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Articles: The Microsoft "Lauren" Ad - It’s Kinda Funny Watching an Elephant Be Frightened by a Mouse

In the old cartoons it was pretty common to see a large elephant’s eyes grow wide at the sight of a mouse, and stampede away or cause all sorts of damage in its frenzy to get away from the vicious “monster.”

Apparently Microsoft’s executives spent a lot of time watching cartoons when they were kids (or perhaps still do). The little Apple mouse is making this elephant of a company run so scared that it’s airing competitive ads against Apple, despite the fact that it still commands roughly 90% of the market.

The one I get the biggest kick out of is with Lauren:

If you watch the first part of it closely, you’ll see her walking into an Apple Store (which they call the Mac Store) to do some “shopping.” The very next scene where she walks out of the store, you can see that she actually spent about three seconds inside, because the guy on the sidewalk approaching the door at the same time has only made it a handful of steps past the door when she walks back out. Apparently Microsoft doesn’t have the budget for an editor good enough to properly fake it?

The other interesting thing in the commercial was when she says, “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person.” Hmmm. So I guess they’re going after the ten percent of the Mac computer market that doesn’t consider themselves cool? To top it all off, Lauren is an actress… apparently it’s hard to find someone on the street who would be excited to be given 700 bucks for a free Windows laptop? Heck, I’d take that deal (I’d just return it later and exchange it for something I’d actually use).

My two main thoughts on this campaign are thus:

1) If you feel you have to compete on price, then you’re pretty much admitting you don’t have the same quality of product. The whole ad is a sham of course, and it’s pretty easy to prove that the “cheaper” thing is as well. I won’t go into as much detail as I could, and in any case any Windows vs. Mac debate usually ends in name-calling because some people like Windows (I personally think they are simply used to it) and some people like the Mac OS, but if you only look at the fact that Apple controls most of the user experience by marrying hardware and software (which is what has made the iPod so dominant), while Microsoft has to contend with multiple hardware manufacturers for the computers, not to mention all the peripherals, video cards, etc., you can extrapolate that just in working around driver conflicts and viruses alone, Mac users are probably more productive overall. Let’s give them a ten percent advantage for the purposes of this point.

So let’s say you use your computer twenty hours a week. If you’re ten percent more productive over those twenty hours, you’ve gained two hours over your Windows counterpart. Over the course of a year, that’s 104 hours of more productivity. If you make $20 an hour, that’s $2,080 a year in time saved or productivity gained. Heck, cut it in half, and give the Mac a 5% advantage. Still over a grand. And that’s at $20 an hour; a lot of people make substantially more than that. In addition, Macs are not anywhere close to $1,000 more than their equivalent PC counterparts… and those savings, with whatever numbers you want to plug in there, are for just one year; most people keep their PC’s for three to five or more.

Personally, if I had to use a Windows machine I’d probably be about 50% as productive because I’d spend so much of my time being annoyed. On the other hand, my salty language vocabulary would expand significantly.

Throw on top of that the fact the Macs hold their resale value an order of magnitude better than virtually any PC. We should know; we take used Macs in trade all the time. Find out how much you can get for a five-year-old Windows laptop. Pretty much nothing. Compare that to the $700 or so you we’d give you for a five-year-old 17” PowerBook. Even if a Mac were many hundreds of dollars more than an equivalent Windows PC, in a few years you’d have gotten that difference back in cold hard cash, plus some.

If Microsoft’s marketing department ever takes on local amusement parks, you’re going to start seeing the slogan: “We’re Cheaper than Disneyland!”

Yeah, but…

2) No one with half a brain should really believe that having only one company in a market or industry is good for any consumer. It’s why we have anti-monopoly laws. What Microsoft is proving with this ad campaign is they don’t care a whit about the consumer, because obviously 90% isn’t enough for them. If Microsoft isn’t happy unless it’s a monopoly or near-monopoly, then it’s not happy unless it can exploit it’s customers to the fullest possible extent.

They dismissed Apple as irrelevant when they only had 5% of the market. But now that they’re making it into double digits, somehow this leviathan is getting a bit jumpy… with ads that scream, “Oh yeah? Oh yeah? Well… we’re cheaper, that’s what! Yeah, we’re cheaper! Take that you cool Apple users!”

But this message that "they really are cheaper" is just as fake as Lauren’s shopping trip into the “Mac Store.”
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