Apple Is Giving Free Advertising To Microsoft

by Gregory Ng Feb 19, 2004

imageWhat the hell is Apple thinking? The latest print ads advertising iLife ‘04 leads with the following headline: “It’s like ‘Microsoft Office’ for the rest of your life.” Surrounding the headline are snapshots from the day in the life of highly targeted, profitable America, set in a Kodakian Share the Moment type tone. The intro copy continues to draw associations by saying, “From 9 to 5 you have Microsoft Office. For the rest of your life you have iLife.” This is a bad move. A bold move. But a bad one.

My first criticism is that the line is ambiguous. When they say, “The rest of your life” do they mean, the other things in your life? Or do they mean until you die? The first time I read it, I took it as the latter and I thought, “so someone’s telling me I will use Microsoft Office for the rest of my life? And the person telling me is Apple?” When I opened up the flap, it then showed screenshots detailing members of the iLife ‘04 suite. But this “Oh, now I get it!” took way too long.

My second criticism is just the whole concept. Why is Apple using the brand of an existing popular application to try and sell their own? You only have a few seconds to grab the attention of the reader. To expect them to grasp what Microsoft Office does for them in the first part of their life and then to have them apply that knowledge to the rest of their life is a stretch and too much to ask in this short-attention span world. I immediately tried to come up with a comparison to try and illustrate this advertising gaffe. The first thing I came up with was Burger King saying in a commercial, “It’s like the Big Mac only bigger.” But that is not a good comparison because you are comparing 2 hamburgers. If Apple had said, “Introducing AppleWorks X: It’s like Microsoft Office only better” I would say, bad copywriting but solid concept. I decided the closest comparison using food was this: “It’s like A McDonalds’s Extra Value Meal for when you get home.” and then the inside would reveal that it is for Hungry Man’s frozen entrees.

Apple must think Microsoft Office is the standard suite of products or something. They are correct. They are so correct that when someone asks, “Did you open that in ‘Office’? People know what you are talking about. The word ‘Office” in the context to software will always speak to Microsoft. So if Apple is already expecting people to associate Microsoft Office to iLife, why say Microsoft at all? It’s not like you get bundled software of iLife and Office. Now that would be an appropriate time to ride the coattails of Microsoft’s success.

It also doesn’t help that the look of the ad is a departure from other Apple print ads. What do you think of when you see a stark white ad with a glistening, touched by the hand of god-like piece of hardware in the center? Apple. What do you think of when you see a bright solid color with a black silhouette and a small white box? Apple. Now what do you think of when you see a collage of slice-of-life pictures filling the page? Kodak? Polaroid? Fuji? Walmart? Target? Toyota? Nissan?

Now what happens when you show that same collage of slice-of-life pictures filling the page with a bold headline with the word ‘Microsoft’ in it? Microsoft.

Apple goofed on this one.

Comments

  • I don’t know, I think you may be over-reacting here. But anyway, I think the most interesting part of all this is the apparent death of AppleWorks…anyone ever hear of an update to that program?

    bobby had this to say on Feb 19, 2004 Posts: 15
  • I think it’s more telling than anything else.  Apple wants to use their unique hardware/software advantage to make iLife a ubiquitous norm in the home, just as Microsoft Office is in business.

    Usually in marketing, you don’t want to give free “mindshare” to you competitor.  However, Word clearly isn’t a competitor to iLife.  It is to Appleworks, true, but Apple has historically never cared about marketing Appleworks.

    I do think it works in its ambitguity, if only as a topic of discussion, but I do think they could have used a more straightfoward line.

    mschindler had this to say on Feb 19, 2004 Posts: 2
  • My first encounter with the MS Office for the rest of your life campaign was on Apple.com. The visual does not include the collage slice-of-life pictures you mention though.

    I think the slogan works, I got it immediately. Its a very simple and powerfull way of telling people how they should understand the concept of iLife (think news soundbite). The customers what? and why? questions are the first ones you need to answer with this kind of product. It is also a very smart way of pitting Apple against Microsoft. Who wants te be reminded of his/her cubicle when computing at home/in leisure time?

    MJ had this to say on Feb 20, 2004 Posts: 9
  • I agree with AppleMatters on this one. I was horrified when I first heard the slogan while watching Steve’s keynote.

    This tag line is ambiguous at best.

    My first reaction was, Microsoft until I die? Yuck. The next thing that came to mind was how much Microsoft overcharges people for the rest of their lives. That almost made me lose my lunch.

    Now I’m no genius, but I do have pretty good grasp of the English language and a good understanding of a 2nd language as well.

    If I didn’t “get it”, then I’m sure most PC users are not going to either.

    And considering the idiotic commercial for Microsoft Office currently running on TV, it’s a downright embarrassment to have MS Office and iLife mentioned in the same breath.

    MacSmiley had this to say on Mar 03, 2004 Posts: 9
  • Our thoughts from our site [url=http://www.marketingplaybook.com:]http://www.marketingplaybook.com:[/url]

    What a great campaign. Apple’s iLife suite launched with a great slogan - “It’s like ‘Microsoft Office’ for the rest of your life.” This is classic. Take two things that you don’t expect together, the professionalism and power of Office productivity and the fun and informality of GarageBand and bring them together. Great work, I think. All the way down to the logo.

    That said, it is not without some controvery. AppleMatters thinks this is BAD, too vague and gives too much to Microsoft.

    mBlog: The Apple Project hates it too. In part because they don’t love Microsoft Office, it just plain isn’t fun.

    Well having worked on that product for years, I still have a softspot. Guess I’m biased. And I still think it works for targeting working people who are trying to organize their increasingly digital personal lives.

    johnza had this to say on May 10, 2004 Posts: 1
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