Hunting for wabbits, er, Windows

Last week, I promised to use this space to detail some of the daily productivity enhancers I use on my Mac. But that will have to wait until next week (sorry to disappoint jerkwad99 and McMacMaster), because I really feel like pausing for a moment to be beat the bejeepers out of a comatose horse.

Last week, Microsoft—and by extension its advertising agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky—launched the first spot in what is assumed to be a campaign (if the website is to be believed) entitled "Laptop Hunters." This first spot, seen below, features a woman named Lauren who, we are told, is on the hunt for a laptop with "speed, a comfortable keyboard, and a 17-inch screen" priced under $1,000. If she can find one, she's told she can have it.

Lauren starts the spot inside a Best Buy perusing Windows-based laptops, but is then magically transported by the power of editing to an Apple store. During her quick, unseen walk-through, she discovers Apple only sells one laptop under $1,000 and it only has a 13-inch screen. That would be the base MacBook you can find here.

So it's back to Best Buy, where Lauren finds her dream PC in the form of an HP for the low-low supervalue price of $699. The production company ponies up the cash and Ms. Lauren is a happy camper.

The end.

This spot has already sparked countless (well, at least I'm not counting them) flame wars on Mac and PC forums throughout the land. The Mac folks mainly argue that:

  1. Lauren is an actress and not a "real" person.
  2. The HP she buys is a piece of junk that is not comparable to Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro.
  3. Vista really suxxorz deluxxorz.

To which the PC heads respond:

  1. Whatever.
  2. So what's your point?
  3. True.

And then LOL cats ensue.

I'm personally less concerned about the veracity of the spot than its overall effectiveness. I think at best, the spot is clever yet ultimately ineffective, and at worst, it actually enhances Apple's brand.

For a real-person spot, this commercial is produced fairly well. And by "well," I mean it tiptoes around certain issues in such a way as to show the advertised product in a more favorable light than it might have otherwise attained.

Take Lauren, for example. She's presented as someone off the street who has $1,000 to spend on a laptop. At least that's what one thinks upon first viewing the ad. But the ad never claims that Lauren is some random yokel picked out at random down at the In-N-Out. She's an actress who answered an ad in Craigslist about a research project. She claims she didn't know it was for a commercial when she responded. But really, who cares? Not me. It's a commercial. I assume people are actors unless I'm specifically told otherwise. Heck, I worked on Wal-Mart's "Real People" campaign for a few years, and we actually did have to use real Wal-Mart shoppers with no connections to SAG or whatnot. And you know what? Most people we asked thought those spots were staged. What's clever, though, is that the ad never says she's a real—meaning non-actor—person. The VO sort of implies it, sure, but this isn't a Geico spot. As usual, it helps to pay attention when someone's reaching for your wallet.

Additionally, Lauren's requirements for her new laptop and rather vague: "speed, a comfortable keyboard, and a 17-inch screen." Not exactly a real tech enthusiast from the sound of it. My guess is, she wants to surf the web, use Word, and watch DVDs on a decent-sized screen. Fair enough. But that's not the purpose of the 17-inch MacBook Pro. It's really geared to professionals in the creative industries. Film editors. Sound mixers. Designers and art directors. Do other people buy this machine? Sure. Maybe even a few who just want a huge firkin' screen on their Mac laptop. But that's not the computer's target.

Nonetheless, Lauren finds her laptop. She doesn't talk about it much, though, so we don't really know how good it is without digging around online. But the impression is that her machine is just as sweet and a MacBook. Or even sweeter, since the screen is bigger and it's 30% less.

On the whole, this ad at first comes off as smart. It makes the point that you can get a pseudo-equivalent (spec-wise) PC for a lot freakin' less than a Mac. But this raises the question: just who is this ad targeting?

If we're to believe Lauren, it's people who just aren't "cool enough to be a Mac person." Really? Is that who you're going after? Folks who would buy a Mac if they were cool enough, rich enough and—doggone it—people envied them? Interesting. In this spot, Lauren heads to an Apple store where she would theoretically have bought a MacBook had she been able to find one that matched her specs and budget.

So, PCs are for people on a tight budget? Okay, that's a seemingly decent ploy given the current economic conditions. But have the majority of Mac buyers ever been that price sensitive? Obviously not, or they would have opted for a PC. I personally didn't enjoy paying what I did for my MacBook Pro a couple of years ago. But I'd rather pay that premium every few years than switch. Because a computer is more than a bunch of chips and solder. It's an experience. If you like the Windows experience for whatever reason, rock on. I don't. So I go with Mac.

People on both sides of the OS aisle talk about the Apple tax to varying degrees. Some ridicule it, some claim it doesn't exist, and others justify it by pointing to the Mac's design, hardware-software integration, and whatnot. But it's simpler than that:

Apple charges what it charges because it can. And even though the company is run by a bunch of hippies, I still say that's pretty darned American of it.

The rumor mill suggests subsequent spots will focus on higher-end models. Well, have at it. It's just kind of hard to fan the flames of a price war when the other side refuses to enter the fray.

Besides, what the heck is Microsoft doing pimping other manufacturers' hardware instead of touting the benefits of Vista? Oh, right. Never mind.



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