by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft’s New ‘Not Cool Enough’ Ad Cuts Apple Where It’s Rotting

Mar 27, 20094 mins
Data Center

Is it me or is Microsoft really starting to get its advertising act together? The company that once sat in silence while it got steamrolled by a smug slacker named Mac and a dweeb named PC is punching back with a new ad that exploits Apple’s current weakness: price.

Microsoft is done melting your heart with the cute-kid “Rookies”, and is moving on to cash-strapped consumers with the first of its “Laptop Hunters” spots, now airing repeatedly in primetime on major networks.

Our first laptop hunter is Lauren, a free-spirited twenty-something with wild red hair searching for a laptop with “speed, a comfortable keyboard and a 17-inch screen” for under a thousand bucks.

It’s worth noting that Lauren — who verges on being a hipster caricature but never quite goes over the edge — does not seem tech savvy and doesn’t seem to know the difference between a PC and a Mac. She never mentions Windows or what kinds of applications she uses. She’s all about the screen size and keyboard and, of course, the price. But hey, this is what most consumers are like. Apologies to those obsessed with their gizmos and gadgets, but you’re in the minority.

Laptop Hunters – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion for under $1000.

Lauren’s deal is if she finds a laptop that meets her needs, it will be paid for. Wow, not bad. I really could have used this support when I bought my $650 Toshiba Satellite laptop a couple months ago. Microsoft, if you’re listening, I’m available as a Laptop Hunter. Have your people call my people.

Anyway, Lucky Lauren strolls around what looks like a Best Buy quickly browsing Windows laptops. She makes some mental notes before heading to … drum roll … an Apple Store!

She walks in … cut … she walks out, discouraged. Clearly, this her first time feeling snubbed by Apple as she seems genuinely surprised that the only laptop under $1000 is the 13.3-inch white MacBook. Lauren, you should’ve known better.

On her drive back to the Best Buy, a bummed-out Lauren says that she would have to double her budget to buy a Mac with her needs, and that is “just not feasible.” Then comes the line that defines the whole commercial: “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person,” she says.

You’re cool enough Lauren; you’re just not rich enough (though one does wonder where she got the expensive-looking leather boots and giant handbag, not to mention the Volkswagen).

The message Microsoft is pushing here is clear: Consumers feel priced out by Apple and are rebelling against its carefully crafted cool factor. Microsoft’s use of the term “not cool enough” is interesting. Some have interpreted it as Microsoft saying that PC customers are losers. But I think it’s more tongue in cheek than that, and having Lauren say she’s not “cool” enough for Apple is a sly mockery of people whose self-image is defined by a brand.

These days, computer “coolness” is losing the race to price. People just want a good computer with lots of RAM and storage at a fair price. Apple delivers really, really well on the first part. Not so well on the second part.

Lauren regains her mojo when she arrives back at Best Buy. She’s on a mission now because she’s suddenly surrounded by big-screen laptops under $1000. Smiling,

she calls out the specs: “250 gigabyte hard drive! Four gigabytes of memory!” It’s as if getting out of that sterile Apple store has liberated her.

Lauren eventually decides on an HP Pavilion laptop that has all her qualifications. Somebody off camera hands her the cash she was promised and boom, she now owns a $699.99 big-screen laptop. You’re kind of happy for her because, despite being a clumsy collection of clichés, Lauren is likeable.

The spot ends with the “I’m a PC” line that is now the signature of the whole “Windows. Life Without Walls” campaign. Lauren wraps her arms around the box containing her new laptop and declares: “I’m a PC, and I got just what I wanted.”

All in all, this is timely and effective advertising from Microsoft. It’s a stone-cold fact that consumers are not spending as the economy worsens. Price trumps all right now, and the message of this ad — that you can buy a laptop with great specs and everything you need for well under $1000 — will resonate with consumers on a budget, also known as Everybody.

I eagerly await Apple’s response.