Speaking of Windows Vista Advertising and Mac ads


Todd shows us the new Lost previews sponsored by Microsoft. I’m not a marketing person (please, let’s not even go there again…i’m a marketing enthusiast maybe), but I think that one thing that people often don’t understand well is the relationship between the advertising/marketing vehicle and the target market, and whether contextual relevance is required. For example, many people might think that the best place to advertise for Vista is at a computer store or developers conference; somewhere where the competition for mind share (not to mention eyeballs may be great.


So while there may be no contextual relevance between Vista and Lost, for example, market research may show that developers and IT/business decision makers make up a large percentage of the Lost viewership. You can advertise on the back of a bus if it’s going through the right neighborhood.


 I always rather enjoy the advertising that makes you think about how it was targeted. It offers you some insight into the psychographics of the people that are most likely to come across the advertisement. Now, if I had to have a conversation with a third part software developer, I might ask if they saw the last episode of Lost. It would be a short conversation, because I don’t watch Lost, but at least it wold be a start. I’d go into the conversation possibly knowing a little more about that person.


Of course the ability of an ad to touch your target market relative to the price , although simplistically stated, is what effective advertising is all about; along with the ability of the ad content to impact perceptions or drive behavior (depending on whether it’s branding or product advertising…whew, I sound like marketing 101 and that’s about as deep as I care to go without making a fool of myself).


It’s funny to see points made on Todd’s blog about John Hodgman being more likable in the Mac ads. I think that is what I said way back when they started. Did I remember to thank Steve Jobs for the free advertising? There’s already an “us versus them” mentality among many Mac heads. So I would see the ads as more of a branding exercise…reinfiocement so to speak. I don’t see them really swaying PC users and although I perceive a bit of a wobbly call to action as they talk about the features of the Mac relative to the PC, I think that viewers are too sucked into to the personalities and the novelty to really internalize the product features that much. So great marketing in that they are interesting and people form opinions about them but I, too, would be interested in hearing if they have driven sales in any way.

Comments (22)

  1. John Walker says:

    Interesting post for sure. I’m sure the Mac ads hit a note with mac enthusiasts and probably with younger hip users. In reality, though, the vast majority of businesses out there use Windows PC’s. I really don’t see that changing much at all in the mid-term. Whether it will change 5-10 years out, that is something to watch.

  2. Rosyna says:

    "There’s already an "us versus them" mentality among many Mac heads. "

    Doesn’t calling them Mac heads make that an us vs them statement?

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    I don’t think that’s a negative statement. I don’t take offense when someone calls me a "Microsoftie".

    If people who followed the Grateful Dead called themelves Dead-heads, should we assume that it was en exercise in self-loating of that adding the word "head" to the end of something means you are an enthusiast. I think I have already established that I am not a Mac enthusiast.

  4. Christine says:

    I think the reason a lot of young people like Macs is (besides the smarmy marketing), the attractiveness of Safari.  Those widgets look so fun and the experience of that OS is much sexier.  But from what I’ve seen of the Vista (I went to Best Buy to try it out), it’s got the widgets and a much more fashionable skin–in fact, it’s much like Safari without the high cost of compatible software or the need to ship it off to headquarters when it goes on the blitz.

    I’m excited to pick out my new desktop; I’ve been waiting for Vista to come out before I buy one.

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hey Christine, it seems the Vista interface is getting many positive reviews. Glad you like it! I have to say that when it comes to consumer advertising, Apple does a great job. I was just thinking yesterday about how their iPod ads really stick in the brain…at least the music they select. It makes them automatically cool, whether they are cool or not (somehow cool music plus rolerskates stall managed to be cool…go figure). The slacker ads were obviously of a different sort but I suspect that they thought if they were going to gain any market share in that space, they were going to have to go head-to-head. What they ended up with were ads that generated buzz but I’m not sure they were actually effective. That’s one of those things that is so hard to measure.

  6. Jim S says:

    If someone gave you a new mac, would you use it?

