After rolling out a pair of commercials featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in somewhat offbeat—and somewhat poorly received—sketches, Microsoft is kicking off the second stage of its $300 million attempt to recapture the public conversation about the Windows brand. And the ads will do it by embracing the "I’m a PC" label created by Apple in its long-running Mac vs. PC advertising campaign, in which PCs have been (ably) personified by comedian John Hodgman.
Starting with a Microsoft engineer—"Sean"—dressed to resemble Houseman saying "Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype," Microsoft hopes to subvert Apple’s successful campaign extolling the Macintosh’s ease of use by showing Windows users who are proud to be using Windows PCs and released Windows mobile and Internet services. Bill Gates makes a cameo appearance in the campaign, but Jerry Seinfeld is noticeably absent. Instead, celebrities Eva Longoria, Pharrell Williams, and Deepak Chopra make appearances. More than 60 Microsoft employees will also appear, accompanied by email addresses. (If you’re curious, Gates’ is given as email@example.com. Sure, try it.)
Building around the tagline "Windows—Life Without Walls," the campaign hopes to demonstrate to consumers that the Windows ecosystem of software and services—from desktops to mobile devices to the Web—enables users to communicate, work, play, and share with friends, family, and colleagues. Windows enables productivity, collaboration, and communications, rather than putting up barriers.
"On our journey to make sure that Windows enables a life without walls, we’ve taken a step back, reevaluated and tuned and tweaked our approach," Bill Veghte, Senior Vice President, Online Services & Windows Business Group, in a statement. "So you’re seeing that in the advertising, in the products, in the experience at retail and on Windows.com."
The idea of embracing, and subverting, a competitor’s successful advertising campaign is not new. However, the strategy does run some risks, particularly if the competitor can easily flip the tables back again. And with a advertising-savvy competitor like Apple, you know some folks in Redmond—and at the agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky which came up with the ads—have spent a lot of time wondering how, and if, Apple might respond.