Crispin Porter + Bogusky is proving why they are at the top of almost every agency search consultants list. Burger King continues to have same store growth after years of failed campaigns, and changing agencies. VW was almost ready to give up on the US market, again, but have at least started to rebound sales. But what started out as an embarrassingly bad intro for Microsoft with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and then into an “I’m a PC” has now hit pay dirt by not even talking about Microsoft’s products, but by doing a comparison between PC hardware and Apple hardware.
“Laptop Hunters” is credited with changing perception of brand value, according to a BrandIndex study:
Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.
Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.
Hefty gains in a short time, although Apple hasn’t sat idly by:
But, while this battle royal can wage for years, the real reason that Crispin Porter + Bogusky keeps winning for their clients is that they get the fundamentals right.
They know that advertising is supposed to surprise and delight, not inform and sell. They take great pains to make sure that you might actually want to talk about the ads they do around the water cooler at work the next day.
Today, they pulled one out of the hat for me. I own a copy of “Hoopla” which is their monograph. For the most part, it’s heinously designed making it almost impossible to read, but, inside the back cover- I discovered (via a tweet by Alex Bogusky) there is a secret second book:
I’ve also been watching the CP+B Ebay auction of their interns time:
ANNOUNCING THE CP+B INTERN AUCTION
In the past, our interns have created work for companies like Burger King, Volkswagen, Guitar Hero and Microsoft. And now they can do the same for you. Bidding starts at $1 for three months of service with all proceeds going to the hardest working people we know - the CP+B interns themselves. So bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate.
It’s innovative, it’s interesting and it’s not strictly advertising. It’s a conscious effort to manipulate and shape contemporary culture, cajoling and dancing outside the boundaries of conventional advertising wisdom. Everything can be an ad if you make it interesting enough.
And that’s why they are winning awards, accounts and owning the crown of the Hoopla kings.
Comparison advertising. It’s been around for a long time. In days of old, it was the way to go. Choosy Mom’s choose Jif, the Pepsi Challenge, We’re number 2, so we try harder, the demos showing how Bounty was the “quicker picker upper.”
During the boom years, comparison advertising became passe among market leaders- why give credit to your competition.
Typically, it was a way to leverage a smaller brand against the leader.
Audi challenges BMW and loses
It’s a dangerous proposition. Look at the smackdown Audi gets from BMW in their billboards in Santa Monica on the right. Those who don’t study their craft are doomed to get hit twice. Honda fired Chiat/Day from their motorcycle account. Their new agency came up with “Follow the leader” to which Chiat/Day came back- now working for Yamaha with “Don’t follow anyone.”
When the economy goes bad- all bets are off. It’s time to go into the cage for a brand on brand death match.
While scrapping for every dollar might not be an option as consumers cut back, the damage it can do to a brand is real. Do you really want to be the cheapest, lowest price product when the money starts flowing again.
Chuck Porter once said at the Cincinnati Ad Club “Anyone can do a better price and product ad, all they have to do is have a lower price” so it sort of shocks me when Crispin Porter + Bogusky starts running ads for Microsoft based on price.
Where “Laptop hunters” Lisa and Jackson go to buy a laptop for under $1,500 and do a comparison between Apple and a PC.
After the drilling Apple has given Microsoft with their “Get a Mac” campaign, which has won an Effie, and has been credited for doubling market share, Apple had to see it coming.
But, this is the kind of attention Microsoft wanted when they hired the best ad agency in the country to try to breath life back into their bankrupt Windows/Vista brand.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky is again proving that edgy, strategic advertising can get people talking about a brand differently, quickly, by pushing buttons.
[The reality is: both Apple and Microsoft will be in trouble if some 17 year old does for Linux what Blake Ross did for the Mozilla code base to create Firefox.]
Realize that Microsoft isn’t even comparing their product to Apple in the ads- they are comparing their partners hardware- people aren’t validating Microsoft in the buying ads- but Sony, HP, Dell etc.
How many companies would spend their marketing dollars on promoting their marketing partners?
When times get tough, consumers do spend more time evaluating major purchases. However, it’s not price that they look at as much as value. Giving consumers reason to talk about your brand value is only a good idea if it is really there. Look at the response to a Business Week story on the subject of the Microsoft challenge- compared to a holy war.
Maybe the best advice still comes from that old Chiat/Day ad: “Don’t follow anyone” and don’t compare. Leadership has its privileges.
It only takes 3x longer than an Apple ad to say absolutely nothing about why you should buy Vista- or believe Microsoft is anything different than the company that has ignored it’s customers for, well, since day one.
Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates meet in a mall at “Shoe Circus” and do exactly what Seinfeld is best known for- talk about nothing. As they walk out of the mall, after Bill has flashed his Shoe Circus Clown Club membership card, Seinfeld asks for a sign about the amazing future those geniuses at Microsoft have been dreaming up- just to get Bill to wiggle his ass on camera.
That shot is probably the most honest part of the whole spot: since Microsoft has been showing us their ass for as long as we’ve used their operating system and software. Software that crashes, software that attracts viruses like shit seduces flies, and a user interface that has never been intuitive- making the complex - harder. For the life of me, why does an end user need to know about a “registry?”
The Mojave Experiment was an attempt to do a “Pepsi Challenge” for Vista- only it was Vista in both cups. The website can’t be watched on a Mac- so forget about getting those customers back- and, it showcases one of the key problems Microsoft refuses to face: computing standards make for a better computing experience. From the earliest days of Mac vs PC it’s been the fundamental unique selling proposition that makes Mac’s the brand that can charge a premium and generate loyalty- once you learned how to do something in one program, it worked for all of them. Microsoft keeps thinking that the reasons users don’t like their software is because users are stupid- instead of realizing it was never about the software- it was about what you as a user, could accomplish with the software.
CP+B may have finally met a challenge that great ads can’t solve. This was only the first salvo. However, if Apple decides to release their OS X operating system to run on all Intel based PC’s for $249 (about double what they charge to run it on a Mac) Microsoft’s stock will fall faster than GM’s when gas hits $5 a gallon (as if it could fall much more).
In the end, we still come down to the old adage: “It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.”
“Hi, I’m a Mac” from Chiat/Day has doubled market share for Apple in the last 2 years, while Apple is still charging a premium on their hardware. Go look at the comments on the YouTube spot above- and repeat after me: “I’m a PC and I’m leaving the building.”
Part II: a 4.5 minute showing Bill and Jerry trying to hang out with the “little people”- now Bill is doing the robot. Smacks of desperation.
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