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hmm, I would be happy to try it out to see how the other half lives. But I wouldn’t see myself running a mac side-by-side with my PC on my desk. I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to get at. I don’t see much of a value proposition for me personally to use a mac. I’m always open to experiencing competitors products…in fact I like to. So I’d be more likely to give it a try at the mac store than setting something up in my house (as if the mac fairy was going to make a stop off at my house). : )

    So I guess if I just take your question at face value, the answer is no. But if I knew someone who had one and they wanted me to try it, then I would.

  8. Sarah Welstead says:

    RE:  Measuring the efficacy of Mac ads

    According to Forbes magazine, Apple sales in the Americas are up 30% in Q1 of 2007 (http://www.forbes.com/technology/2007/02/06/jobs-apple-drm-tech-media-cx_lh_0206jobs.html ).  You’re right when you say that it can be hard to draw a straight line from an ad to a sale, but marketers know that when an ad or series of ads takes on a life of its own (i.e. all the spoofs of the Mac series on YouTube; the British series of ads, etc.), it’s safe to say that they have increased brand awareness and therefore increased sales.

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    That link doesn’t really have anything to do with the ads though. It’s safe to say that ads increase brand awareness and therefore increase sales (to paraphrase what you said), except with they don’t. Apples increasing sales may have nothing to do with the Mac, but rather with the iPod.

    I remain unconvinced that those ads are driving mac sales.

  10. Sarah Welstead says:

    According to Gartner Group (and another research firm whose name escapes me), Apple’s desktop market share has risen from 2.88% in Q4 2004 to 5.8% in Q3 2006.

    Increased brand awareness DOES increase sales:  Brand awareness has been demonstrated to increase the rate of conversion (from ‘browser’ to ‘buyer’), while decreasing the number of interactions required for conversion.  (There’s all kinds of ‘real’ research from proper university professors and marketing professionals to back this up.)

    In layman’s terms, the more you help people to feel comfortable with a brand, the more likely they are to buy it.  You’re absolutely right that the iPod has had a huge effect in making people feel more comfortable with Apple as a brand, and has allowed them to buy into Apple’s coolness factor without actually committing to a $2000 computer purchase, and that this in turn has led to more sales of Apple computers.

    Apple is employing a complex, multi-pronged strategy designed to leverage the inherent sexiness/coolness factor of the products, and we could talk for hours about exactly how much the ads are contributing to sales, vs how much the iPods are, etc.

    However, the reason I know the ads are working is simple:  If I run tv ads for any client, which are then picked up virally (i.e. on YouTube, spoofs on MadTV, etc.), without the client doing anything else differently (i.e. without a change in product or services or price or anything else), I can count on a 5-20% increase in sales (the percentage will depend on the industry and the direction it’s moving already) over the lifecycle of the viral attention.  Doesn’t matter if it’s cereal or bug spray or condoms – if people start talking about it at the water cooler, it’s driving sales.

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    You still aren’t proving to me that the advertisements have a direct correlation to the increase in sales. You can say that because that ads exist and the sales go up, that they are the cause but that is ignoring many other possible factors. You have proven coexistance, not causality. I understand basic marketing concepts. However, the connection remains unproven.

    Just because ads go viral does not mean they are producing sales. I look at a number of ads, viral and otherwise, that I enjoy and still don’t purchase the product.

  12. KW says:

    …..Apple sales certianly went up…according to Apple’s press release (Jan 17, 2007), Mac grew 28% and iPOD grew 50% over the year-ago quarter. But I would have to agree with Heather that the increase in sales may have nothing to do with the ads. Ads are ads…they create awareness, but they may not create the desire to buy a Mac tomorrow. I see Burger King and Subway ads on TV everyday, but I have not bought a single sandwich from them for ages.

