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2 minutes reading time (426 words)

New Microsoft ad - Will it work or will it hurt?

Microsoft released a new ad that has been making the rounds on various web video sites and on TV. The new ad shows a lady who states she is not too cool to afford a Mac. Clearly Microsoft is taking a swipe at the higher cost of Macs in a down economy. During  discussion last night with some friends, they all liked the ad (Disclosure: they all work at Microsoft. That said, they are generally pretty objective people). They liked the ad because they believed it was on target. I respectfully dissented and here's why -

1. Everyone knows that the Mac is more expensive. That fact does not need to be reinforced. If at all it should be reinforced in good times when people are spending freely. They are not.

2. Windows rules. And will for the foreseeable future. People don't buy PCs for low prices. They buy them because they are the standard. So what is the point of this ad?

3. Mac is a luxury brand and is consciously positioned as such. Luxury brands are forced to sustain their cache during rough economic times. That is the risk they take. You don't see Mercedes and BMW lowering their prices because their image is linked to those prices. And once you lower prices you can't bring them back up again. Occasional rebates, yes. Lower MSRP, no.

4. Finally, this approach can backfire. The PC ad indirectly heightens the "aspirational status" of the Mac. Like the guy who goes from driving a Honda Accord to driving a BMW, the current ads suggest that when times are better, it is OK to buy a Mac and indeed a consumer should aspire to do so but for now buy a PC.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIS6G-HvnkU]

The Microsoft ads that have "I am a PC and I am not alone" are therefore on target and beautifully made. The other set of "I am a PC" ads that show kids doing stuff are awesome. Perhaps the best tech ads I have ever seen. Both of the above evoke a strong sensory reaction. Exactly what is needed to counter Mac ads that have done this so effectively on the past.

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