How Microsoft Can Win The PC/Mac Campaign

For the last few months, er years, Microsoft has been getting their assets handed to them as Apple tears into their brand with the “PC vs Mac” clever ads.

Microsoft has launched a new campaign with at least two phases, the first one showing Seinfeld and Gates acting as “normal guys” at the mall, at home, on the road. Most tech heads didn’t get it, but for the mainstream everybodies, it may have resonated. The ads may have been stalled, the reports contradict.

The second phase, which launched last night, extends the “everybody is a PC” theme shows some highly structured actors (including the lovely Eva Longoria) showing how they’re a PC.

I figured out that the theme was “everyone is a PC” which is a differentiator from the elite feeling of Mac for young urban 20 something year olds, to the rest of the business and work world.

So what could Microsoft (And their agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky) do to resonate and win this campaign? Allow anyone to publish their photos, videos how they are a PC. They currently have these features in their campaign site, (link via Andrew Finkle) but they are buried a few clicks away, and they even require a fan to submit their age.

What should Microsoft do?

  • Create YouTube Video Templates that have the same video start and end (called bumpers) and have a seperate MP3 track that can be added in the background
  • Create a set of tags “ImaPC” or “PCpride” or “everyonePC” that makes the videos easy to find
  • Next, aggregate the videos onto one page, making them easy for folks to find.
  • Create a voting campaign allowing users to add points to the videos they enjoy the most
  • Use these user created videos in actual TV and web advertising
  • Allow negative videos to be included, and showcase these on the web
  • Elevate these social features right on the campaign page, expand to Facebook, LinkedIn, and where else creators and joiners exist.
  • To take the win, Microsoft should let the people lead, create, and own the campaign, Jerry and Bill can share the spotlight, reframe the campaign on creators. I see there site is hinting at this, and it maybe in their plans, but I’d expect them to crank this user created feature up.

    If you agree that Microsoft should elevate the opportunity for everyone to show how they are a PC, leave comment below, maybe, just maybe, they’re watching.

    Update: Microsoft is putting the ads on Times Square in NYC, a good start –but don’t forget to republish across the web. (link via Paisano)

    Update 2: Dennis McDonald did a “Worldle” analysis (Tag cloud) of all the words used in the following comments. What’s being screamed? “Campaign, people, PC, microsoft, pc, mac”

    58 Replies to “How Microsoft Can Win The PC/Mac Campaign”

    1. What exactly will they be winning? Market share supremacy?

      Honestly, what exactly is Microsoft hoping to achieve in this? Turn the tides on Apple and extinguish them once and for all? Do we really want a computing landscape completely dominated by Microsoft?

    2. J.O.,

      Totally agree, especially the fact that MS can clearly contrast through this campaign the elitism of Apple. This really makes the “Apple Guy” in Apple’s ad seem even more smarmy. Great to clearly juxtapose MS against that to see where wider sentiment really is.

    3. Right on. Microsoft made a great move here, pointing out their diversity and inclusiveness.

      Suddenly, Justin Long is no longer the hip icon of the cooler brand, but a restricted niche.

      Suddenly, that white background looks plain and detached compared to the colors of the real world.

      Bravo MSFT, great counterpunch! (You’re still in serious trouble, though.)

    4. Brilliant. I have to say that MS has stepped it up with this new campaign, but agree with @jowyang in thinking it could be done with a bit more empowerment to “us PC people”.

      IMHO, Microsoft’s next steps should be to show how “us PC people” use Microsoft products in their best ways (for me specifically, gaming and power business needs top the list, among other things).

    5. Yes, it is a great counterpunch. But what Microsoft should do it make software that people will want to use; have tech support that supports and THEN and only then, start bragging.

      The bottom line: your products have to be the ones people love. That would not be Vista. or Explorer. etc.

    6. I agree with Adam. This is a misplaced effort. There is no competition between Mac and PC, and nothing to ‘win.’ Both have value in the market, both have key functionality/points of differentiation, and both ultimately appeal to different segments of the population. It will never be universal on either side. A social campaign such as you described wouldn’t create brand loyalty for PC and would ultimately just end up being a buzz circus that doesn’t result in more PC sales or greater MSFT product usage. The bottom line is that the pursuit of the almighty dollar is driving this when neither need to compete to still have more than robust revenues.