    So, what really drove the sales up? Here is what I think… 1) Apple refreshed the whole line of Mac with new processors from Intel that are faster (40% compared to the old chip), better and consume less battery. This enables graphic designers to do their work faster, created new usage model…etc. 2) Mac’s pricing is much more competitive these days. You can get a pretty good iMac / MacBook for abt $1k. 3) The whole iPOD economy. They make so much money from these little devices…..from hardware to songs, movies and also from a bunch of accessories and licensing. If you have beeen to CES and MacWorld this year, you will notice that everyone is selling iPod accessories (some MS Zune’s accessories too). iPOD is also a great marketing tool for Mac. Apple actually increased their Mac sales because folks who own an iPod, also want to own a Mac.

  13. KW said:

    "Ads are ads…they create awareness, but they may not create the desire to buy a Mac tomorrow."

    Um, awareness is the first step in the purchasing process.  So in that sense, if they are driving awareness, they are driving sales, ultimately.

    What’s more, as I said, advertising isn’t always about buying a Mac ‘tomorrow’ – all the people who have been buying iPods in the past 3 years are now coming due for a new computer, and the ads are quite clearly designed to help reluctant PC users ‘over the hump’ – to get them to feel more comfortable with their choice.

    Heather said:

    "Just because ads go viral does not mean they are producing sales. I look at a number of ads, viral and otherwise, that I enjoy and still don’t purchase the product."

    Sure, I look at funny viral ads for condoms  all the time but don’t buy the product.  It doesn’t matter – I’m not the target.  People aged 18-34 living in urban environments are the target, and they DO buy condoms when ads go viral (Trojan was my client for a long time).  

    You are not the target for these ads, so perhaps it’s not surprising that you are reluctant to concede that they are working; and you don’t know me, so it’s not surprising that you wouldn’t take my word for it that they’re working either.

    So I called Apple (who is one of our clients), and they say that according to their marketing department and the stats they’ve had from the ad agency and PR firm, there is a demonstrable connection between the ads and sales (they have tracked spikes in sales to correlate with the advertising heavy-ups).

    So you don’t have to take my word for it.

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Of course they are going to say that. I’d love to know how they are measuring it. It’s not that I am reluctant to concede, it’s that there hasn’t been anything said that draws a direct connection between the ads and the sales. It’s nothing personal…I just need proof.

  15. Sarah Welstead says:

    "Proof" of a straight line between any broadcast media advertising – like tv, radio, outdoor (billboards, etc.) and print – is always an issue, for any advertising campaign for any brand, and typically, it’s measured in the way I said Apple was doing it this time:  tracking spikes in sales that correspond to media heavy-ups in specific markets.  

    Meaning:  They monitor sales in a given geographic area, then run the commercials for 4 weeks, then see what’s happened to sales during that 4 week period, while adjusting for other factors.  If the sales in the advertised-to region show a bigger percentage increase in sales than a non-advertised-to region during the same period, the conclusion is that – given that all other factors were the same – the ads had a measurable impact on sales.

    This is one of the interesting consequences of online media:  Nobody ‘clicks through’ a tv commercial – that doesn’t mean that television advertising doesn’t work.  And don’t forget, an individual has to interact with a brand 4-7 times before s/he makes a purchasing decision – the purchasing process really isn’t as simple as ‘run an ad today, sell more computers tomorrow’.

  16. Preston says:

    It seems like Windows Vista looks more like the Mac operating system.  I’m guessing those get a Mac commercials influenced Microsoft’s strategies.  Would it be wrong to say that Apple will be more dominate than Microsoft in the near future?  Apple has the edge at schools.  Apple is viewed as "cool" while Microsoft seems to appeal more to businesses.  The point is this: The youth is the future.  In our fast-paced world people are looking for simplicity and purity.  As Apple will adapt to the business appeal and as Microsoft is tries to appeal more to multimedia, the two will start to look more and more similar.  

