NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Following a complaint from Apple, Microsoft has quietly tweaked at least one of the ads in its "Laptop Hunters" campaign to reflect its rival's lower pricing on its Mac notebooks.
'Greatest single phone call'
Just last week Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner was ecstatic about a phone call from Apple lawyers, who demanded that Microsoft stop showing the ads because it had lowered its prices. Mr. Turner went on to say the call from Apple's legal department was the "greatest single phone call" he's ever taken and that Microsoft plans to "keep running them and running them and running them."
The ads, which have been running since March and were created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, are themed around the affordability PCs can offer cash-strapped consumers. In each consecutive spot in the campaign, a different set of shoppers searches for the perfect laptop computer, comparing prices of Macs and PCs -- and ultimately choosing the latter.
Mr. Turner said: "The 'PC Hunter' ads, the 'PC Rookie' ads clearly have been winners in the marketplace. ... And you know why I know they're working? Because two weeks ago we got a call from the Apple legal department saying, 'Hey' -- this is a true story -- saying, 'Hey, you need to stop running those ads -- we lowered our prices.' They took like $100 off or something." (A full transcript of his remarks, made at Microsoft's worldwide partner conference in New Orleans, are available here.
That may be, but not without combing through them carefully and making sure that the price comparisons being made in the campaign are accurate. Microsoft has since tweaked at least one of the ads to reflect Mac's lowered pricing.
In the 60-second spot, called "Lauren and Sue," we watch as law student Lauren shops around with the help of her Mom in the hopes of finding a computer under $1,700.
No mention of price
In the original version, Lauren at one point comes upon an Apple computer and declares: "This Mac is $2,000, and that's before adding anything."
"Why would you pay twice the price?" asks Lauren's mom. "I wouldn't," says Lauren, who ends up leaving with a $972 Dell laptop.
In the latest version of the ad, that portion has been edited out. The original ad has been removed from YouTube and other sites by Microsoft, and replaced with a version in which Lauren doesn't talk about how much the Mac costs, but she does say: "It seems like you're paying a lot for the brand."
Microsoft: Focus of ads is unchanged
"We slightly adjusted the ads to reflect the updated pricing of the Mac laptop shown in the TV advertisement," a Microsoft spokeswoman said in a statement. "This does not change the focus of the campaign, which is to showcase the value and choice of the PC." Crispin declined to comment. Apple did not immediately return calls.
It's a minor tweak in terms of the story arc of the ad, but in legal terms it could make a world of a difference; there is precedent for marketers being forced to yank outdated comparison ads. In a classic case, Ford pulled commercials for its Freestar minivan in 2004 after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Chrysler's legal department pointing out that claims in the Ford ads were outdated.