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Microsoft gets an ad right

Microsoft's latest TV spot actually speaks to the concerns of its customers rather than its own needs.

[Update: After posting, I realized that some wording was ambiguous. Corrected.]

I've been critical of past Microsoft advertising.

The low point may have been calling customers and potential customers dinosaurs for not upgrading to Office 2003.

But Microsoft advertising, in general, has been at best inconsistent, in that it has often spoken to the needs and desires of Microsoft--as opposed to the needs and desires of its customers. (In all fairness, this is hardly a problem unique to Microsoft's advertising or, indeed, to the advertising that comes out of the the tech industry overall.)

But the company's latest, from the Crispin Porter + Boguksy agency, nails it.

As Philip Elmer-DeWitt summarizes:

Her name is "Lauren," and she's making the Apple (AAPL) guys nuts...She's the young, hip, Volkswagen-driving redhead who stars in the latest Microsoft (MSFT) TV campaign. Told that if she can find a 17-inch laptop for under $1,000, she can keep it, Lauren ends up--to the Mac aficionados' dismay--with an HP (HPQ) running Windows Vista.

The message? Sure, Macs are fine. But who can afford one in these times?

The Apple fan club is up in arms. A lot of the reaction is pretty silly and dwells on the fact that the star of the spot is actually an actress and that the events shown are staged. Shocking and surprising, I know.

As for whether the comparison of the 17-inch Apple and HP laptop is completely fair and apples-to-apples? Well, of course it isn't. We're talking advertising here. There has to be a degree of credibility, yes, but absolute objectivity? Hardly.

Best line: the sighingly delivered, "I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person."

From an advertising perspective, the commercial does have a weakness. It essentially sets the Mac up as the aspirational brand, the laptop that would apparently be Lauren's first choice, if it weren't for its cost. This ad wouldn't fit especially well with a more free-wheeling era.

But this is not that era. And a value message strikes me as a good one for Microsoft in this context, especially as delivered in a light, humorous, and gently hipster-mocking way.