Microsoft Should Leave the Competition Out of Ads

Microsoft is in no position to disparage Google and Apple in TV ads, yet it keeps doing it. A new ad for Microsoft Surface turns inward and gets it right.

What's up with Microsoft's TV ads lately?

The company's insistence on deriding competitors that are kicking its arse in search (Google) and mobile (Samsung and Apple) seems out of touch with reality, no?

Obviously, Microsoft doesn't set out to insult potential customers, but its snide TV spots do little more than try to make people feel like idiots for using proven products instead of Microsoft's struggling, late-to-market products. Does that make sense?

Microsoft has enough money to buy up the airspace to ding competitors and make viewers feel guilty about not using Windows Phone, Windows 8, Bing and Outlook.com. Such comparative advertising (often shunned as desperate and lowbrow) is turning Microsoft into an advertising one-trick pony.

Sure, the ads are often clever and funny and do expose a certain truth, particularly the "Scroogled" ads about Google tracking your online behavior. But comparative advertising is a risky approach if you're trying to undo a competitor's very established customer loyalty. It only makes you look jealous.

Some examples:

The "Windows 8: Less Talking, More Doing" spot above does effectively point out Windows 8 features lacking in the iPad such as multi-tasking capabilities and the use of PowerPoint. Price comparisons between the Asus Vivo Tab and iPad are a nice touch too, and the subtle mocking of Siri made me chuckle.

But Windows 8 tablets and iPads don't serve the same purposes. The features highlighted are productivity tasks and not high on tablet lovers' lists. Microsoft is trying to change the message that tablets are being used for desktop-like productivity, but the real world is still using tablets -- largely the iPad and Android devices -- to consume.

That could certainly change, and a year from now if there is a true shift to productivity on tablets and Windows 8 starts to chip away at iPad dominance then Microsoft will deserve to run this ad. For now it's wishful thinking.

However, Microsoft appears to be getting wise (instead of just wiseass) with this spot below for Surface.

It focuses on the features, both hardware and software (Office! Office!), and leaves the competition out of the picture. This ad respects the audience and creates an uncluttered one-on-one relationship between the Surface and the viewer. More ads like this and people might start listening.

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