Another Harebrained Microsoft Ad: Lauren and Her Quest

86 Comments

hp_17_inch

Have you seen the ad yet? Lauren only has to find a laptop computer with a 17-inch screen for under a grand and she gets to keep it.

Lauren is a redhead. Long, thick, curly, lovely red hair. Did I mention redheads rule? Well, they do. Curse you, Microsoft (s msft), for using Lauren in this ad. Her engaging personality and infectious enthusiasm blinded me, and I eagerly sought the HP web site to pick up that great 17-inch laptop. After all, if it’s good enough for Lauren…

We don’t know exactly what laptop she got, but it’s an HP (s hpq) and has a 17-inch screen. It also rang up for $699, so that narrows the field quite a bit. On the HP notebook page we see the G70t series is listed as having 17-inch screens. Clicking for details, we see a “Quick Ship” model for $699, detailed here. I’m not saying this is the exact model Lauren got, but I think we can all agree it has to be darn close.

Let’s take a look:

  • Screen resolution is 1440 x 900. This is only one step up from the MacBook Lauren admitted she wasn’t cool enough to own, yet comes at the cost of a huge and heavy notebook. I’m amazed at the marketing of screen sizes in the PC world, where the 13-, 14-, 15-, and even many 16-inch models come standard with WXGA resolution.
  • Last year’s Intel 2.0 GHz processor on last year’s 800MHz front-end bus.
  • 3GB of last year’s DDR2 memory.
  • Claimed support of 4GB memory, but of course the 32-bit Vista OS can’t address that much, so it’s a bunch of baloney.
  • Intel-integrated graphics, which will help suck the 3GB memory dry. Oh, and provide minimal performance.
  • Don’t worry about the performance, though, because it’s not as if any worthwhile software comes with the thing. Certainly nothing like iLife.
  • No Bluetooth, but then Lauren probably isn’t cool enough to own any BT devices, either.
  • The battery? Much like screen sizes, this is another thing PC makers don’t talk a lot about. They keep it small so their already too-heavy notebooks don’t appear even more so. It’s a six-cell battery, which appears to be “up to” 3.5 hours battery life. That’s maybe 2.5 in the real world. Ouch!
  • Oh well, as big and heavy as it is you won’t be taking it far from a power outlet anyway, so it doesn’t matter that you can’t.

So, is my point that the HP machine is crap? No. Seriously, it’s not. My point is it’s built to a price, and heavily compromised in the process. Nothing wrong with that; it is what it is.

But Microsoft’s (and HP’s) implication that PC vendors are charging cheap prices yet providing non-cheap components is a load of bull fecal matter. The vendors are — as they’ve always done — selling older CPUs and weak graphics, in a huge case, with little battery life, and festooned with stickers like it’s a trunk that just got back from an around-the-world cruise.

If that’s your thing, great! Add some software and knock yourself out. But don’t kid yourself into thinking you got anything more than you paid for, or found some sort of computer bargain, or know some secret the rest of us aren’t clued in on. You asked for little, and that’s exactly what you got. Of course, if low-ball is really what Lauren was after, she’d have looked into Linux, but this is a Microsoft ad so we’re only concerned with the price of hardware.

Next up, Lauren goes shopping for a car with eight speakers, power everything, and a navigation system. She gets a Kia after deciding she’s not cool enough for a BMW.

Clearly, Lauren doesn’t mind because she’s inexperienced and got the thing for free. Microsoft, please offer me that same deal. I’ll set even lower expectations than Lauren, get some $299 eWaste Linux PC, and save the remaining $700 for Apple’s new Mac mini touch tablet whatever machine due to be released any day now.

Meanwhile, I’m glad Microsoft doesn’t take the Lauren saga to its conclusion. She’ll wise up eventually, and I can honestly say it’d break my heart to see her pulling all that hair out.

86 Comments

dontfeedthegaijin

It’s an effective ad. Microsoft is saying, correctly, that in the PC world customers have a lot more choice, especially at the lower end. You do get more for your money, any way you slice it.

JCdeR

I’m a devoted Mac user but the only thing that bugs me about that is that I am part of a world inhabited by a bunch of brainless, shortsighted bunch of egocentric pricks ….

Chris

“The question is, is the MBP hardware worth the extra $2100?”

Yes it is, but not necessarily for her. One trouble with Macs is you have to take the limited offerings Apple has.

Of course does she really need a 17″? If she thought about it, would she have got a 13″, or was she now committed by the marketing company to spend the $1000 on a 17″ per the agreement?

Hard to say. The ad does make the point that Windows gives you choice. On the other hand I would have bought the Macbook.

kyubifox

@kackler:

You cant compare iPhoto with Photoshop and iMovie with Pinnacle Studio. The only thing you can compare is buying the overpriced Dell installs a $20 wireless card for you service.

