About a week ago, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner gave a keynote speech at Microsoft's 2009 Worldwide Partner Conference and relayed a story about how he had recently received a call from Apple Legal asking that Microsoft stop running one of its much-publicized "Laptop Hunter" ads because it advertised prices that were higher than what Apple was actually selling.
And so we’ve been running these PC value ads. Just giving people saying, hey, what are you looking to spend? “Oh, I’m looking to spend less than $1,000.” Well we’ll give you $1,000. Go in and look and see what you can buy. And they come out and they just show them. Those are completely unscripted commercials.
And you know why I know they’re working? Because two weeks ago we got a call from the Apple legal department saying, hey — this is a true story — saying, “Hey, you need to stop running those ads, we lowered our prices.” They took like $100 off or something. It was the greatest single phone call in the history that I’ve ever taken in business. (Applause.)
I did cartwheels down the hallway. At first I said, “Is this a joke? Who are you?” Not understanding what an opportunity. And so we’re just going to keep running them and running them and running them.
Well that sure makes for a nice little motivational speech for Microsoft fans, but I was initially skeptical of the story. If Apple was so concerned about misinformation in one of Microsoft's commercials, wouldn't standard operating procedure be to send an official letter from its legal department? Since when, I wondered, did Apple Legal pick up the phone and ask for favors? Usually, parties on the receiving end of an Apple legal concern are told what to do, not asked.
Because of that, I sort of haphazardly dismissed the story as overzealous Microsoft cheerleading.
So you can imagine my surprise when Microsoft actually made editing adjustments to one of its commercials. It turned out that Apple had indeed picked up the phone and called Redmond!
In case you're wondering which Laptop Hunter ad was the focus of Apple's ire, it was its most recent commercial starring Lauren and her Mom as they peruse through a store in search of a computer for under $1700. In the original ad, Lauren dismissively notes about the Mac, "This Mac is $2,000, and that's before adding anything." Laruen's Mom then chimes in, "Why would you pay twice the price?" Laruen confidently responds, "I wouldn't."
In the end, Lauren leaves with a $972 Dell as her mother comically notes that Lauren always gets what she wants.
But as any Mac fan who saw the commercial could tell you, the comparison was misguided. Lauren was comparing the highest-end MacBook Pro she could find with much less capable and powerful PC machines - not exactly fair comparison shopping. Since the ad was first aired, however, Apple has made sweeping price cuts across its entire MacBook Pro line and apparently Apple was none too thrilled that Microsoft was still running ads that referenced an out of date price point.
In the new ad, Lauren makes no reference to Mac pricing and instead exclaims, "it seems like you're paying a lot for the brand."
What Microsoft doesn't seem to get, though, is that people already know that Apple products are more expensive. The difference is that Mac users are willing to pay a premium price for a premium piece of technology. Advertising affordability, therefore, isn't exactly the best way to keep PC users from switching to the Mac, especially in light of new research data which pegs Apple as owning 90% of the computer market for machines that cost more than $1000.
You can take a look at Microsoft's new and updated "Lauren" ad below.