apple universe, because Macs cost so much more than PCs. Lauren’s Dell is good example. It’s fairly comparable to the $1,599 MacBook for about $600 less.

By the way, I would have thought much more of Microsoft’s commercial had Sue been looking at the MacBook. She saved a bunch of money on the Dell XPS 13, for basically equivalent hardware. That comparison would be effective marketing.

Going back to Apple, Get a Mac is tired out. The metaphor no longer satisfies. It’s boring. Apple needs something fresher and more inviting. It’s time to recycle Misters “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC.”

Editor’s Note March 30, 2014: Apple and Microsoft pulled the original videos, which are replaced with, sadly, lower-quality alternatives.