    7. Excellent ideas. What seems to be a major component of marketing and branding these days is letting your consumer engage in the story or narrative of your brand.

      As such, allowing everyone (even negative people) to participate in the Windows brand re-development is an excellent suggestion.

      Hopefully, MS will be that social media savvy.

      J @

    8. Elitism of Macs only applies if they are niche, as they were, say 5 years ago. Now that they are #1 on college campuses, does that really stick? Or is MSFT trying to say that college students are elites?

      As a bottom line, they MUST get Balmer’s frightening rant off the I’m a PC site. I know he’s the top dog, but he’s just plain scary.

    9. The weakness that I see with this campaign is that it’s a bit of a concession to Apple (though possibly helped by the fact that Apple has veered a bit off track with the most recent Mac vs. PC ads).

      The Apple ads don’t appeal to everyone, but they convey a clear brand identity. Microsft’s response to this is “we don’t know what our brand is, either, but everybody *uses* a PC so let’s emphasize that.”

      It’s a nice contrast to Apple’s campaign, and a very good idea to make it about *inclusion* rather than *exclusion,* but were I Microsoft I’d be worried that this campaign will end without actually moving the brand in any coherent direction.

      I’d also guess that the Mac vs. PC ads are probably on their way out before too long anyway, so this campaign may end up being mostly shadowboxing.

    10. Brilliant suggestion of Web 2.0 in Business and breaking the “safe” and “traditional” modus operandi!

      MSFT took it this far. Love to see them take it all the way!

    11. These are great ideas. I’ll second the award shows idea and extend to say that those should make it on TV vs. just YouTube. Maybe air the awarded spots during an award show 😛

      I was reading somewhere (can’t give proper credit ’cause I don’t recall where) there was a discussion about geo-tagging all the videos AND any submitting “I am a Mac” videos and let color coding tell the story.

    12. I think the ad you post here is infinitely better than the previous two, but it’s not clear to me what the goal is.

      Remind people that Windows really is the most popular platform? Do people really need to be reminded of that?

      Make people feel less bad that they aren’t “cool and hip” because they use a PC not a Mac? That’s a weird message to promote since it seems a bit negative.

      If all they’re saying is “We’re Number One and Look at All These People Who Agree” that’s fine — but what will that accomplish?

      As cloying and cute as Apple’s Mac vs PC ads are, they do something that this Microsoft ad totally misses — the Apple ads actually talk about features and usability. You know, things that actually differentiate different types of computers?

      You may not agree with the way Macs and Pcs are compared in Apple’s ads, but they do seem to focus on some important features. For this Microsoft ad to remind me that everyone in the world uses PC’s not Macs (and I’m using a Windows XP machine to write this) doesn’t change the fact that using a Windows machine is a less pleasant experience than using a Mac. Just because “everyone uses a PC” doesn’t change that fact.

    13. The danger to Microsoft in leaving the negative crowdsourced ads online is that given Microsoft’s rep, the negative could far outweigh the positive. Didn’t GM or Ford have that same problem once? I can’t remember the specifics, though I think it was something like crowdsourced ads for an SUV. (They should’ve guessed what was coming: unmerciful crowdsourced attack satire.)

      This can work well if you’ve got a solid product. If you’ve got one that’s controversial (SUVs=gas hogs destroying the planet; Microsoft=OS lots of people despise), not so smart.

    14. You are spot on! I must say that your clever use of ImaPC is imac without the P (for personal, persona, whatever). You should be getting paid for this!

    15. I don’t mind the advertising. It isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either. Expanding the social feature may help them improve the reach of the program, but Microsoft is reaching the wrong crowd in the first place.

      For example, I just convinced my father to get a Mac as his next computer. Microsoft is facing an uphill battle against the word of mouth of twenty somethings, or hip thirty somethings. They should be making more genuine efforts to appeal to these crowds in a way that doesn’t make them seem more normal than Mac. We know they are normal, and this is why we hate them. As the world leading monopoly they should be the bleeding edge of tech, but they are ten clicks behind in their actual products, and their marketing.

