by Shane O'Neill

Apple’s ‘Laptop Hunter’ Response Plays Virus Card, Avoids Price Issue

May 14, 20094 mins
Data Center

Viruses and crashes. That’s what you’ll be stuck with if you buy a PC. So says Apple’s latest ad, a clear response to Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunter” TV spots that portray Macs as overpriced luxury items.

This is a punch you just knew Apple would throw, and it should keep the rumble going for awhile. I was getting worried that the Apple elite would “take the high road.” Up until only a few months ago, Microsoft itself had remained silent as countless “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads bitch-slapped Vista for a couple years.

But with Laptop Hunters, Microsoft finally raised some compelling points about the price and value of a PC. Apple could not afford to stay silent.

Well, now Apple has fired back with its usual deadpan humor. The company stays away from the price issue in this ad and in another new one that ridicules PC customer support. Rather, it attacks the security of PCs while incorporating a mock “laptop hunter” named Megan. As they say, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

In the spot, bungling PC (John Hodges) stands in front of a line of bland men in suits representing a variety of PCs. Buyer Megan stands between PC and the hipster Mac (Justin Long). She wants certain laptop features like a big screen and fast processor. PC then tells all small screen and slow processors to “beat it” and a few of the PC men walk away. Then Megan demands that she “just needs something that works without crashing, viruses and ton of headaches” at which point, all the remaining PC men and Mr. PC himself turn and walk out of frame. “She’s all yours Mac,” he says as he exits. It doesn’t go unnoticed that young Megan never mentions price.

Like most of the “I’m a Mac I’m a PC” ads, this one makes its point quickly with wit and snark. The Laptop Hunter ads, however, are twice the length and more literal, avoiding sarcasm. Apple is light sketch comedy to Microsoft’s documentary-style realism.

The laptop hunter spots started strong (remember Lauren the redhead?) but did get contrived and repetitive, practically hitting the viewer over the head with a laptop screaming, “Macs are overpriced!” By the third spot (a mother and young son shopping for a laptop), Microsoft was beating a dead horse.

The new Apple ad will make you chuckle, but its premise is thin. With a PC, you can get as big a screen as you want and the fastest chip on the market, so I’m not sure why Apple brought up those features.

But yes, PCs are more prone to viruses. They are a target because of their sheer volume. Apple doesn’t have to worry about viruses as much because its Macs hold a mere 9 percent market share. Still, lack of viruses is an advantage for Macs that also works as a way to divert attention from their steep price.

But here’s why I think Microsoft’s ads ultimately make a better point: Users can protect a PC from viruses with basic vigilance and affordable AV software, but they can’t make a Mac — not immune to viruses by the way — cost $500 less. Price wins in the end, especially in this economy.

It’s up to the buyer to decide. But it sure is fun to watch Microsoft

and Apple go after each other on the advertising battlefield. It would be nice to see more transparency, like Microsoft at least admitting viruses are a risk on PCs and Apple admitting that its prices are too high.

But that might be too much truth in advertising for these two worthy foes.

Which of the ad campaigns do you think is more effective?

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