Microsoft’s new ads released: better, but risky.

Microsoft has released the Jerry Seinfield free phase two of their $300 million Crispin Porter + Bogusky ad campaign. As we reported yesterday, the new ads feature “everyday people” who use Windows machines.

The good news is that they are a mile better than the Gates/ Seinfield commercials. These ads have a message: that every day people use PCs, are done well, and despite the occasional celebrity and niche worker, the mix works visually, and in delivering the key message.

Just because they are better though, doesn’t make them not risky, because the premise of the ads isn’t a stand alone pitch for Microsoft products, instead they confront Apple’s Mac vs PC ads head on.

Don’t mention the competition

There’s a rule in politics and parts of advertising that you never mention the competition when you are the market leader, because mentioning them gives them greater exposure. The bigger your market share or vote, the less likely you ever mention the competitor. These ads don’t mention Apple by name, but by starting with one of the key characters in the Mac vs PC campaign, they are giving a degree of recognition to the Mac product, despite Windows having a roughly 85-90% market share.

The obvious question then is whether Apple’s campaign has such huge popular recognition that confronting the campaign head on outweighs any exposure Apple gets in return. I couldn’t find a figure on ad awareness from the Mac vs PC campaign, but they were considered popular, and did win a range of advertising awards. They also had a strong viral presence online, a figure that is harder again to assess in terms of over-all market exposure.

Lets presume that Apple’s campaign does have strong awareness across the United States, because Crispin Porter + Bogusky probably did. How much though compared to the exposure Microsoft’s campaign will have? How many people weren’t aware of the PC character before, who may be now and who may question what it means, leading them back to the Mac vs PC campaign, and Apple products.

The pitch

So everyday people use PCs, but is a fact really a reasonable counter pitch to Apple’s original campaign that focused on usability and Mac strengths vs PC issues, particularly ones widely known, such as the issues with Vista that Microsoft targeted in the Mojave commercials?

It isn’t, at least not yet.

Let’s take this as a branding exercise that connects the Microsoft brand with everyday people in response to Apple’s portrayal of PC users. There’s no other way of reading it. It’s a motherhood statement of visuals.

Conclusion

If Microsoft/ Crispin Porter + Bogusky believe that the Mac vs PC ad campaign has damaged their brand to the point that it needs rebuilding from the ground up, then this is an excellent start. Simple and yet laying the foundation for more. It doesn’t though tackle some of the serious perception issues facing Windows. There’s no angle other than normal people use PCs, there’s no PCs work, PCs are reliable, Vista doesn’t suck, Microsoft is cool message….yet. Lets wait and see which direction the rest of the campaign goes. There is one winner from the campaign though: Apple, because Microsoft is now being forced to respond to Apple, and it only shows how effective Apple’s product campaigns across all categories (including Macs) have been.