Normally, I’m not a fan of advertising that makes fun of–or even mentions–your competition. At best such advertising usually ends up making the advertiser look whiny, petty or obnoxious; at worst, it can inadvertently boost awareness and even the image of the competition. If you do decide to go after your competition in your advertising, make sure you do so with exceptional intelligence, savvy and grace. And while you’re at it, make sure the competitor you’re taking on is bigger than you.
In other words, make sure you’re the world’s best marketer: Apple.
Has any company in recent memory–or ever–skewered its competition with more impact or more class than Apple? Its marvelous “Mac vs. PC” campaign is relentlessly brilliant in the way it pokes fun at computers that use Microsoft’s Windows operating system. Yet as devastating as these commercials are, they don’t make Apple look like cheap-shot artists; on the contrary, they reinforce a brand persona that is very clever, refreshing and likable.
That is quite a testament to the outstanding writing and acting featured in this campaign. John Hodgman is hysterical as the doughy, somewhat clueless and utterly insecure PC, who looks like he might occasionally hang with–and perhaps even be related to–Bill Gates. In stark contrast stands Justin Long‘s Mac, a cool, calm and quietly confident hipster who comes across as a younger and humbler Steve Jobs. Mac or PC–whom would you rather have a drink with?
Apple’s latest ad, which tackles Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system, may just be their best effort yet. Rather than say anything specific about Windows 7, the ad simply reminds viewers of past problems associated with its predecessors. Given that Windows 7 appears to be getting pretty favorable reviews in the press, this tactic is a wise one; its unspoken message is, “Don’t be fooled–again–by anything you hear about the latest incarnation of Windows.”
It may be that Microsoft has in fact finally designed an operating system that is close to matching Apple’s high standards. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the quality of their marketing–while improving–is still only half as strong as Apple’s.
Which I guess means that Apple rates a 14 to Windows’ 7.