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$500 million in advertising??? Did I use the Jump the Shark joke already?

Let’s recap.

Apple has spent the last 2+ years mocking Windows Vista in advertising. God knows what they’ve spent on these ads over this time, but whatever.

Microsoft, to their detriment, failed to respond to these ads for almost two years. They did, however, spend this time improving Vista, most notably with Service Pack 1 (SP1) and the many other updates that shipped before and since. It’s worth noting, too, that the biggest problems with Vista were caused by third parties in the Windows ecosystem, but whatever.

This year, finally, Microsoft decided to respond to Apple’s ads—many of which made untrue claims, by the way—with their own series of ads. These include The Mohave Experiments ads, the Gates/Seinfeld series, and, of course, the excellent I’m A PC ads, which celebrate the diversity of the one billion plus PC users worldwide and what they accomplish every day with Windows. These latter ads, especially, make the Apple “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads look arrogant and out of touch. Because they are.

Apple responded, as only they can, with more “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads. (Hey, stick to what you know.) These included some ads that focused, inexplicably, on Microsoft’s advertising campaigns and how the software giant should have spent that money—$300 million, supposedly, though Microsoft has never confirmed that number—on “fixing Vista” instead of advertising. As noted above, Microsoft had “fixed” Vista a long long time before the ads appeared. And as I noted at the time, too, maybe Apple itself should have fixed its own incredibly buggy recent products—MobileMe, iPhone/iPhone 3G, and Leopard among them—instead of hypocritically and falsely calling out a competitor. (The Apple Way, incidentally, is ship first, ask questions later. Apple customers are all beta testers. It’s the reverse of how tech products are typically developed.)

Well, guess what?

Apple spent $486 million on advertising last year, $467 million the year before, and $338 million in 2006.


Here’s the thing. Microsoft and Apple both spend a ton of money on advertising. They’re both big companies with big reach. Of course, Microsoft has more reach globally while Apple plays mostly in the US and other rich nations, which actually puts the numbers in even better perspective. But if the notion of Apple actually producing insider ads—in which it rags on a competitor for, get this, advertising—ads that, by the way, the typical consumers who seem them won’t even get—didn’t rile you at the time, they should now that we know how much it spent.

BTW, Microsoft spent $959.5 million in advertising last year. But then they’re considerably bigger than Apple, compete in far more product segments, and are in far more markets worldwide. So that makes sense. And let’s be clear: That budget is for all of the company’s many products but didn’t include any Windows advertising at all. If Microsoft did spend $300 million on advertising Windows this year, that was a first. And it must have spent about, what?, $17 to $19 (not a typo, just a joke) advertising Windows Mobile and Zune combined in the past year. Those are the only two other Microsoft products that compete with Apple products.

So. Apple spent more on ads over the past three years at least than Microsoft did on its competitive products. And it was Apple, not Microsoft, that then released ads mocking the other company … for spending money advertising.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Thanks to the many people who wrote in about this.

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