  17. Paul says:

    There is no question that the Apple ads work for many targeted segments.  I would suggest that one of those segments is PC/Microsoft OS users who:

    – are tired of spending too much time maintaining their PCs

    – believe that the industry should be mature enough that things just work

    – are uncomfortable with the Vista upgrade for any number of reasons

    – believe that the Windows environment has overshot the needs of the average user, without delivering ironclad reliability and support (this is a prime indicator of a market which is ripe for disruption / disruptive innovation, which I believe that the traditional PC market is)

    Apple’s ads are very effective messages for amplifying doubts that the existing PC user fitting this description already has, and pushing that person past the tipping point.  They make it acceptable for that person to consider changing.  There is also a complex interplay of cool factor, iPod crossover, etc.

    Now, I know I’m posting on a MS blog, and many here aren’t open to the possibility that any of the above bullet points are true.  The point is, it doesn’t matter whether you believe they are or not. There is a large and growing number of people who do fit in this category, and that group is very much affected by these ads, because the ads prey on those feelings and reinforce them.

    Another thing that Sarah doesn’t explicitly mention is how ads support after-sales satisfaction, and willingness of the  consumer to do their own word-of-mouth promotion.  We all know that WOM is the most trusted and reliable ad/promotion medium, but much of the past few years’ worth of hype about viral effects and WOM neglect to mention that traditional media also feed and amplify these effects. If those ads make a recent purchaser feel smug and cool, they are much more likely to tell everyone they think will listen about their purchase and recommend it to others.  If that same user was embarrassed by the ads, they would be killing WOM.

    I don’t want to get into how statisticians do their work and establish correlation and confidence factors (there are probably a few thousand mathies at Microsoft who you could ask about this), but beyond a range of uncertainty about a predicted effect, it is absolutely demonstrable statistically that the ads are having a substantial effect.  You don’t have to take Apple’s word for it or believe their PR: the facts speak for themselves.  The change in market share and absolute numbers of units shipped is so huge, that it is indisputable.  The spikes that Sarah describes are the closest you can get to proof for any scientific conclusion based on empirical evidence.

    I believe this (disaffected) segment is the primary target for Apple’s ads.  If you have these beliefs, you can be persuaded, even if for other reasons (such as workplace imposed standards) you continue to use a traditional PC.  In fact, one of the brilliant messages that Apple has succeeded in promulgating is that a MAC is a better place to run Vista (or XP) than the run-of-the-mill PC box, which makes it really OK for the person who’s right on the edge, but not ready to completely defect just yet.

    How can you ‘prove’ this?  Honestly, you only need to establish that it worked on one person to prove it.  But, as any marketer is well aware, it is the whole marketing mix, and the consistency and effectiveness of the message at targeting its audience through the mix that makes a program work.  Apple is doing a lot of things right now, so if you want to say that their browser interface is cooler and therefore it is the sales driver — I guess you can do that, and you’ll probably find at least a few people for whom that statement is true.  Others are positively influenced by the iPhone, some by iTunes, some by the overall quality of Apple’s industrial design, and still others by the Apple storefronts.  But what really matters is that each of those, together with the ads and other promotions are having a dramatic impact on Apple sales.

    It’s perfectly fair to say the ads don’t make an impression on you.  Frankly, most GM and Ford ads make zero impression on me no matter what they’re offering.  Yet, for some segments they do have an effect.  You probably need to find a way to step outside your personal frame of reference to understand the positive effect that Apple’s ads are making and why.  It’s something I suspect that a lot of Microsofties would find difficult to do if they’ve been there for a while (to view the world the way their customers and non-customers do).

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    I don’t mind you posting your opinion on an MS blog. But when it’s something this long, I would prefer that you post it on your own blog and link to it here.

    What you present as fact, I see as opinion. " Honestly, you only need to establish that it worked on one person to prove it." Really? I would love to be in Apples advertising budget reviews. I’m guessing that one person ain’t enough.