      There is nothing cutting edge about this campaign and they seem to be proud of their normalcy. Like the Discovery Channel commercial, there is an omnipresence it is trying to convey. Unlike the discovery channel, they still don’t understand that their primary market is middle to younger age males. The Discovery Channel has done an enormous amount of work to motivate creativity, sponsor innovation, and inspire a deeper appreciation for the natural world. This leaves me wondering, what does Microsoft inspire me to do.

      In this commercial I perceive cockiness, and condescension. I hear, “We are Microsoft. We aren’t great, but we already make the majority of your software and hardware run.”

      I know most people depend on your software for work but I want to be inspired. I want to have a new appreciation for what hardware can do.

    16. Good suggestion, Jeremiah. The “Get into the Campaign” feature is now functional on the site at This reminds me of the Mercedes print ads many years ago that showed photos of “every day people” with their beloved “benzies.” The difference now is that the “I’m a PC” campaign leverages online social media to capture, distribute, and amplify UGC much, much faster. Should be a fun ride…

    17. Whilst I applaud MS for embracing the ordinary rather than focus on the business world, I have to agree with BL – MS products are difficult to love, and that makes it harder to find brand evangelists amongst the “ordinary” users. Without incentives there is a danger that the UGC aspects could stall.

    18. I think the new “I’m a PC” campaign is brilliant.

      Although the Mac vs. PC commercials have been clever, creative and engaging — there were a few that made the Mac character seem a bit smug and arrogant.

      What Microsoft has the opportunity to do is create a big viral, social campaign that allows thousands of “real people” everywhere to connect and contribute.

      The other theme I like is the “no walls” idea. Apple’s weak-spot is that it is such a closed company (in terms of third-party development, licensing deals, etc.). It’s part of their culture to own and control as much as they can. If Microsoft can figure out a way to position themselves as the more “open” approach, that might work too.

      Mac: For people that want to be like people that wear black turtlenecks and are tragically hip.

      PC: For everyone else.

    19. I think that ultimately, Apple could easily go back to doing what they did before the “I’m a Mac” ads….run absolutely no ads and let the Mac sell itself. These ads have done a great job in starting a conversation around Macintosh but the product was gaining momentum before the ad campaign. The Apple retail channel and the success of the iPod really helped to drive that momentum. Word of mouth takes it from there.

      These new MS ads essentially drive the point home that Windows-based PCs are ubiquitous. It’s nothing we don’t already know. What does it tell us about the operating system or the Windows experience? That everyone has to deal with Windows PCs at some point in their lives? That it’s not hard to find people to say “I’m a PC” in exchange for a bit of cash and/or 5 seconds of exposure?

      As a side note, Pharrell Williams makes an appearance in the clip and we know for a fact that he does all of his work using Macs.

    20. I agree with the question about the goal of the campaign. They can force us to use Vista, so why spend time marketing it?
      Aside from that, I like the You Tube idea, but I don’t see it catching on with most users. Most PC users at least. Uploading your own why I’m a PC video seems to be the antithesis of the ads. That is what Mac people would do. Not only because its cultural, but because its easy for them to do with their stock software.

    21. Love the ads, but i have doubts about letting the user engage via video uploads. If you take a look at the Chervolet case, where they asked users to create videos of them and there SUV exsperience, it totally backfired. There are a lot of creative mac brains out there, that would love to upload creative videos about PCs and I think that these would get more attention than the positive PC ones that might be created.

    22. I find it just a response ad to Apple. They still haven’t made a clean and clear value prop like Apple has. Maybe a PC is for everybody else but me?

      Even if they engage in SMedia fully, it’s not over the long term. It will be a campaign, no more. As an earlier post pointed out – they’re still trying to be everything to everybody. That’s not a brand.

    23. The key point of the conversation here is how social media can be used to facilitate greater, and easier interaction with the brand and the campaign.

      Debating the campaign strategy and objectives while not knowing the details sends us down a rabbit hole towards the religious war that has existed since Apple and Microsoft each gained momentum in the market.

      To Jeremiah’s point: Crispin Porter Bogusky has created a campaign that starts to take clever advantage of social media to engage people with the brand in a good context. Incidentally it also has put Microsoft back on the offensive, so to speak.

