Windows, Life without Walls: Microsoft Ad Campaign Enters New Phase

Microsoft on Thursday will enter a new phase in its $300 million advertising campaign, one that moves away from the initial ads featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. In the new ads, which push the themes "Windows: Life without Walls" and "I'm a PC," Microsoft directly tackles the Apple's stereotyping of the PC user and focuses on the diversity of both the PC and its users.

The new ads will debut on television Thursday evening but also include print accompaniments in newspapers and magazines. In sharp contrast to Apple's sarcastic and stereotypical "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advertisements, Microsoft does not ridicule (or even mention) its competition. Instead, the ads show the diversity of the PC world and the diversity of those who use PCs. The ads feature some celebrities, but also many regular users from the around the globe and even some Microsoft employees. (Did I spot ClearType guru Bill Hilf in there? I think I did.)

Despite not ever mentioning Apple or the Mac by name, the ads very clearly are designed to counter the snobbery that's regularly on display by Apple, its ads, and it's more vocal fans. Microsoft's approach is far warmer and humble, and much more human.

"This is more than software we're talking about," one print ad reads. "It's about an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way ... of life. Today, more than one billion people worldwide have Windows. Which is just another way of saying we have each other."

Microsoft says the new ads let PC users tell their real stories, countering the "caricatures and stereotypes" offered by Apple. "There was a strong desire for us to take back the narrative," Microsoft general manager David Webster said. He noted that the ads were designed to change the dialogue without dragging Apple threw the mud. Left unsaid, of course, is that that's exactly what Apple's been trying to do to Microsoft and Windows for the past few years.

The ads should also quell criticisms of the Seinfeld/Gates ads, which many found to be vague and off-topic. But Microsoft always intended those ads to be an introduction to a wider series of ads that would get more product-centric over time. And despite the criticisms--many coming from Apple-centric types only--advertising experts say they were overwhelmingly successful. Advertising research firm Zeta Interactive says that Microsoft has garnered "overwhelmingly positive buzz" since the ads debuted.

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