    I don’t need to step out of myself. I don’t doubt the existance of people that love Apple. I happened to have recruited a number of people into the marketing research organization here so I know what goes on behind the scenes to rationalize marketing investments. My guess is that similar research is done inside Apple…well, at least I hope so. I know some people that work at Apple and from what i hear, it has more to do with what Steve Jobs wants than what the market wants. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    Until someone can pony up some proof via advertising response testing, I remain unconvinced. Let me be crystal clear: I am not saying that the proof doesn’t exist. I am saying that you have not presented it yet.

  19. Paul says:

    re: where to post.  No problem.  Didn’t intend for it to be long, and it doesn’t fit what I’m changing my blog to.

    re: fact vs opinion.  Statistics and correlation of events (ads to purchases) is fairly well developed as a science.  Although probability-based, if you get to 90%+ confidence, or better than 85% correlation between events that occur consistently, then most people would agree that the data backs up the assertion that the activities are tied together causally.  Causality assertions about most campaigns don’t even approach how overwhelming the data is in this case.  

    Apple’s desktop market share doubled in less than 2 years, and overall sales in the Americas grew 30% in Q1 year over year. And there are clear sales spikes following ads.  It is impossible to run a double-blind test (what would happen in the same period with no advertising), or to completely isolate factors, but any marketer I know would be doing backwards cartwheels if they could present that kind of success as proof of their campaign’s effectiveness.  The data you seek as proof is unlikely to ever be released by Apple, so I guess you’ll remain a doubting Thomas.

    re: Jobs sensibility versus "what the market wants".  Steve has proved a more reliable barometer of what the market wants than any formal research.  The fundamental problem with research that is rarely admitted is that it critically depends on how the test instrument is constructed, and how the questions are asked and interpreted, and that even if all these things are done right, people have a very hard time expressing desire for an invention that hasn’t been created yet.  That’s why the nod always goes to visionary product creators.  Research’s primary value is in evolving a product, and validating what you think is true, not in real innovation or creation.  Also, over-dependence on research causes companies to miss major market/ paradigm shifts.

    I’m no Apple bigot — I have never owned a single Apple product (I might be the last person on the planet to buy an iPod) — but I do believe in data and I can see aesthetics and appreciate real differentiation.

    re: John Hodgman.  You said ‘likable’. Todd said ‘popular’. Not quite the same.  I think ‘sympathetic’ is the right word.  As the top dog, I would not want to be cast in a sympathetic light.  ;o)

  20. HeatherLeigh says:

    re: fact versus opinion, I wou;d agree with you if the environment were more static. With the iPod being such a big deal at the same time, I think there are too many other significant potential impacts on the outcome. Totally agree that the data could be overwhelming. I think even some sample data could be relevant. I know Apple won’t release the data…we wouldn’t either. So you are right…I’ll continue to question. That’s my nature anyway.

    re: Jobs, I am only reacting to what I have been told by people I know there. I would assume that some combo of visionary leadership and customer dynamics would be appropriate. Sometimes customers don’t know what to ask for…sometimes visionaries write checks their developers can’t cash.

    I can definitely appreciate what they have done with the iPod. I’m not a hater…I have some of their products. Hey, they are a partner of ours. Different people have different needs. I think it’s smart of them to try to take advantage of the attention the iPod has afforded them. They get a lot of mileage out their market mojo and I wish we were better at that.

    But I still think that the ads will drive more of us PC heads away from Apple because we don’t identify with that slacker dude.

  21. Sean says:

    Well, I bought a Mac.  Was a PC uber-user for years.  But, Vista was actually what turned me to Mac.  It was (and is) bloated and unproductive, where with a Mac my productivity has increased dramatically.  Also, more and more IT professionals are turning to Macs because of their great reliability.  I’ve had more conversations with IT friends about their recent Mac purchase, or their intent to purchase than at any time in my career.  I think Microsoft’s pure dominance is over, and these ads are targeting those who want to see a way out.

  22. HeatherLeigh says:

    Maybe for their homes, but not in the enterprise. Anyhoo, I’m a PC. You are a Mac. Whatever.