      For decades, Mac has run emotional campaigns and Microsoft has focused on rational. But today, the answer to the question of “which OS do you like better” has become largely emotional, putting Windows on the “square” side. Furthermore, Mac or PC, the majority of us use wonderfully cross-platform web browsers, and app’s like MS Office and Adobe.

      So, the real differentiator for many is “how I feel about my computer”. Since Mac owns the emotional answer, Microsoft must shift to an emotional strategy.

      This campaign in very short order has helped people reach the answer that “I feel wonderfully normal, smart, worldly…”

      And incidentally, emphasizes the counter point that the Mac campaign as funny, but fairly smart-alec.

      I love my Mac, and as an Ad guy, have admired Crispin Porter Bogusky for years. I have to agree that better social media interaction in this campaign could really generate a faster shift in the market’s perception that it’s okay to feel emotional about your PC.

      Why does it matter? Because we buy computers an average of every 3 years. And they are becoming ever more commoditized. Would you bet the future of your massive company on a 3 year cycle? Or would you rather think long-term winning hearts as well as minds?

      Still, I love my Mac.

    24. All advertising aside, the truth remains this:

      Microsoft Windows: OS software that provides users with just enough to be a consumer of digital content.

      Apple Macintosh: Tightly integrated hardware, OS software and bundled software applications that allow users to be both consumers and producers of digital content right out of the box with a very low barrier to entry.

      These are the facts that each company has to work with when it comes to advertising.

      What exactly does this MS ad campaign tell us about Windows? That it somehow assists Eva Longoria with her acting? Windows allows you to swim with sharks?

    25. @John Avilla – very good points. While I think that the use of social software in this context could be highly effective, the fact remains that there isn’t a MS product involved in the inspiration behind these proposed testimonials. What do these ads have to hang their hats on? Asking America to create and distribute multimedia simply opens the door for Apple to step in and remind everyone just how easy it is to do out of the box on a Macintosh.

    26. They have an interesting concept, which obviously has people talking. The more I think of it, though, the more I feel they would have been better off to have focused all of these resources and energy on their product.

    27. @ Adam Burell – They may be keeping it more global for now, to get back in the game.
      I would expect that the product specific ads are coming soon.
      They have produced a “taste test” campaign that is right out of the old “You didn’t think you liked it, but you’re soaking in it!” playbook, called the Mojaveexperiment. It comes off though like Windows users are a bunch of sheep – practically implying stupidity. They ogle the UX like they’ve never seen a Mac running OS9 before.

    28. When you’re dealing with PC vs. Mac it’s like dealing with Ford vs. Chevrolet. You are going to have people who stay true to their brand. Most people correlate Macs with 20-something creative buffs, while PCs belong to the 50-something businessmen.

      I do think the new marketing campaign is effective, but I also agree with some posts that Mac’s commercials are more effective because they describe why Mac is a better choice.

      Going down to the bottom of it all, I am 22 and have a PC. Why do I have a PC? My parents bought it for me, which I think is a huge market that they should tap into (a.k.a. mommy bloggers).

      However, I, like most people my age, would say that Macs are really “cool,” they have a lot of different programs and a lot of innovative technology. (I garuntee you most people my age associate Apple with the Ipod and not the computer…one advantage PC has over Mac). I also think they associate a PC with simplicity. There are kids who want it all at their finger tips, but there are also a lot of kids who want the simple choice and don’t want all the gadgets…it’s simply too much.

      Elaborate on this idea, show that sometimes simple is better. Show that you can be any age to understand the icons, which no older person understands Mac’s icons, most people my age don’t understand Mac’s icons. The mouse on a Mac sucks…everybody knows that. Showcase the subtle differences, YouTube them, distribute them. I promise people will find them endearing, even Mac users. Also, the most effective YouTubes for people my age is centered around FUNNY. A funny YouTube will be passed around work offices faster than anything else.

      For the next ad campaign: Navigate your way back to simple. You get lost in the “overwhelming.”

    29. I agree with your suggestions. I belive Microsoft is very capable of having a great campaign. Put the campaign in the hands of “PC Enthusiast”, now that is brilliant.

    30. I definitely agree with the commenters who said that they need to focus more on their products.

      However, I completely agree with you that pulling the best user-generated content out would be a win in identity and authenticity. People are getting cynical. I still don’t know anyone who actively likes Vista.

