I really hate bad journalism. Unfortunately, that seems to be the norm these days. Today, Fortune ran an article with the headline How Microsoft Put Apple on the Defensive on its Apple 2.0 blog.
The point of this article is that the Apple faithful are "on the defensive" because of the Lauren commercial. Now, I think it's fair to say I'm one of the "Apple faithful", as are most of my professional and many of my personal acquaintances. I, personally, haven't seen a shred of defensiveness. Moderate amusement and head-shaking? Yeah. More laughs at Microsoft's expense? Sure. A reinforced opinion that Microsoft's marketing team just doesn't "get it"? Well, of couse.
But defensive? Nope. Nobody feels threatened by this at all. It's a silly ad. If you were to do this with any other product, the inherent silliness would be blatantly obvious. Heck, to me, it's blatantly obvious here, but apparently Microsoft and Fortune don't see it.
If you were to, say, offer to buy somebody a free car as long as they could find one under $10,000, and then sent them off to the Lexus dealer, people would laugh in your face. Lexus doesn't try to compete in the sub-$10,000 market, so sending somebody there to look for a sub-$10,000 car is just assinine, and actually going there to test drive a car with a budget of $10,000 is flat-out idiotic.
The first words that jump to my mind when I saw this commercial were "horribly contrived", followed by "passive aggressive" ("annoying redhead" entered my head also, I must admit). If you want to accuse Mac users of being elitists, at least have the balls to come out and say it outright. This pejorative "I'm not cool enough" crap is the kind of thing you'd expect to see out of an unpopular third-grader who didn't get picked first for dodgeball.
Let's be frank: in an economy like this, there is a strong idea at the heart of this ad: if you have a small budget, you can get a decent computer for fairly little money if you don't mind buying technology that is already obsolete and don't mind putting up with Windows and the various,spyware, crapware adware, and other baggage that comes pre-installed on these machines. Acting like a pouty adolescent is hardly the best way to capitalize on that message, however. There are people with whom the underlying message would resonate, but (call me crazy) I really doubt you're going to entice those people by telling them they're not cool and can't afford the stuff that is cool. I know that was meant as a backhanded swipe at Apple, but it's not going to read that way to the iPod generation, many of whom actually do think Apple's products are pretty cool. I mean, other than Steve Balmer's kids, do you know many young people who don't either have or want an iPod?
So, if anyone's being defensive here, it's Microsoft. If you can't focus on what makes your product better and need to resort to childish name-calling of your opponent, then you don't have much confidence that your product is any good. Understandable when your product is Vista, but still, let's be honest about who's on the defensive.