If anything, you could compare iMovie with Microsoft Movie Maker, iPhoto with Office’s image editor thing, and Nero with iPhoto and iMovie combined. Or Photoshop to PaintShopPro and Pinnacle Studio to Premier.

Cindy

She’s also gonna turn on the computer and find a lot of crapware already installed on it… for $799, u get what u paid for

Count Pollen

Come on. Life without walls? That must be the reason I used a good firewall when I used a pc ten years ago…

It’s a stupid pc slogan noone will buy…
I prefer linux things better like “Linux is like a wigwam: no windows, apache inside”
;)

Cheers!

kackler

According to the link on the ad to view the laptop at bestbuy, it’s got 64bit Vista, so she’ll get the 4gb of RAM + the video memory. But what Lauren doesn’t know, is she doesn’t have any of the software she’ll need for photos and videos and watching dvd’s or anti-virus, at least nothing premanent. I’m sure it’s loaded with all the trial software one could want for 30 days… You want to see a true PC to MAC comparison: http://duebles.blogspot.com/2009/03/first-week-with-imac.html

kyubifox

I would love to have a MacBook Pro if Apple would run their own version of this ad and give it to me for free. But you must admit that $2.800 for a 17″ laptop is extremely steep. For $2,800, I can buy a 17″ laptop, OSX to install on it, and have enough left over to buy a smaller MacBook too.

Some other points to mention, the laptop she bought is http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=9166635&type=product&id=1218041148373 / http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01631353&lc=en&dlc=en&cc=us&product=3860630&lang=en which is a BestBuy retail exclusive and not as weak as the G70t.

The difference between DDR2 and DDR3 are so minuscule that there practically isnt one.

Its 64bit Vista.

Bluetooth adapters are like $20.

And its only 1 pound or so heavier. Hardly a difference, either way you will feel the weight.

The question is, is the MBP hardware worth the extra $2100?

Tom Reestman

Brian,

Thanks for the additional comments. I do see your points.

You asked why I went past the critique of the ad to mention the whole Linux thing? Simple. A copy of Vista Home Premium sells for nearly 1/3 of the entire cost of her machine! Obviously, it’s cheaper than that bundled on the machine, but we know that a not insignificant amount of that $699 is for the MS license. The ad is about buying cheap hardware while taking it for granted you’ll use expensive software. It’s an MS ad, so that’s fine, but it was absolutely worth pointing out since the ad took great pains not to.

As for the Kia/BMW line, yeah, I suppose that could be chalked up to snark (or comic effect), since I won’t pretend it was needed to make my points. It’s hardly a new comparison. I didn’t invent it, but certainly neither did Engadget.

Finally, in my comment that the ad is about implying a cheap PC is “better” than a more expensive Mac, you said “I took the point to be that you can get the PC you want for the price you need, and THAT’s better than having to pay more for a computer.”

This is our first real disagreement, but it’s a big one.

To make the point you mention there was no need to include Apple AT ALL. They didn’t need to show the Apple logo and Apple Store (the “Mac Store”). They could simply have shown a $1K 13″ PC laptop right there at Best Buy. But they didn’t. Microsoft brought Apple into the ad as the expensive proposition. Come on, the ad is not about buying a $700 Windows PC instead of a $2,000 Windows PC, it’s about buying a $700 Windows PC instead of an overpriced (by implication) Mac. THAT is absolutely and unquestionably the thrust of the ad.

Gazoobee

I think “Brian Hogg” is an astroturfer. It’s well-known that MS hires people to post on sites just like this one when they put out a product or an add to subtlety talk it up.

I agree with Tom that it doesn’t really matter if Lauren is an actor or not, but for the record she is. She’s a member of the screen actors guild and it’s been discussed on other blogs.

What I’d like to add though, since no one here has mentioned it, is that this ad kind of violates a lot of good advertising practices. It positions the product (Windows laptop) as a cheaper, less “cool” version of a competitors product, which is something you are never supposed to do.

The message of this commercial is, “If you’re *no*t cool, and *not* rich, and possibly a dummy (she picks the computer on looks alone) …. buy our product.” WTF?

They might as well just say “PC’s: Computers for Losers.”

Stuart Dootson

@rwahrens

Ummmm – calm down, mate. I was just pointing out that the actual specs of the PC were linked to from the MS webpage. I know quite well that (unlike my MacBook Pro) 32-bit Windows can’t address all 4GB. My HP workstation at work does, however (like most WIndows machines), see more than 3GB, even though it’s running 32-bit XP – it can address 3.25GB.

@Tom

I am not (and was not) arguing with the points you made – just pointing out that the actual specs of the PC were linked to from the MS webpage.

Brian Hogg

Tom, you said “The thrust of the ad — it’s whole purpose — is to imply that for a lot less than the cheapest Mac you can get a PC that’s even better.”

