New bit of tech?

Two adverts sparked my interest this week, well more than two, but two that have a common thread that I want to look at.

Apple’s iPad2 advert “We believe”, and Microsoft’s Windows 7 offering “Linsday’s New PC”. The two companies’ rivalry is well known, and as the two companies continue to expand into the same territories, this is set to continue. But that is a minefield I’d like to avoid.

The adverts are ostensibly quite different. The Windows Ad features “Lindsay” who “thinks her eight year old PC is good enough” and lists some of the aspects to new PCs that might appeal to the non-techy user. The Apple ad simply focuses on the iPad 2 itself, with a voiceover listing some of the ways it is perceived by its users. More obviously, one is for a specific device, one is for an operating system (OS).

So far, so different right? Not exactly. Both ads are trying to appeal to a broad demographic, beyond the early adopters. It’s the right approach for ATL (above the line) advertising, tech savvy customers will have made their minds up within a few days of the first previews and technical specifications being posted online. A broad market approach needs to attract new customers from more reluctant demographics. Further, whilst the latter advert is for a specific device, the voice over notes, “faster, thinner, lighter, all good things… but when technology gets out of the way… that’s when things become magical.” So it is, essentially, OS vs OS.

The Microsoft commercial is most transparent. Its star “Lindsay” is a middle aged IC1 woman, with kids and a house in suburbia. She’s immediately outed as a luddite (she thinks her 8 year old pc is good enough! Huh! – replace PC with TV or car and see how moronic it sounds). The premise is that Microsoft has turned her home into a PC shop allowing her to choose from a range of shiny new models. She coos over a few, while an assistant shows her some of the benefits “one button and you’re on the net”. She responds positively, noting that it is “lighter than her handbag”.

I’m a bit of a fan of this benefit led approach, but I can’t see this converting to sales for their target demographic. It’s still too vague: So you want the Window’s PC – can you head to the Window’s store? No. Can you go to PC World and by the Window’s PC? Not exactly. This is where Apple’s call to action is so much simpler. See this? Go to our shop and buy it. Perhaps it would have worked better if it had partnered with a major hardware supplier, Sony, HP, Dell, all brands that can compete with Apple as household names. To summarise, then, the MS advert lists benefits that successfully appeal to its target audience, but fails to provide a successful call to action, to close the sale.

By contrast, the iPad 2 advert doesn’t highlight any specific features or benefits, it is far more aspirational. The voice over, in breathy tones worthy of an M&S food advert, implies that this product is life changing, it shows the device being used as a guitar, a photo album and illustrating a brain scan. At the touch of a button. Indeed, that’s Apple’s greatest claim – things just work. So without needing to specify of the new features, the commercial implies that the audience needs this – it’s not about getting on the internet at the touch of a button, it’s about not needing to press a button to get on the internet, it’s not even about getting on the internet, it’s just about getting results.

Apple don’t need to explain the benefits (eg it’s light, lighter than my handbag) they are selling something bigger, here’s something you couldn’t do before. I’m not saying that this is fact, but it is something that people buy into. Microsoft’s one button approach is on the right lines – but doesn’t go far enough. I’ll offer an anecdote by way of explanation. I was standing in the Apple shop, inspecting a top of the line iMac, powerful enough to edit HD movies, record music and untold other things, all housed in a beautiful 28″ monitor, with a price tag approaching £1,800. An older couple were standing asking a sales assistant if it could meet their needs: email and Skype for talking to their grandchildren. A  £300 Dell would have done the job, but imagine having that conversation in PC World, they would have been shown a range of different options, instructed how to download Skype, a few different options for email clients… Not so slick.

An older Windows 7 advert showed a mum simply overlaying a number of photographs of her unruly family to produce one featuring all of their faces looking towards the camera. One benefit, explained over 3o seconds. Could they have done it in 5? And shown another few benefits?

But that’s the key – Apple are selling a lifestyle accessory, Microsoft are still trying to sell a function. Moving towards selling the benefit is going in the right direction, but the call to action is not strong enough. Microsoft had to build a PC shop in Lindsay’s house to sell her one, Apple just just convince their audience they can’t do without one.


1 Comment

  1. I hate that Apple advert. In the words of Peter Griffin “it insists upon itself”. I can’t stand the fact it smugly assumes you need it. A teacher isn’t thinking it’s the future, a teacher is worried about their pension. A CEO doesn’t think it’s essential, as it’s not compatible with the enormous array of Microsoft products that he/she already uses and I’m sure most doctors would rather be looking after patients than prancing like a tit with an iPad. As for MS, well, they are appealing to a lower common denominator I suppose, as pretty much all our computers run Windows. Could their advert not be viewed as “Look at this menagerie of devices you can have. Big ones, small ones, light ones, heavy ones, but they all run the OS you know and trust (perhaps not trust) and most of all are familiar with”. Is that not what they are trying to achieve?
    A new PC would come with Skype (mine did) and Windows Mail, and wouldn’t cost £1800. To try and sell something to someone with such minimal needs is for want of a better word, theft. I would send them PC world and tell them buy a cheaper laptop.
    £1800? £1800? Apple can shove it up their arse for nothing and fuck off while they’re doing it.

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