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I'm Not a PC, But the Ads Aren't Bad

We've always been amused by the English tendency to identify with soccer clubs by saying, "I'm West Ham" or "I'm Chelsea" or "I'm Stockport County," rather than saying, "I'm a (fill in the club here) fan." It's as if the fan himself or herself is the living embodiment of the club, a personification not just of an organization but of a way of life.

It's with that sense of amusement that we watch Microsoft's "I'm a PC" ads, which strike back at Apple's brilliant and exhaustively documented Mac Guy-PC Guy campaign. The ads are pretty good, really, even if we don't recognize most (any?) of the celebrities in them. In fact, although this isn't saying much, these might be the best Microsoft ads ever.

Really! They're not wincingly un-cool or painfully nerdy (and we don't mean "cool nerdy," either -- just nerdy). They're pretty clever, well-paced and mildly intriguing -- we wanted to know who would step up and be a PC next -- and they almost manage to pass Microsoft off as a populist and grass-roots organization and not the massive corpomonster that it really is. (To be fair, Apple's a corpomonster, too -- just one with smaller market share in the operating system business.) They're not cool, but they don't need to be -- because Microsoft isn't cool and never has been. Finally somebody got that and went in another direction, successfully.

Of course, the ads don't make us want to buy Vista, which, we thought, was the point of the campaign. (Or maybe even Redmond has given up the Vista ghost and is priming us for Windows 7.) But if Microsoft just wanted to improve its image and get out from Apple's pop-culture thumb, this new campaign does the trick.

Of course, we at RCPU are among the only people on the world who are on the fence in the PC-Mac debate (and, yes, your editor is speaking for himself here). We've had both, and both have their drawbacks and advantages. So, you won't be hearing us declare that we're a Mac or a PC any time soon -- which we wouldn't do, anyway, given that we're supposed to be impartial and all that. (We are West Ham, though.)

One more thought about Microsoft's ad strategy: We're not buying the line that the company scrapped the Bill Gates-Jerry Seinfeld spots as a snap decision. We're pretty sure that those ads weren't supposed to run for long and that there weren't supposed to be many of them. In fact, we think that Bill and Jerry's obtuse efforts were just meant to get people talking -- which they did -- and maybe even to provide a lame, confusing setup to the much better "I'm a PC" campaign. After all, the lousy band is always the opening act, right? We're on to you, Redmond. But we're still not a PC.

Posted by Lee Pender on September 25, 2008 at 11:54 AM


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