I’d disagree; I took the point to be that you can get the PC you want for the price you need, and THAT’s better than having to pay more for a computer. Whether or not it’s a better computer is irrelevant, isn’t it? She wanted X+Y+Z, and it doesn’t exist on the Mac.

Brian Hogg

Tom,

Fair enough, I acknowledge the pieces where you gave the ads props, and as you say, we’re in agreement about it. There’s still a sense in this article, and across the whole of the blog, where it invariably sucks, and it does so not because of any merit or lack of same in the commercial itself, but rather because it’s Microsoft.

Seems that no matter what Microsoft does, it will be knocked down a peg in most people’s estimations because they’re just not cool. If they don’t respond to Apple’s charges, they suck. If they respond with a direct response, they’re losers who are on the ropes because they had to respond in exactly the same way. If they try for something creative and unique it’s deemed a pathetic failure, because look at grandpa trying to be cool. If they succeed in doing something creative, well, there never seems to be much admission that they CAN do that. (Speaking of larger trends on this site and in the Apple fanboy community at large, here)

(I should say that I don’t think Microsoft is “cool,” but it has nothing to do with their ads; they’re the market leader, and the dominant force can’t be cool, by virtue of the fact that they’re the leader. “Cool” is the thing that’s in the minority, so only Apple can be cool, because they’re the thing that only some people are aware of. Cool is the minority, even if the majority is technically or creatively better.)

Also, Tom, it’s the bits where you say:
“But don’t kid yourself into thinking you got anything more than you paid for, or found some sort of computer bargain, or know some secret the rest of us aren’t clued in on. You asked for little, and that’s exactly what you got. Of course, if low-ball is really what Lauren was after, she’d have looked into Linux, but this is a Microsoft ad so we’re only concerned with the price of hardware.

Next up, Lauren goes shopping for a car with eight speakers, power everything, and a navigation system. She gets a Kia after deciding she’s not cool enough for a BMW.”

Why do you go past the critique of the ad to mention this? If the point of the ad is that you can get a computer for all budgets, and she got what she needed and is happy, why bring in the non-sequitor? Your mentioning it is a thing that makes me sense anger, though perhaps the better word is snark.

The Kia/BMW comparison (borrowed from Engadget, unless you’re the one who made that comment) adds to the snark a fair bit, in my opinion.

We agree that the commercial is fun, and that the woman in it does her job well; why should the commercial be doing more than it’s intended to do?

—-
Aaron, I think the point with the Apple store at the beginning was to get it out the way right off the bat, to say that for this woman, an Apple isn’t even in the ballpark.

madpsychot, you don’t think that the cost of a Mac includes the cost of OS X?

Aaron

HAHA….her first choice was going to the Apple store and she had to ‘settle’ for a PC. My god, who is Microsoft’s advertising agency!

madpsychot

One thing to consider: The advert is a Microsoft advert. The only thing being advertised really is a HP laptop. Apple adverts push the Apple brand. They say “use a Mac” or “use iLife”. Shouldn’t a Microsoft advert push the benefits of using Microsoft software? I guess a company that talks about the Mac Tax should also consider the MS tax that almost all computer vendors have to pay for pre-loading Windows on it’s computers.

Champs

The proper conclusion is that she got a $700 computer, not a $1000 computer, and it’s up to you to decide whether the not-awesomely-specced white MacBook is worth another $300. It’s hard to jump up and down for joy over either system, and I’d personally gun for at least a unibody MacBook.

For her money, she got a desktop replacement with a roomy screen, full keyboard, and more than enough battery to sleep the computer from one destination to the next. Without Boot Camp, she’ll get 3.5GB of memory, less whatever is allocated to video. You can quibble about her well- or ill-considered specifications, but they are no more subjective/emotional than “is a Mac/isn’t a Mac.”

adam Jackson

She also said, “double her budget” a 17″ is more like 2.5x her budget.

Isn’t the 17″ like $2799? She bought a computer for $699.

Tom Reestman

Gazoobee,

I don’t make anything of Lauren potentially being an actor, and specifically bypassed that issue altogether. If the premise of the ad was that they followed someone around buying a PC with their own money, it would matter. But the premise is that they’re footing the bill for someone buying a PC that meets specific requirements. Why can’t an actor get that offer?

Unless it’s proven that she didn’t actually buy that computer — and with Microsoft’s money — then the ad is as valid as any other, in my opinion.

Brian,

Anger? I’m at a loss where you got that. Reading your comment and my article it appears we agree on everything. Are you angry? I’m not.

“As for the ad itself, I thought it was cool.”

As did I. I specifically mentioned that Lauren is engaging and infectious. The ad is well done.

“…a $699 computer isn’t going to compare to a $2000 computer, or even a $1000 computer. But so what?” and “…doesn’t mean that my less expensive gear sucks.”

