Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is Microsoft Copying Bang-Bus?

I'm moving from my old blog underabundant.com

April 12th 2009

Is there something wrong with Microsoft? They must pay billions of dollars on ads, but the only ad from them that I've ever enjoyed was the Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld epic. But even that should be leaving a bad taste in peoples mouths. Bill Gates acts arrogant and aloof with the mega-rich Jerry Seinfeld (who, in character, is generally an anal sociopath). Is this what Gates thinks is charming? Perhaps he decided that the most-rich celebrity would be the most charming person?

Marketing is something that is generally untruthful, of course we don't expect either Microsoft, Apple, or anyone else to be genuinely objective about pitching their brand. But I think they people should at least expect to be respected by the company who is pitching. Apple's ads are direct pitches that are respectful to peoples' taste and intelligence (they take it for granted that the target audience have both). "I'm a Mac" is an campaign where comedians play proverbial computers in amusing scenarios, which exhibit the stereotypical characteristics of a Mac and a PC. Yes, they Mac doesn't have kernel panics and the PC gets loads of Blue-screens-of-death, it's surely biased. But the fact is that these ads charm us with characters, stories and jokes which sell their idea at the same time.

You Find it You Keep It

Microsoft has an even worse ad campaign that the Seinfeld series, and I have to say it's a lot like BangBus. Bangbus is a porn website whose premise is that a bunch of guys drive around LA and pick up women by flashing large wads of money to exchange for sex-on-camera. The emphasis that these girls next door are paid for their services is something somewhat unique, mostly these things aren't highlighted and sometimes there are plots which revolve around obscuring the fact that they are paid porn-stars. Microsoft is basically doing the same thing as Bang Bus. Pay people cash-money of 1000 to 1500$ to go computer shopping and make the right decision. Which is obviously to choose a Windows based computer. The mission statement below sums it up rather nicely "You find it you keep it" with a big Windows logo in the center of the screen. I can't imagine the subjects (if they were real at all) would be confused in regards to what exactly what "it" could be. They state in the commercial they're looking for a computer that has a big screen and is fast or what have you; but Microsoft is not referring to them finding what they want.


This is like a new graft of skin on the dead-lame "I'm a PC" campaign. An ad campaign that had mostly regular people, and sometimes people in "exotic" professions stating that they were "a PC." Their statement was not so much that creative and unique people use PCs, or that people who should know what a good computer is uses PCs; but that everybody uses one, even people who don't really use a computer much in their profession or however else they are identified in the ad. But yes, shark divers use PCs.

In these new ads they get the same "real people", some of which are apparently in the actors guild, to buy the PC of their dreams within a budget. This is such a sad tact, instead of making the argument that their platform is more reliable or easy to use, they have resorted to just saying everyone uses it, and that the price is lower for a PC than a Mac. Totally removing the platform from the argument is as if they admit it's just not a selling point anymore. Now it's just a question of nut's and bolts? Microsoft so generously pays them the money to pay for the computer once they have enough footage of them fawning over the PCs and farting on the Macs. 1500$ is waved in their faces once they've done right by Microsoft.

Isn't this kind of obscene though? Shouldn't they have some sort of integrity? I don't understand how Microsoft can't afford to buy better marketing. They really appear to be unable to pay out enough money to buy charm and delight. Of course their companies practices did away with the carrot years ago anyhow. It's much easier to hit partners and competitors with a stick instead of using charm to get them on board. That's what it's like when you're on top, no one if big enough to tell you otherwise.

Their superficial ads are so thin that it's an insult to the people they are trying to appeal to. At least with Apple they have a little humour instead of gleaming "normal folk" characters and histrionic gushing at the camera followed by a wave of bills in their faces. Do the people viewing the commercial really think the people are happy they bought a PC? Or do they realize it just might be because they get a thousand dollars if they do? Why not have some pseudo contest that obliquely compares their products? Why are we supposed to believe that comparing the products of dozens of PC manufacturers to a single (Apple) manufacturer will be coherent and objective a task?

Others have written about the slight of hand that is actually going on here. These commercials aren't even doing what they say they are; they aren't comparing the meat and potatos of the hardware. They're comparing narrowed specifications because the myriad manufacturers and the myriad specs allow them to angle the attack to make it seem as they're the same products as the Macs.

The strangest point of this ad is that Giampaolo didn't get the portability, battery life, and power he was looking for, he just ended up with a cheap-appearing machine that obscured its real technical limitations under a flashy layer of misleading, specification-oriented marketing, the very thing he thought he was avoiding with HP: buying a brand rather than a computer. And that's exactly what Microsoft wants people to do: buy its brand rather than a computer that does what they want it to do. --Appleinsider

Personally I love how the Mac organizes its SKUs, two of every product type, pro and consumer. They take those two different products and give them the latest greatest hardware within its domain by determining what level of hardware it should have. Every year the old model is retired and a new one is introduced with new specs and sometimes a new design. They don't have some third one that uses last years technology, or different branchings of the product for sake of adding wireless or using a different sort of RAM one that is less compact or what have you. You just have the one type and you can change some of the parts around or go up from consumer or down from pro.

I would hate to have to compare everything about all the models of every manufacturer. I tried this with cell-phones and got a headache. Even looking at one company's phones I realized that some would have a better camera, others would have better music support, others had a better form factor or battery life. The SKUs were basically made so that there was never a "best" phone that I could get, none of them had common features done well so I had no base set of features or specifications to compare each phone with. As a first-time cell phone buyer I didn't even know which baseband compatibility I should look for. Instead I had to look at each one's dozens of qualities and dozens of faults and make a compromise on it.

This quite frankly is shit. The iPhone 3g had everything the 2g had PLUS more, and I expect to see the next model be the same scenario. I would lose a lot of faith if they introduced some iPhone that with crippled features (or at least within reason, if they introduce a new parallel SKU for cheaper...). I want to see the products constantly improve and not just vary. I certainly don't want to have to compare RAM speeds or anything else so nitty gritty as that. I'd rather just depend on the company to use the whatever the latest greatest specifications there are so I only have to break it down by quantity of RAM, Hard Drive and maybe laptop screen size. This keeps the vectors of what I'm looking at firmly in two-dimensional where it's easier to make decisions. I'd rather not spend an entire day choosing a computer as the people in these ads have, regardless of how much fun they pretend it is.

The title cards are so funny in these ads. "They agree, it's a PC" -- well of course they agree, you just waived 1500$ in their face. I agree too, that's more than two weeks worth of pay for me. So why not make an ad with me already, I'll choose a Lenovo or something, whatever you like. and yes it's "Nice work. It's a PC" -- that sounds like a very supportive pat on the head. As in "Nice (days) work, it's a PC (just like we promised we'd pay you for if it was)."


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