Tag Archives | Advertising

Microsoft Does the Math on the "Apple Tax." Badly.

As I said in my post last Sunday on Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunter” ads, it’s unrealistic to expect TV commercials to contribute to a thoughtful discussion of anything. An exercise in comparison shopping between Windows and PCs that takes place in a sixty-second Microsoft commercial just isn’t going to be fair and balanced, any more than an Apple commercial is going to explain that it’s possible to get respectable Windows laptops for a whole lot less than the cheapest Macs.

But Microsoft’s latest salvo in the Windows-vs.-Mac war isn’t a commercial–it’s a ten-page white paper by veteran analyst Roger Kay (a friendly acquaintance of mine, and, like me, a former IDG employee). Roger is independent and knows the personal computer market as well as anyone on the planet, but his paper was sponsored by Microsoft, which means that even if it’s a third-party take on things, it’s going to be one that the company is comfortable with. But the whole point of vendor-sponsored white papers is bring an independent expert’s analysis and data into a discussion in hopes that it’ll be taken more seriously than mere marketing materials.

Roger’s paper includes a bunch of tables that compare Windows PCs and Macs–sort of like what I’ve been doing, although in less excruciating detail–and an analysis of the cost of ownership of the two platforms that concludes that a family than buys two Macs instead of two Windows machines will pay a cumulative Apple tax of $3,367 over five years.

In his laptop section, Roger compares the white MacBook, new MacBook, and 15-inch MacBook Pro against various notebooks from Dell, HP, and Sony, and finds, unsurprisingly, that the Macs cost more. He shows, for instance, that the $999 MacBook comes with a skimpy 1GB of RAM, a bare-bones 120GB of hard disk space, and Intel’s uninspiring x3100 integrated graphics. For hundreds of dollars less, the chart proves, you can buy a Windows laptop with double the RAM, more than twice the disk space, and better graphics.

Pretty compelling. Except that the $999 MacBook doesn’t come with 1GB of RAM. (It has 2GB.) It doesn’t have a 120GB hard disk. (It’s 160GB.) And it doesn’t have X3100 graphics. (It has the considerably more potent NVIDIA GeForce 9400M.) Here, look for yourself. The analysis is based on the old MacBook configuration that Apple refreshed more than two months ago, but the white paper talks about it in the present tense.

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How Would You Market Windows?

Technologizer on TwitterOver in the comments on my post about Microsoft’s new “Giampaolo ad,” blogger/Microsoft employee Bob Caswell asked me how I’d market Windows. I didn’t give a full-blown answer–hey, I’m grateful that it’s not my problem. I was, however, inspired to pose the same question to my pals over on Twitter (where I’m @harrymccracken and a feed of all Technologizer stories is available at @technologizer). After the jump, you can see what they (and a Facebook friend or three) had to say.
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Microsoft's New Windows Ads: They're a Trap! Bwahahahahahahah!

mousetrapCan we all agree that it’s always a bad idea to mistake advertising for rational discourse? Axe deodorant won’t cause armies of gorgeous women to throw themselves at your feet. I know of no evidence that cows who live in California are any happier than those in other states, nor that their mood impacts the quality of their milk. Cigarette companies would still be claiming that their products were good for your throat if they could get away with it. After thirty years, I’m still unclear about the benefits of being a Pepper. That’s all fine. (Okay, not the part about the cigarette ads.)

So I haven’t taken Microsoft’s new ads with shoppers spurning Macs for HP laptops too seriously. Mostly I’ve mused about why they seem to ignore Microsoft’s own contribution to the PC and used them as a springboard for PC-Mac price comparisons of my own. (I’m happy to say that these posts have prompted dozens of comments by members of the Technologizer community cogently taking both pro-Windows and pro-Mac stances–they make for great reading.)

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Watch Out, Video Games Will Kill You!

change4lifeThere’s a lot of bile flying around over a British government ad campaign that takes a hearty crack at video games.

Change4Life,” a joint effort by the British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research, encourages families to exercise and eat better — noble goals, for sure, except that the adverts behind the initiative use video games as a scapegoat, to the chagrin of the games industry. Most recently, a print ad surfaced with the text “Risk an early death, just do nothing” and an image of a child holding a Playstation controller, looking lethargic. This follows a video from Janaury that shows a clay figure playing a video game, and then zooms in to show fat cells growing inside the body.

So, now there’s an editorial by MCV’s Tim Ingham, taking the British government to task.

“Change4Life’s heart-in-mouth scapegoating of the video games industry is a troubling indictment of a hypocritical Government which flashes us grins when we generate £4 billion a year for its depleted coffers; but which then turns its back and explicitly tells parents that we’re KILLING THEIR CHILDREN,” Ingham writes. He also talks about how the big three console makers “have all moved Heaven and Earth to provide a more socially embedded and (whisper it) healthy interactive experience with this generation of consoles.”