      The biggest complaint about the Bill and Jerry commercials seemed to be the authenticity, which was what the commercials were supposed to convey.

      Show me what users can do with a PC, which is what I think Mac does a lot better. Don’t tell me PCs are used everywhere. I know this; I’m using one right now and so are the 40 people in my office and there are 3 PCs in my house.

      Plus, they could probably get user-generated content for almost free. Certainly cheaper than sending a creative director around the world to film. And then put the extra money into research, development, and testing.

    31. I think the 2 ads with Jerry and Bill were getting people’s attention and wondering what comes next… by scrapping them (for now or whatever the plan is) and coming out with the new ad, it smacks of desperation and some sort of shakeup with their advertising strategy.

      The broke the continuity thread so whatever their campaign is, they should stick to it, ride it out and be consistent.

      The truth is, PCs are cheaper, so of course most of the world has a PC… but I must confess I just switched to Mac and my life is lot easier.

      I’m not sure opening up to user-created viral vids is a good idea b/c the amount of snarky Mac users with time on their hands would be bad for business.

    32. Much improved campaign… the core issue is with Microsoft still not understanding that usability is key, even when soliciting user submissions.

      The fact that they (and their agency) still don’t get this is a symptom of the illness that affects Microsoft’s products, service and marketing.

    33. Maybe they will wait until their seemingly directionless ads have created an uncertain perception where people will be more open to re-evaluation. If they jumped in with your idea they might just disastrously invite a new internet meme of microsoft bashing youtube videos. I know this whole campaign has made me feel a bit like microsoft is an underdog. Don’t bother telling me I’m crazy, I really am in two minds about submitting this because I think its excessively speculative.

    34. Mac vs. PC. Experiential vs. Rational. Everyone can debate all day on those topics. The fact remains that Apple has a very clear value proposition, a tenet of any advertising/branding strategy and PC does not. This latest ad does nothing to tell me why I should use/embrace PC and yet I could rattle off a dozen or more easily for Mac. Big deal that there is :60 seconds of people saying ‘I’m a PC.’ Who cares? How does that relate to me personally? Personally, I don’t identify with any one of those people and I doubt the masses do either. So, what about PC will bring value to ME/the users/the overall PC community? That is the question the ads should answer and all they succeed in doing is generating more questions and leaving users scratching their heads to figure it out. It’s a complete waste of time, effort and money best spent on improving their products so that the inherent value is obvious without the need for glitzy spots with Deepak Chopra and Eva Longorio that communicate nothing.

    35. I am going to try and be brief, but it will be difficult.

      1- In the new ad, (we will attempt to forget that the Seinfeld thing ever happened) where is the story? What is the conclusion? I hear a tone of voice, but what is the message?

      2- The Seinfeld ads (Oh, God…see how hard it is not to mention them?) there was at least a stab at irreverance. Can you imagine anyone actually TALKING about these spots the next day? It’s just a series of multicultural and/or famous people images saying the same thing.

      3- At the end of the day, whether you’re talking about SM or just a regular old 30-second spot, the killer app is CONTENT. The spot is just a boring, albeit well shot, list. The only reason we’re talking about it (and believe me, geeks like us in the blogosphere are the only ones who can even FEIGN interest) is because MSFT finally tried SOMETHING to blunt the effect of the I’m a Mac ads. (By the way, I have never understood the criticism of “The Mac” as being smug, smarmy or snarky. He barely even registers. Hodgman is the star of the spots and that serves to show all the things a PC isn’t. More effective marketing by Apple.)

      4- Finally, I just want to ask a question I have never understood about this phony debate between Macs and PCs. Is there such a thing as a Microsoft computer? I’ve never seen one. Half of the competition is between the two different OSs, but the other more important half is between the actual hardware. Apple is a COMPLETE experience of hardware and software. MSFT makes the guts, and that is only half the battle. This has always struck me as a phony straw man battle that has no resolution. To me, it’s like comparing cars to watermelons.

      Anyhow, is the new ad any good? Not really. Would an effective social media campaign that JO suggests be useful? It would be if the content were better, but it isn’t, so what is the point of disseminating even MORE widely what is really just chaff?

