Apple campaign leaves sour taste

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There's no bite in Apple's plan to bring down Microsoft's Vista.

Sure, it makes sense that the distant No. 2 player in personal computers would want to go for the giant's jugular. In a battle between such competitors, it's not surprising the venom would ooze into the advertising. And certainly, one could argue that most recent Apple spots are a natural extension of its "Mac vs. PC" campaign, which is funny in its subtlety.

But the wider, blatantly retaliatory effort with direct attacks on Microsoft-T-shirts on salespeople that read "Go Beyond Vista"-seems sophomoric. At the very least, it is not a display of the kind of creative execution Apple is known for.

Messaging that uses scare tactics to warn of Vista's problems and intrusively invites, via e-mail, PC users to upgrade to Macs is simplistic and decidedly un-Mac. It's something you'd expect from car-insurance companies or tax preparers. Not from the company that beckoned us to Think Different.

It's not the first time Apple's gone head-to-head with PC technology in its ads. In 1998, for example, it challenged the assumption that Intel's Pentium II processor was the "fastest in the world."

If consumers are having real difficulties with Vista, that's indeed a plum opportunity for Apple. But rather than repeatedly name-dropping Vista, Apple would be better served taking the creative high road and championing its own unique attributes. Analysts say it's unlikely that Apple, with its minuscule market share, could inflict much damage on Microsoft anyway. So what's the point? Let Vista kill Vista, if that's what unfolds. Besides, Apple's calling attention to Vista in its own campaign just brings Vista more attention.

Perhaps Apple would be missing an opportunity in not attacking Vista. After all, this is a chance for the marketer to cause apprehension about a product that most average PC users might not give much thought.

Still, this is Apple, the company that sledge-hammered us in 1984. Can't it find a more creative, more effective way to spend its marketing budget?
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