Microsoft’s Latest Ads Aim for Value-Conscious Consumers

Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” ad campaign has taken a new spin, playing up to value-conscious consumers and takes aim at pricier Apple computers.

“The economy has changed dramatically over the past few months. People are thinking about major purchases, people are thinking about value, and what they want from every dollar. The value of shopping is changing,” said Gayle Troberman, general manager of advertising and customer management at Microsoft.

So, Microsoft has adapted its advertising online and on television to reflect new economic realities. In its online campaign, Microsoft takes shots at Apple for its pricier laptop offerings compared to less expensive machines running on Windows.

“Spin Before You Spend,” reads one online ad from Microsoft on the left-hand side of The New York Times’ nameplate. “Windows, Life Without Walls,” reads a second one on the right-hand side of the Times’ nameplate. Immediately below the nameplate is an online unit, called the spinner; it is designed to look like two side-by-side reels from a slot machine and invites viewers to “spin” the ad by clicking on the unit. While the unit spins, viewers can turn on sound that dings like a slot machine.

In one instance, a “spin” turns up a three-cell reel that features images and text showing a book of matches, a mint, and a “MacBook Pro 17″ $2799*” A second reel shows “Lenovo Y730 $1499*,” Zune 8GB, and 365 lattes. (Other variations are featured, too, but each one compares a computer that runs on Apple’s operating system and another laptop manufacturer using Microsoft Windows.)

Troberman said the campaign is not intended to be a direct attack on Apple.

Clicking on the “Choose a PC” message in the ad takes Web site visitors to a landing page on Windows.com that helps match up a person to a PC. PC shoppers are characterized as gamer, designer, jetsetter, parent, socialite, and all around.

Microsoft enlisted Crispin Porter + Bogusky for the campaign that includes television commercials in addition to the online creative.

For the “Laptop Hunters” TV commercials, the agency recruited people in the market for new computers through Craigslist under the guise of a focus group. With price-points between $700 and $2,000, the agency followed the individuals with cameras to electronics stories to shop for laptops. The resulting commercials are unscripted clips from the research. In the end, Crispin revealed the purpose of the study was in fact a campaign for Microsoft. Participants were allowed to keep the laptops they selected plus the difference in money from what they had originally planned to spend and what they actually spent.

The first commercial, which aired last week during March Madness games, features a woman named Lauren who was searching for a 17″ screen laptop with a budget of $1,000.

“It’s all part of the same [campaign], but for online you have to do things a little more interactive,” said Rob Reilly, executive creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, while comparing the online and television ads.

<>Thus, the “spinner” became incorporated into the online campaign’s design. “It’s such an infinite range, you kind of don’t want to stop spinning it,” Reilly said.

Besides The New York Times, Microsoft would not disclose where else the spinner ad would run. “We’ve targeted sites across the Web to reach our audience, to reach those who are in the market for PCs. That was a homepage buy, but there will certainly be ads running in other places across the Times and a wide range of other sites across the Web,” said Troberman.

Earlier phases of the “I’m a PC” campaign include the original “I’m a PC” with shots of people from around the world stating their use of the Windows brand. The second stage, “The Rookies,” featured children between the ages of four and eight using laptops to stitch together photos to make a single, cohesive image, and complete other creative accomplishments.

Currently the banners have a different look, though elements on the landing page include the TV commercials. There will likely be more banner ads to come, though Microsoft is not ready to talk about it. “We’ll continue to do more executions on an ongoing basis,” said Troberman. “The creative process is never done. We’ll keep doing more executions based on the Hunt in an online campaign, depending on the reaction, and based on what’s working with consumers.”

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