Correct. I went out of my way to explain that the $700 laptop she bought was exactly that: a $700 laptop. Cheap, but there’s “Nothing wrong with that; it is what it is.” I have no issue with that whatsoever, and specifically said as much.

In short, unlike a lot of what I’ve read about the ad, I’m not complaining that Lauren may be an actor, nor am I accusing the HP of being crap. But neither of those are the thrust of the ad anyway.

The thrust of the ad — it’s whole purpose — is to imply that for a lot less than the cheapest Mac you can get a PC that’s even better. In this case, simply having a 17″ display apparently trumps all. That’s nonsense. Cheap is cheap. Nothing more, nothing less. It has its place, it has its adherents, but as I said, “don’t kid yourself into thinking you got anything more than you paid for, or found some sort of computer bargain, or know some secret the rest of us aren’t clued in on.”

That’s not anger. Not even a little bit.

Stuart,

HP is better served using the PC I used; the other one is even worse. Even then, the one I picked was simply representative for a $700, 17″ HP laptop, and the points I made still hold.

Scott L

I agree that this Lauren gal is very attractive.

I found the ad to be very effective. Not personally, mind you, I’m a Mac user. The ad might well strike a chord with many people who have been put off by the sticker price of Apple laptops.

When we discuss all the horrors of the Windows world, we are just preaching to the choir. Most folks couldn’t care less about the Macintosh experience. I’m certain that most of us know at least one, if not many, intelligent and successful people who have never touched a Mac.

rwahrens

Stuart,

Go back and READ the article, windows cannot address more than 3 GB of RAM. Period, no matter how much is installed.

Ryan R

Correction, Vista 32 can not address more then 3 GB of ram (which is what I assume is typically installed on PC’s). How ever Vista 64 can address alot more then 3 GB.

Dude

My windows machine has 32 gb of RAM. But it has 8 quad core processors and 8 TB of storage running X64. Not your normal windows machine.

David B

I love those Seinfield ads, though. I wish they had kept those coming.

David B

I didn’t read any anger in this article, just incredulity. Really, why does Microsoft have such stupid ads? Is there a particular reason for it? They have enough money, they can hire an advertising agency that doesn’t suck.

As for customer satisfaction, you’re so right, CVB. I’ve had four family members/friends buy PC laptops in the past year, and it usually only takes a couple months before the frustrations rise to surface.

Howie Isaacks

I think a lot of people are seeing through this idiotic ad campaign. This is yet another illustration that Microsoft does not understand why there is a growing number of customers moving to the Mac. If price were the issue, Apple would be out of business, or be forced to move to a lower pricing scheme. When Microsoft claims that the only thing that is different is a “logo”, they show how arrogant they really are, and also how much they disrespect consumers for making a choice that is different from Microsoft.

mogosh

This is some spot on analysis. All I could think was does she have a Facebook page? Can we follow her on twitter? She can use my MacBook anytime.

CVBruce

What really matters is the customer satisfaction after the sale, because that is what builds brand loyalty.

I would be surprised if Lauren is still as happy with her purchase a year from now.

Brian Hogg

@1 I’ve heard she’s a real person, and an office manager of some sort (who knows if she’s real or not, of course, but there *are* attractive, charismatic people out there who aren’t actors, or who can give an honest appraisal of something without it being scripted).

As for the ad itself, I thought it was cool. I’m writing this on a MBP, though I have been put off more and more by the culture of cool of Apple as of late. It seems like the ad was attempting to point out to that vast majority of people out there who just want a computer that’s good enough to do extremely basic tasks that they can do that more cheaply with a PC than a Mac.

Now, sure, you can get into a strict performance comparison, and OBVIOUSLY a $699 computer isn’t going to compare to a $2000 computer, or even a $1000 computer. But so what? Isn’t the main thing that a person finds what’s comfortable for them? Many people aren’t computer enthusiasts, and just want it to complete a task.

I’m friends with a chef, and he’s got a collection of extremely expensive knives. Why? Because he’s expert, and he actually can tell the difference. Me? I’ve got regular old knives, because who cares? They cut things well enough, and the fact that I COULD spend a lot more money on a superior product — whose benefits I wouldn’t necessarily even notice — doesn’t mean that my less expensive gear sucks.

The anti-Microsoft anger is interesting, though. Why so angry, Tom?

Andy

Would be cool to see Lauren arrive at home and pressing the power on button the first time and wasting her time deleting all the trial software and buying/installing a virus software for an extra yearly rate of $59 or more.

Btw. I like the stickers on the inside of the HP – wow.

Gazoobee

It’s worth pointing out that while Lauren is indeed hot, she’s also an actress and not a “real person.” I know a lot of people will say that the audience is more sophisticated nowadays and that most will see through it, but thousands of yokels in trailer parks below the mason-dixon line will believe she’s real.

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