I’m not partial to the “rah-rah, video games are perfect” argument — they are an inherently relaxed pastime, and no amount of controller-waggling can change that — but I wince whenever games are painted as the root of any particular brand of evil.

Still, I’ve got to hand it to the Brits for doing their job. They got eyes on the initiative, which, judging by the Web page, is pretty rational compared to its advertisements. The “60 Active Minutes” section doesn’t specifically attack video games; it only says that “in this modern world [children have] other things to do and plenty of reasons not to go outside and play or run around.”

Sounds about right to me, and it will be a shame if parents don’t get that far, instead taking the ads at face value and fearing video games more than they already do.


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Economic Conditions Leading to More Click Fraud?

Web advertising has always been vulnerable to those who attempt to game the system by clicking on their own site’s advertisements in order to generate additional revenue. This is referred to as “click fraud” and according to Click Forensics, a “traffic quality management” firm (whatever that means), it is at it’s highest level ever.

A full 17.1 percent of all clicks on ads in the fourth quarter of 2008 were fraudulent, jumping from 16 percent in the previous quarter, and from 16.6 percent a year ago. Some of the increase could be explained from the rise of the use of botnets: 31.4 percent of fraudulent clicks were due to that, up from 22 percent a year ago.

Click Forensics seems to think that the bad economy has something to do with the increase in click fraud. “Based on the data we tracked in Q4 2008, it seems that the online advertising industry is not immune to the growing tide of cybercrime during this recessionary period,” the firm’s president Tom Cuthbert said.

Google uses the firm in its AdSense program to report to its customers on the quality of clicks. No doubt click fraud affects the search giant most, since it is king when it comes to search advertising.


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Pandora Placing Ads in Audio Streams

pandoraWith Pandora’s struggle to stay afloat in the news a lot lately, the idea that ads may make their way into its streams did not seem such an impossibility. While it was nice to listen to the company’s offerings free of advertisement, Pandora has come dangerously close several times to shutting down simply because it was running out of money.

Venture capital, especially in this economy, is only going to get you so far.

The ads at least for now are not that intrusive. They are 15-seconds in length, and are used sporadically. Chief exec Tim Westergren says they have actually been around for quite awhile, although in recent days their use has become much more widespread.

The ads only appear in the desktop stream, but ads for the mobile stream are in the works. It may be a good idea: for whatever reason, click-through rates are higher in Pandora’s mobile applications, the company says. They will be targeted based on a user’s profile.

Westergren seems to be trying to deny this has anything to do with its ongoing issues over royalty rates, which I have a hard time believing. If you know you’re going to be paying more for something, you’re going to try to make more more money to recoup your losses. That’s just common sense.


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UK Ad Authority: Apple Misrepresented iPhone Web Surfing Speed

iphone2Apple’s iPhone commercials are running the risk of getting lumped in with herbal Viagra ads. The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has forced the company to pull a commercial that the ASA had proven exaggerated the speed of the iPhone’s 3G network connection.

The iPhone’s Achilles heel when it comes to such claims is that cellular network speeds are not uniform, and Wi-Fi access is spotty. The “real” Internet that it portrays doesn’t really exist.

The ASA upheld the complaints of 17 individuals who said that they were misled by the advertisement. The ad showed Web pages and Google Map data loading in split second time, bracketed by a disclaimer that network speeds vary by location. The company told the BBC that its claims were, “relative not absolute.”

Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have put his foot in his mouth when he said that the iPhone provided the “real” Internet. That statement was universally panned by pundits and customers alike after they experienced the real iPhone on real networks.

Furthermore, Apple has yet to deliver in its self-imposed deadline for bringing background-processing capabilities to the iPhone, and its e-mail delivery has been more pull than push from the onset–requiring the user to select shorter intervals for checking mail. As much as I enjoy my iPhone, the company would be better served by executing on its promises, and it should stop making make claims that it can’t deliver on.


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A Brief History of Defunct Electronics Chains in the Form of Old TV Ads

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Today’s news that Circuit City, American’s second-largest electronics retailer, has filed for bankruptcy left me sad. And, oddly enough, nostalgic. The City isn’t going out of business, but as I reflected on its woes I thought about all the electronics chains I’ve shopped at over the years–the vast majority of which are no longer with us. (If Circuit City were to close its doors, it would leave only Best Buy and RadioShack as truly national chains focused solely on consumer electronics of all sorts, right?)

Once I got nostalgic, I did what I often do in such situations: I headed to YouTube. Which is rife with old commercials for defunct electronics retailers. Many of these chains basically did themselves in through poor management or inability to change with the times, and I thought some of them were shabby even when I did business with them; But it’s fun to get reacquainted with them through the miracle of streaming video.

After the jump, a look back, mostly in chronological order sorted by the year of the chain’s demise (click on the year for more details on the circumstances of its death).

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