NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- PCs are cheaper than Macs, and Microsoft wants you to know it.
With the recession as its backdrop, Microsoft has finally jumped on the value-messaging bandwagon in a new ad, a 60-second spot dubbed "Laptop Hunters" that will break tonight during the NCAA "March Madness" basketball tournament.
The commercial represents the latest piece of the estimated $300 million ad blitz from Crispin Porter & Bogusky that began last fall and has since taken numerous twists and turns. It started out with a humorous approach, using comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Mr. Microsoft himself, Bill Gates, before taking a prideful turn with "I'm a PC," featuring regular folks and celebrities such as Eva Longoria and Pharrell Williams. That effort was followed by a user-generated component and then the most recent iteration, "Rookies," which features children and is focused on the ease of using PCs.
This time around, Microsoft harps on the affordability PCs can offer cash-strapped consumers in the market for a new computer.
The tack isn't particularly novel, and is probably a bit belated, but the comparison-shopping approach signals a more aggressive play by the market leader in its quest to outrun smaller but cooler and often more expensive competitor Apple.
For the lucky few who were plucked to star in the latest ads, the Redmond, Wash.-based marketer agreed to pay for new computers, provided they found everything they were looking for within a stated budget.
"We went out and we found people who were in the market for a new PC, or a new computer, a laptop," said Crispin's top creative, Alex Bogusky. "We talked to them about what they were looking for, and then we said, 'Well, good news: We've got $1,000, and if you can find it, you can keep it.' ... We just go along and we document their shopping trips, basically. And they shop across a lot of different products, and a few different stores, and they shop Apple products as well."
The first commercial in the series, which airs tonight, features a young woman named Lauren who is seeking a large-screen laptop within a $1,000 budget. Her shopping trip first takes her to a Mac store, but she comes out empty-handed, declaring it sells only one laptop in her price range, and buying it would mean trading down to a smaller screen. "I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person," she laments. In the end, Lauren winds up taking home a $699 Hewlett-Packard Pavillion notebook purchased at Best Buy (which, incidentally, is also one of Crispin's key clients).
"I think what you'll see in the campaign is what you're seeing in the real world today, which is when consumers head to retail and think about what they want and think about how important it is to get good value for their dollar today," said Gayle Troberman, general manager of advertising and customer engagement at Microsoft.
According to Ms. Troberman, the idea of "badges and status" has lost importance over value and functionality. "You're going to see consumers are overwhelmingly selecting PCs, as they always have, judging by the difference in market share," she said.
Indeed, tighter consumer wallets are helping the software giant gain traction over rival Apple. The average price people are paying for a computer today is $689, compared with $873 a year ago, according to NPD Group data from last month. Unit sales of Windows PCs in the U.S. rose 22% year over year, compared with a 16.7% Mac sales decline, according to NPD.
Forthcoming spots, which are slated to roll out one at a time, will feature folks searching for computers at a variety of price points, and with emphasis on different capabilities, such as memory. The value messaging will spill over onto the web, with interactive banner ads, also from Crispin.