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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Mac News > Editorial: The 'PC Does What' ad campaign embarrasses us all

Editorial: The 'PC Does What' ad campaign embarrasses us all
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NewsPoster
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Oct 16, 2015, 04:47 PM
 
From rumor to fact in 48 hours. The big PC powerhouses Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, and HP have launched a new program, reminding web surfers and cable watchers about all the things that computers can do. We have two difficulties about criticizing the new "PC Does What" ad campaign: where to begin and how long have you got? There is not one single chance that you saw this and didn't wonder how in the world it ever came into anyone's head, let alone the world.

Let's be clear, here: plenty of people don't like Apple's famous "Think Different" line, or they believe it should be Think Differently. It shouldn't, by the way. Name us an Olympic athlete. When you say his or her name you think winner, don't you? You think fast and strong. Think strong, think fast. Think different.

Take a minute. Check this out.



You can get that and still dislike it, but you remember "Think Different." Right now, you think nobody will ever forget the inconceivable stupidity of "PC Does What," but you're wrong. Not about inconceivable stupidity, but about remembering it. You've forgotten the Windows 7 Launch Party videos, haven't you? You've forgotten Jerry Seinfeld and that brilliant comedian Bill Gates making us laugh.

Actually, now you remember these, and the word "inconceivable" falters. It's practically predictable stupidity instead, and in fact you could've predicted it. You could, we could, the makers should. We secretly suspect that they did.

Tonight over the dinner tables of advertising creatives, children are asking their mommy or daddy what they did today, and those parents are changing the subject. Tomorrow, when they're back in the office and can't change the subject quite so easily, they will be pointing to articles like this one that mention the ad. Clearly it's a success: everyone is talking about it. Also, the client was keen. No, the client insisted. In fact, we did have a much better campaign, but the client demanded this one.




They'll be talking job-saving nonsense, but they'll also be talking the truth. Microsoft, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, and HP agreeing on an artistic endeavour is like asking the Three Stooges to call Laurel and Hardy and work on US fiscal policy. There surely is not one single possible ad campaign that would survive any group of companies. That's the other difference with Apple's "Think Different:" there was only one company. There was only Apple and its ad company, ChiatDay.

More than that, we'd bet you money that each of these firms put the ads in front of panels of users. Nobody ever got fired for writing down what users said in testing, but we'll wait while you search for any product or service that was ever improved by user groups.

Ad writing is an art, and computers are technology: you would say that the two disciplines are blurring together, but they are still separate, it's just that neither side comprehends that. Geeks think specifications speak for themselves: of course you want 64 bits and 3.4GHz. Whatever those are. Artists and creatives, oddly, can't create or artistically convey why their own work is so useful.

Have an example: we were in a heated pub chat with the lead accountant of a major public transportation company. She said that she hated marketing and advertising because you couldn't measure it, there was no way to prove that it ever sold one more ticket. Quick as a flash, eight hours after she left, we realized the truth: right there and then we could've told her the exact figure. We could and you can tell her precisely what percentage of ticket sales are down to marketing and advertising: it's 100 per cent.

Don't agree? Take a major transportation company and remove all ads. Take away signage at the ticket sales booths, that's just needless advertising. Stop printing the firm's name on the ticket. Close down the website: that's just faff, you're only doing websites because people tell you that you must. You don't really need them.

You wouldn't lose all your customers overnight, but you would lose very single one of them over time. Just through awareness: people have to know you exist before they will buy from you.

What these "PC Does What" companies are trying is much harder: they want awareness, but they can't decide whether they want it for PCs, or for themselves, so they think they can have both. The Microsoft company is crucially important to everyone who works at Microsoft, and so they all assume it is to everyone else.

It's the same with each of these firms, and each of these firms also assumes that simply telling us that there are PCs is enough to get us to buy. Or rather -- and this is where they most specfiically and truly insult us all -- that if they just tell us about PCs and have bright colors, then we'll buy.

We wish this weren't true, and it makes us cringe as much as "PC Does What," but there is still deep sexism in technology and the advertising that technologists pay for. Trade shows still have barely-dressed women pointing at screens, for instance. The latest update to Trainline, a UK-based iPhone app, boasts that you can book your train tickets through it, and then automatically send the details to your wife.

Maybe they believe women stay at home, worrying about their husbands out there on the dangerous railroads, or maybe they want to believe that, but you know this: no woman wrote that Tramline description. You know this too: no real-life actual human woman has ever looked at PCs, or us, the way the recurring lightly-dressed model does in the "PC Does What" adverts.

Look at Apple: they do have plenty of ads that show us those ridiculously over-the-top space-age shots of rounded iPhone corners. Yet their best ones aren't about the products at all. They're about what you can do with an iPhone or a Mac. Think of how rarely Apple actually says the name of the product, yet you get it. You understand what they're telling you, so they understand what they're selling you.

You can well say that we're all selfish people, in that we're only interested in ourselves and in what products can do for us. However, nobody was born wanting an Apple product, nobody was born wanting a Microsoft one. To get us to buy something, don't insult us; convince us that it's worth our while.

Also, if you're going to write a sentence that every actor will say in every awful YouTube ad you do, have it make sense. No, really make sense. "Think Different" troubles many grammarians, but even if you don't buy our explanation of it, you know that you can actually say it. You can say the words "Think different." You cannot say "PC does what?" without looking -- and feeling -- stupid. We'd have told Microsoft, Dell, and the rest this -- but now we don't have to: watch any of the ads.

-William Gallagher
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Oct 16, 2015 at 05:18 PM. )
     
pottymouth
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Oct 16, 2015, 05:12 PM
 
A sphincter says what?
     
jdonahoe
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Oct 16, 2015, 05:22 PM
 
Next line,

"Can you get that on wheat?"
     
