Blog Post

Microsoft’s New “I’m A PC” Ads Air; Something Is Fundamentally Wrong

Tonight, during The Office, Microsoft began airing its “phase 2” of their $300 million ad campaign (after giving Seinfeld the boot) which features regular, everyday users saying “I’m A PC”…yes, it’s a direct response to Apple’s I’m A Mac/I’m A PC ads.

The ads are actually better than I thought they’d be but something still just doesn’t sit right for me. I still don’t feel like they’re selling their brand or even their products. Sure, all of these people say they are “a PC”, but I’m not sure everyone will equate that to the Microsoft brand.

As John Gruber so eloquently put it, the problem here isn’t that the ads themselves are bad – in fact they are quite well made – the problem is that Microsoft effectively doesn’t have anything to sell. They don’t stand for anything. They’re just there. A “blah” company, if you will.

Where Microsoft is so painfully failing is that they don’t have a product worth selling. They can thrown money at branding campaigns but until they have something that actually creates a positive user experience for the masses, they’ll always been throwing away money by trying to improve their brand perception.

At the end of the day Microsoft has a fundamental product problem, not a brand problem.

Here are a few different versions of the new ads. Check them out and let me know what you think.

40 Responses to “Microsoft’s New “I’m A PC” Ads Air; Something Is Fundamentally Wrong”

  1. patrick

    I Really think this new Ads of microsoft have only the mission of lost the real problem: WINDOWS.
    – PC (personal computer) in not a microsoft product.
    – PC is a free origin plataform and it can content any type of OS.
    – PC is not WINDOWS
    – Nobody put the gun on our heads to we use Windows. We are who buy Windows.
    – To be exact the Ads should have to communicate “I am Windows” This is the problem and the Ads move it to the hardware.

  2. I saw this add on TV the other day and missed the frames with Bill Gates in it. Every time someone says that they’re a PC, the first thing that comes to mind is that they are a collection of electrical components that has the capability of performing computational tasks in a package catered to an individual, i.e. they have a CPU, hard drive, keyboard, and monitor. While I am sure this is not what’s intended, the advertisement’s rapid repetition reinforced my initial imagery before I had a chance to think about what was really meant. My second thought was that a personal computer manufacturing or retail company, possibly even Apple, was trying demonstrate how pervasive their personal computing technology is in the world. Despite the irritation of the advertisement’s repetition, I was still curious enough to see if it was HP, Dell, Apple, or some other hardware company. When it was finally clear that it was intended to promote Microsoft, predominantly a software company, the ad curdled in my mind; I wanted to know what other people thought of the ad.

    So far I have found too many Mac vs PC wars out there. Many Mac advocates appear to bash the add based on it’s passive aggressive attack on Mac rather than advertising the Microsoft brand or its products. In response many PC advocates talk about the hardware itself, saying that the Apple hardware is far more expensive. Apple is competitively priced for what you are purchasing, but how competitive depends greatly on the timing of your purchase because Apple doesn’t really change their prices as much as they periodically change what you get for your money. Anyone can verify this now that Macs are using Intel CPUs and taking advantage of OEM suppliers on things like graphics cards that typical PC manufacturers use; just make sure you’re looking at every level of detail such as the quality of the display (not just its size), the controller type on the hard drive, and the quality of the memory (rarely ever stated in an ad or in specifications). So yes if you don’t want or can’t afford the Cadillac or Lexus, purchase the Civic instead… just don’t expect it to drive or ride the same. Also realize that those that are purchasing PC hardware (which doesn’t run Mac OS) are generally running Microsoft operating systems because it has been generally easier to use and more compatible than alternatives and due to a long history of its usage in the industry (widely believed to be cause by Microsoft’s early business practices).

    Interestingly enough the explanation of why Mac hardware prices appear to be more expensive than other PCs is rather significant in how Apple has approached a number of issues regarding hardware production and sales. First, the company has greatly limited the variety of their production lines which allows them to focus more of their resources on other tasks such as quality. Secondly, the company has reduced their exposure to incompatibility with third party products by providing as many features as possible in every level of their product lines. Third, relatively high quality components reduces the probability that an obscure error/failure will occur in them, limiting the association between Apple hardware and hardware failures. Finally, they have attempted to stabilize their revenue stream and increase the predictability of their market demand by keeping a fixed price per unit, which is rather important in allowing the company to continue producing hardware in a consistent manner.

    The points mentioned above provide much of the backbone early in Apple’s buy a Mac campaign. However, more recently Apple’s ads have shifted into attacking Windows Vista. Really, Apple could have been a little more magnanimous, but every release of a Microsoft operating system has been fraught with bugs, incompatibility, and wasted resources in relearning how to do things compared to the previous release… dating back to their Quick and Dirty Operating System (AKA MS-DOS). While Microsoft still holds much of the operating system market, it’s not a stretch to say that their new advertisement campaigns demonstrate that they’re not making their expected revenue in Vista sales. The likely reason is that most of the operating system seems to have been re-written, which kept their expenses high and the product’s cost high. This also means that there is significant proprietary code that hasn’t really been exercised and the combinations of system configurations that Microsoft would have to test in order to achieve significant quality assurance is astronomical. As a result, the operating system is commonly associated with system crashes and incompatibility issues. However this I’m a PC campaign doesn’t even come close to addressing that issue.

