Thursday, August 21, 2008

PC Fights Back: Yada, Yada, Yada

I love the Apple vs. PC commercials, though I remain faithful to the latter, less cool, technology. The commercials are funny, but thought provoking. The PC representative reminds me of a slightly overweight Bill Gates and has a look on his face that indicated that he doesn't get what is happening to him. The same may be true with the brain trust behind the technology he represents.

CNBC points out that the Apple commercials are "so effective, they even annoyed Bill Gates, who says when he first saw them, he didn't get them; didn't understand them." The marketing industry concurs with Gates assessment in light of the ad campaign Microsoft is developing in order to fight back.

Microsoft is choosing Jerry Seinfeld to be its new face. Hmm, put a little weight on him, some glasses, it might actually help Apple. Regardless if Seinfeld goes through an image change or not, marketing experts believe he will do nothing to improve the image of the PC.

Apple used two unknowns who depend on funny lines and obvious weaknesses in PC technology to thoroughly win its argument. They convey that they simply don't need big names to drive their campaigns because PC is just too easy to make fun of all by itself.

Seinfeld has evolved from the cutting edge and hip comedian of a decade ago to a cartoon voice and product pitchman (I am sure you have seen the American Express commercials). The stand up comic as spokesman is safe, but decidedly not clever. Because he still is one of the bigger names in entertainment, it conveys that PC is in trouble and that they need the "big guns" in order to fight back. This approach conveys that "PC technology doesn't have a prayer," we better make sure that are spots are, at least funny. Many doubt Microsoft will be happy with the returns on its $300 million investment ($10 million for the comedian alone).

So what should PC (and Microsoft) do to fight back? Critics say a great place to start would be to improve the technology. Touché! Beyond that, they should focus on their strengths. They still dominate the business market place (maintaining communication between systems), new software is often more affordable for PCs (because of a larger economy of scale), and PCs themselves tend to be more affordable. None of these are that interesting, exciting, or sexy. Unfortunately, neither is Jerry Seinfeld.

Maybe PC should go to the most basic form of crass commercialism and pull a page out of the beer companies' handbook. Hire a few scantily dressed and beautiful woman who adore their computer. No one will have any idea what they said about the commercial, all they know is that they need too buy one. Now. Furthermore, they would be much less expensive than the $10 million required by Seinfeld.

Kevin Price's articles are found daily in national publications such as USA Today, Chicago Sun Times, and Reuters. Subscribe to his newsletter here.

Kevin Price is Host of the Houston Business Show (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review.

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