The Microsoft Lauren Ad – Another Loser

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The Microsoft Lauren ad is the tech giant’s latest effort in its war with Apple.  In this spot, an Everywoman is given $1000 to shop for a computer that meets her specs. Inevitably, she selects a PC.

The spot is flawed in both concept and execution.

Microsoft Lauren Ad: Concept

The fact that Microsoft, the market leader, feels the need to respond so overtly to Apple’s “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign proves:

  1. That Apple’s campaign is working
  2. That Apple’s campaign is really getting to Microsoft management
  3. Both

Microsoft might have considered simply ignoring the campaign, concentrating instead on its own branding and messaging. Except for one thing: Microsoft doesn’t really have a brand. It’s a classic example of “bigness,” not “betterness.” They’ve never had a consistent, meaningful brand or message. I can’t tell you what Microsoft stands for, and I’ve been on PCs for my entire career. Apple has done an outstanding job attacking this core brand issue.

So, instead of playing to its strengths, Microsoft dignifies Apple with a response. Lauren says, “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person.” This is clearly meant to be a jab, but it also reinforces Apple’s position. I can’t imagine they find this too troubling at Apple headquarters.

Lauren proceeds to find a laptop PC that meets her specs for $700, and gets to keep the difference. So Microsoft is effectively saying, “We’re cheap.” And that’s not much of a response, because Apple has been saying, “Your stuff is hard to use and full of bugs.” One would expect such a brand to be cheap. No news here.

And I won’t even get into the “true cost of ownership” argument here, except to say that a few time-consuming computer crashes quickly negate a few hundred dollars in purchase price savings.

The lesson: Either position yourself, or your competitors – even if they’re significanly smaller – will happily do it for you.

Microsoft Lauren Ad: Execution

Denizens of the web have worked their magic once again. Last week, Freddie Laker reported in AdAge that Lauren, who is presented as an average everyday computer shopper, actually has her SAG card. Yup, she’s an actress.

Further, people have deconstructed the ad and found something fishy. At the :13 mark of the spot, there’s a tall guy in a black jacket to Lauren’s right as she walks into the Apple store. At the :15 second mark, when Lauren walks out, the same guy is just a few paces down the sidewalk. So does she walk into the store at all? Is the whole thing staged? Good questions.

The lesson: Authenticity counts. It’s all too easy to find out these days if you’re trying to pull the wool.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2009 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.