    It is not difficult to surmise that Microsoft used its market dominance to offload much of it’s quality assurance testing to hardware manufacturers. One such mechanism for doing this is the little Microsoft sticker affixed to major PC and peripheral manufacturer’s hardware for which a manufacturer must perform a certain level of compatibility testing (among many other things). The problem with this type of mechanism is that it is highly dependent on the expectation that the sticker will mean something in terms of the manufacturer’s unit sales. As one of these manufacturers that just spent a lot of resources perusing Vista compatibility, suppose sales are drastically under the expectations set by images fed through correspondence with Microsoft representatives and expenses are not being met. Suppose there are numerous companies around the world in this situation, perhaps even competitors, complaining to Microsoft. If this were true, it seems that Microsoft would find it necessary to elevate the image and sales of PCs, otherwise their clout in future development would be tarnished to the point that any major future release would be insurmountable.

    Now imagine you’re Microsoft and you’re trying to repair relationships with these companies. Clearly you cannot bank entirely on your own image, as you’re having troubles with your own image. Clearly you cannot advocate any particular vendor over another. And clearly you cannot just provide funds to individual companies as there would be no cohesive campaign and funds alone would not resolve the problem. Microsoft found one avenue and took it. The fact that they took on the I’m a Mac and I’m a PC campaign merely demonstrates that they’re blind to the fact that we’re in an economic crisis. They don’t understand that the first people to stop purchasing computers are the ones looking to extend their already weak dollar and likely wouldn’t be purchasing a Mac. They don’t understand that companies are reducing their expenses and re-utilizing their existing computers. All this just makes Microsoft seem desperate because the demographics that have filled their pockets for so many years can’t support them now. Finally the vagueness in who they are addressing and the message they’re sending the I’m a PC campaign makes it very weak and appear purely argumentative. Perhaps Microsoft is trying to go after the Mac’s market share, but you would think they would do it with an actual product rather than saying, “I am bigger than you and can squash you like grape.”

  3. I actually liked the ads, certainly better than the Seinfeld adds, which were a little confusing. I did like Gates in those ads though, maybe they could just have Gates tells us about his product…I mean it works for every Ma & Pa local commercial, right? Show us a Gates family experience on the computer using Vista or something. But I do like the humor of the “I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype.” LOL! but there is a little bit of a defensiveness to the rest of the commercial…seems a little desperate. Listen, I am in the market for a new laptop…I’ve used plenty of PC’s at work and I have been using a Mac at home. I like the Mac. I dunno. But if these commercials are geared at someone like me with cash in hand and ready to buy a laptop. I’ve been waiting since July to buy the new versions of the MacBook Pro. Microsoft hasn’t changed my mind. I NEED A NEW LAPTOP. And I am waiting for the newest one that runs OSX. So, I’d say Microsoft, your ads are just not completion for my computer budget. I want more for my money…frankly I don’t know how you are going to catch up with OSX, and the suite of software they give me free…not to mention hardware that doesn’t just appear cutting edge…I know it’s cutting edge in both content as well as design. How about at least competing for my dollar? As it is I am waiting months not to buy your product. You got your work cut out for you. BTW, I’m a PC too…and A Mac… I’m just gonna be a Mac again.

  4. It hit me reading this. I’m a Mac means the whole package, Microsoft is not a PC because they only make software. Apple and Harley Davidson sell you a lifestyle and that’s what is winning people over.

  5. @33—Sorry, but that’s just plain wrong. The Apple ads didn’t ‘invent’ the association of PC and Windows, they capitalised on it. Microsoft is responsible for misappropriation of the phrase ‘Personal Computer’ to mean any Windows machine. Apple’s ads are just a response to that.

    Proof? See that game you just bought? It says PC on the side of it, right? It’s said PC for as long as any of us can remember.

    The fact that you think Macs are only nowadays PCs just goes to show how completely out of things your comment is. Macs have always been PCs. Microsoft forced a false dichotomy by associating PCs with Windows.

  6. To everyone who thinks MS using “I’m a PC” is not representative of everything not apple you need to open your eyes. If you go out and buy a PC it’ll have Vista. It doesn’t matter if it’s HP or Dell or IBM. Linux and XP are a non-issue. Apple is the one who started referring to Vista and PC as if they were the same. I mean really, aren’t Macs PCs these days anyway? A Mac is as much a PC as a Dell running OS X is a Mac. None of you seem to have a problem that they don’t make the distinction in their ads. Most Mac ads don’t actually tout any unique features either. And to Niko who says that apple sends them to a url of that length instead of hoping these ads will sway them you’re on something.

    I run OSX on one computer out of 17 between home and work. I tried using it for a while but it offers me nothing that I don’t already have and sits idle 95-99% of the time. I got an iPhone and liked it enough that I considered buying a Mac Pro for my next PC. After trying out the OS for a while I see it is nothing special worth paying the premium for (and if it was I wouldn’t have a problem paying it). But don’t mind this bit of third-party perspective. You can all get back to your circle-jerk and assuming that everything Apple makes is always at least a little bit better than the alternative.

  7. Well when I first saw these videos in internet I didn’t understand that they were comercials. I thought maybe this is a way of Bill Gates having fun. They don’t say much about MSFT products in these ads.

    (I’m a pc)

  8. @”u kidding” (#30): First of all the dumbest comment ever would be: “This is the dumbest comment ever”, not what i said. Now, to the point: Have you ever heard of something “Customer Loyalty” or even fan-boy-ism if you like? That’s what these ads are for (my opinion though!). When apple wants to get a NEW customer they show him/her THIS PAGE: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/300.html or for the more “advanced” users the video/keynote presentation where Steve Jobs announced Time Machine.

    Marketing is NOT advertisements and advertisements are NOT only to get new customers. Marketing is a strategy and advertisements are made for publicity. (And in case you can’t figure it out yourself, marketing INCLUDES advertisements and advertisements may turn a viewer into a prospect client).

    And btw, why don’t you send them you CV and also attach this comment? I bet they’ll offer you a job.