New Apple ads tweak Microsoft marketers

Two new Mac vs. PC commercials starring John Hodgman and Justin Long play on recent Microsoft marketing moves to reclaim its image while hitting back at Apple.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
2 min read

Apple has fired back in the latest round of the Mac versus PC ad wars with two commercials tweaking Microsoft's marketing strategies.

One nice thing about having a sick girlfriend is a guilt-free weekend in front of a dozen or so college and pro football games. Apple released two new Mac vs. PC ads for that sedentary audience to ponder in between kickoffs this weekend, though both ads seemed to be tailored more for the tech industry than NFL fans.

Both commercials poke fun at Microsoft's recent massive ad campaign to "redefine" itself in the face of two years of clever Mac vs. PC ads that have helped Apple increase sales of the Mac. One commercial has John Hodgman in his now-familiar role as PC allocating stacks of bills toward either "advertising" or "fix Vista." Guess which pile gets more stacks.

The other commercial is also about Vista: Hodgman has developed a buzzer that bleeps out "Vista" whenever that word is uttered, so that people will start using the term "Windows" instead of Vista. This is actually funny, given that Microsoft was recently awarded a patent for similar technology, even if that wasn't the point of the ad.

Apple is trying to do two things with the ads: get under Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's skin, and continue to define Vista as a glitch-ridden operating system. Vista's early problems with application and driver compatibility are well-documented, and while most of those problems are in the rear-view mirror, Microsoft is spending more time these days talking about stereotypes, Windows 7 and the "Apple tax" than it is about Vista.

Apple, on the other hand, is quite content to keep Vista in the firing line.

The fact is that the negative impressions of Vista have stuck, as Microsoft itself had to admit with the Mojave Experiment. Whether that's Apple's fault or your IT department's fault isn't really the point; Apple took the early reluctance of people to try out Vista and ran with it, while Microsoft sat on its hands for two years then vacillated between saying "Vista isn't so bad," "we've been unfairly stereotyped," and "yeah, you might want to wait for Windows 7."

Still, negative advertising, while effective in an election year, grows old. And it plays into the sorely outdated fanboy us vs. them mentality that the vast majority of consumers couldn't care less about; most people in America do not define themselves by the computer that they use, as hard as Apple and Microsoft are trying to make that happen.

The new ads will get a chuckle out of most viewers, as the polished comedy team of Hodgman and Justin Long could teach Seinfeld and Gates a thing or two. But God forbid that Apple should ever stumble with the rollout of a new operating system; they've taught Microsoft just how to respond.