ElectroTech
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Oct 16, 2015, 05:43 PM
 
If I get a new PC, can I fly a helicopter? Can I get a date with that woman? Will I become a clueless doofus who sits in an inflatable raft in the middle of the ocean but surfs the web?
     
JohnFromBeyond
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Oct 16, 2015, 05:58 PM
 
I'm speechless. It is bad on so, so many levels.
     
climacs
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:08 PM
 
"we'll wait while you search for any product or service that was ever improved by user groups." Uh, speaking as someone who sits on these groups fairly frequently... yeah, they do improve products and services. I've seen it happen. OTOH, lazy marketing types who just tally up comments from focus groups and let those lead them by the nose rather than using it to inform their decisions, yeah they are going to fail and come up with things like New Coke.
     
climacs
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:10 PM
 
"the lead accountant of a major public transportation company.... said that she hated marketing and advertising because you couldn't measure it, there was no way to prove that it ever sold one more ticket." And that's why companies that let bean counters make strategic decisions quickly head down the crapper.
     
prl99
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:25 PM
 
I'm trying to understand this commercial. I guess what they're trying to say is that they will be announcing a new product called "PC" next Monday. Are they actually trying to take over the acronym for a personal computer, which includes Macs, and use it for theirs? The things I saw in the commercial included a woman who kept flipping here table/laptop around until she figured out how to use it, a pilot watching a video while he was supposed to be flying, and a stranded person in a lifeboat who somehow kept his equipment dry when his boat sank (which is my lasting impression of this commercial). I didn't really see anything that made me ask whether a PC could do anything that it already does.
     
Makosuke
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:33 PM
 
Wow that is an awful ad.

Forget the fact that the print version looks like something out of the '90s.

Forget the fact that the video ad is painfully awkward, that the tagline makes no sense in or out of context.

The problem is that this isn't selling me anything. Apart from the lady with the convertible tablet (who isn't doing anything with it), we're shown guys in a helicopter using a LAPTOP to play music, followed by a guy in the middle of the ocean with a laptop apparently also using it to listen to music. Both of these things are vastly more easily and conveniently accomplished with a phone.

Listening to music while traveling: Phone. Using the internet while floating around in the ocean: Phone. Even in the context of the ad, the laptops look awkward and out-of-place--my first thought was "why are these guys using a bulky laptop to listen to Highway to the Danger Zone instead of somebody's phone?
     
climacs
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:33 PM
 
a PC lets me play music? Woah! Watch videos? Get outta town, George Jetson!
     
climacs
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:35 PM
 
and I like how they had to put the little text on the screen to tell me what feature they were selling. If that's your idea of storytelling, go find another career.
     
climacs
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:37 PM
 
oh and a 30 year old Kenny Loggins song? Way to stay current, grandpa.
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Oct 16, 2015, 06:40 PM
 
Almost as bad as... "hey, let's start out the iPhone 6s line at 16GB so we get lots of 64GB up-sells."
Yep, stupid decisions hurt, and apparently abound, even within Apple.
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Charles Martin
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Oct 16, 2015, 07:21 PM
 
Steve: um, how is that a stupid decision? Did that not perform precisely the same function when the step up was 32GB, and does it not continue to result in more up-sells?

This is not exactly a sales technique Apple invented -- maybe you haven't been to a fast-food place lately ...
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jpellino
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Oct 16, 2015, 09:08 PM
 
Bottom line, MS shows people doing frivolous, sometimes plain old dumb things with their stuff, while Apple shows people doing stuff that matters.
Just sayin'
     
mac_in_tosh
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Oct 16, 2015, 10:21 PM
 
" while Apple shows people doing stuff that matters "...Stuff that matters? You mean like taking selfies or videos of their cat?
     
Charles Martin
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Oct 17, 2015, 01:41 AM
 
I'm not aware of any Apple ad with people "taking videos of their cat," but perhaps you don't quite understand that what was meant there was "stuff that matters TO THEM." Like documenting their travel or making a family Christmas video (or getting directions, for that matter).

The commercial for PCs above literally shows a fellow stranded in the ocean who is watching videos on his laptop to the point that he's not quite ready to be rescued. I think that fits jellion's definition of "plain old dumb things" pretty well.
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jpellino
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Oct 17, 2015, 10:06 AM
 
Nah, I was thinking more of staying fit, writing symphonies, making art, starting and running a business, teaching, learning, staying in touch with loved ones, writing books... Not so much using a tablet-top to get location on a helo that already has a mapping system whose price has a comma in it to find a guy who's broadcasting his location anyway...
Just sayin'
     
macgurunc
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Oct 17, 2015, 12:05 PM
 
Just think for a moment... that's the ad that got APPROVED... I can only imagine how much worse the ones they rejected must have been (shudder).
     
OldMacGeek
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Oct 17, 2015, 08:49 PM
 
When I got the breathless company e-mail (I work for a company that rhymes with Schmenovo), I cringed. Now that I've actually watched the ad, I'm cringing even more. Yes, Personal Computers can do some amazing things. But that tagline, though . . . . .

Shudder . . .
     
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Oct 17, 2015, 10:51 PM
 
Breaking news: Windows 11 officially renamed "Whaaat?", to be released Oct 19.
     
slapppy
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Oct 17, 2015, 11:51 PM
 
I get it. After PC Frustration, you say "PC does WTF" ?
     
Steve Wilkinson
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Oct 18, 2015, 11:00 PM
 
@ Charles - putting spreadsheets ahead of user experience

yes, it's business 101, and we've seen where that gets most other tech companies in comparison to the old Apple. The new Apple now seems quite on board with business 101 stupidity. Enjoy the remainder or the ride.
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