      Lastly (I promise), there is a passion that Mac owners feel that has no equal with PC users. It is at times warranted and other times whistling past the graveyard, but it exists. You cannot manufacture passion. No one jumps for joy over their HP, Dell or Gateway. The battle for hearts is lost. The new front needs to be for minds.

    36. Is this just me or is the idea to somehow portray PC users as a persecuted minority? So now running windows is like… being Gay?!


      Love this remake of the “coming out of the closet” or “One out of Five” strategy. History does repeat itself 😉

    37. Not only should they take your brilliant advice – they should also pay you for your talent!

      Hey Bill – I’m a PC, and honestly you were losing me…been checking out Mac’s. Nice job on reminding us how many PC users there are in the world, now fix the issues we face every blessed day. Maybe you guys need a FailWhale… (I assume Bill’s folks will be bright enough to read your blog, Jeremiah!)

      Nice work Jeremiah – seriously, that is worth bucks. Bill, pay up.

    38. I watch commercials on my tv. No, I don’t sell ad time. I watch because I’m interested in commercials from a story point of view.

      One of the types of commercials is an affirmation — reminding customers why they should stay loyal. “I’m a PC” is a this kind of commercial.

      I am a PC person; I do not find Macs “intitutive.” Yet, the Mac vs. PC commercials get me every time — they make me think for a spilt second “maybe I should switch.” The “I’m a PC” commercial reminds me that in reality cool people do you use PCs.

      I like this commercial. No, it doesn’t explain away the Vista errors but that’s not its purpose.

    39. Am I the only person who thinks Microsoft doesn’t need to win anything? Hell they don’t even need to compete. They have 97% of the market share. Why are they even bothering to engage in a conversation with someone so far below them.

    40. Adam – I have the same question as you. What the campaign suggests to me — and I have absolutely no data to back this up — is that there are some key demographic groups that are declining in terms of positive perceptions of Microsoft and this whole campaign is nothing but an attempt to upgrade Microsoft’s image with those groups. How this relates to the Seinfeld ads is beyond me, though. But then, I’m not the target. I’m too old to be hip and the only reason I like Apple products is that they tend to be more pleasant and easier to use than Microsoft products. But I’m also writing this on a Dell laptop running XP (grumble grumble … )

    41. I live in Ireland, where this campaign hasn’t aired. There are a couple of things that spring to mind reading some of these suggestions and comments. Letting the community own the campaign is a great suggestion Jeremiah, but what if Apple had mad this move. Apple have a passionate user base, but they fail to embrace it. A campaign such as this, could be Apple’s way of reaching out to their passionate fans – and I suspect leave MS in the shadow.

    42. JO, All good assessments. PC vs Mac is almost beyond camparison…almost like religion. This has been an extraordinary return punch by Microsoft, but only seems to level the playing field. It doesn’t yet exceed the bar that Apple has set.
      Estimated $300M campaign by Microsoft, w/a cool $10M to Seinfeld for his appearences. The only returns are the fact that people are talking about it (share of voice). As far as entertaining and humor, the only word I can think of is narcolepsy.

    43. Good idea, if anyone from microsoft is listening they should hire you to help with with their social media strategy.

      This could really work if they let people tell their pc stories and provide the “why” behind their choice of being a pc.

    44. The campaign restates the obvious and the trap of me too which doesn’t work for me; that being


      I hope MS didn’t pay a lot for this “genius”

    45. I think the key here is “do enough people really love your products”. If the answer is “not enough” than your just going to get publicly humiliated. Microsoft needs to focus on their product before publicly giving people a way to contribute negative commentary. Anyone shocked by how few PC folks are listed on that campaign site compared to the size of the Microsoft base? Wasn’t all that effective for me. If people truly love your company that message is probably spreading on it’s own already (Same goes if they hate you).

    46. hey ive been reading up on all the comments for a presentation i have to make on the I’m a Pc ad campaign in a couple of weeks and i was wondering if someone could help and tell me if there is anywhere i can find out the percentage ratios of pcs to mac???

    47. Thought I read recently it was like 9% mac to 91% pc. I wish I had the citation for you. I will see if I can find it and post it for you.

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