Which Campaign is Better: Microsoft's Laptop Hunter or Apple's Get a Mac?

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Microsoft has unveiled its latest "Laptop Hunter" ad, throwing back a powerful punch against Apple's long-running (and, by most counts, long-winning) campaign on coolness. Unlike Microsoft's past attempts, this new line of marketing has many ad experts taking note -- and saying maybe, just maybe, Microsoft has finally hit the mark.

Microsoft's Laptop Hunter Ad

The new "Laptop Hunter" spot, the third in Microsoft's latest ad series, shows a mom and son trying to find a laptop for less than $1500. Microsoft offers to pay the price of the computer if they can find one within that range.

The ad follows similar spots debuted this month, one featuring a guy named Giampaolo and the other with a gal named Lauren. Both went on similar missions to find inexpensive laptops and, after comparing Macs and PCs, ended up going with Microsoft's platform.

Shifting Strategy

The "Laptop Hunter" strategy is a definite departure from last fall's divisive Seinfeld-Gates series of Microsoft ads. (Microsoft, for the record, says those segments were meant only to "reintroduce" the brand and get people talking.) It also takes a distinctly different focus from the "I'm a Mac" ads Apple has long used to beat down the Microsoft name.

That distinction may serve Microsoft well, says Matt McCutchin, a former ad copywriter who's worked on numerous Microsoft and PC-related campaigns in the past.

"It was a great strategy a year ago to try to kick the door open and get the buzz going, to get Microsoft talked about in a different way," says McCutchin, a lecturer in the University of Texas at Austin's advertising program. "I think that bringing it home to the actual shopping trip is the right next step. That's what really goes through a consumer's mind now."

Future Thinking

This latest ad is the third in a series of six "Laptop Hunter" spots scheduled to be released over the coming months. The segments are little-by-little upping the ante: While an early edition focused on a machine under $1,000 and the most recent looked for a laptop less than $1,500, a future spot is said to raise the price limit to $2,000.

Microsoft is clearly aware of the edge that playing up price can offer over its competition. A Microsoft brand exec even joked that it was a "good day" when Apple unveiled a $2700 MacBook Pro at this year's Macworld Expo. The question now is whether Apple will address the hits in a new way or continue pushing for success with its past tactics. McCutchin -- who recently made the switch himself, by the way, to Mac -- thinks a change may be in order.

"I would say it's time for Apple to evolve its strategy," he says. "They're going to have a harder time trying to justify those price points."

Unlike the Seinfeld ads, these latest spots offer no churros or tight-running Conquistador shoes. In the long run, though, they may offer something far more valuable in Microsoft's ongoing rivalry with its cooler, but perhaps costlier, competitor.

"I think Apple's going to have to deal with the issue at some point," McCutchin contends. "That's why Microsoft's strategy is so well-timed in making this more about price and value as opposed to some sort of coolness."

What do you think? Is Apple's Get a Mac campaign still better and more effective than Microsoft's Laptop Hunter?

Connect with JR Raphael on Twitter (@jr_raphael) or via his Web site, jrstart.com.

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