Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mac and PC ads

So have you seen the Apple commercial where PC gives Mac a C++ GUI Programming Guide, which is funny because no Mac person would ever want to know something geeky like GUI Programming?

Now, hear me out on this one. It may not really be so, but I think this thought...

This particular series of commercials actually works more to the advantage of the PC than the Mac.

Why so?

Well, everyone already knows PCs are stuffy, staid, and boring. They're for, as one of the commercials alludes to, balancing your checkbook. Or, as this particular commercial refers to, writing C++ GUIs (never mind that of course the same thing happens on Macs or... no Mac GUIs; but let's just accept the point). We already know this divide: Macs are for creative free spirits, PCs are for stick-up-your-ass fuddy duddies who wear bad sweaters.

But the flaw in these commercials is that "Mac" makes being a creative free spirit seem dull and boring. He's a generic "hip" guy, young with a little scruff, about as alternative and out of the box as back tattoos and belly rings. If you walked past him on the street, you wouldn't think, hey, there goes a creative free spirit, you'd think hey, there goes half the under-30 population of Seattle (he writes from the 39th floor of a tall office building in downtown Seattle on a cold but relatively clear Puget Sound morning). And yes, I'm referring to, basically, the entire male half of the population.

Now look at PC. Yes, he's portly, pasty, with a bad haircut. He's also subversively funny. He's not self-assured and hip, but people can react to the glib and facile superiority of the Mac fellow by feeling more, not less, sympathetic to the PC character. Yes, he's a dork. But he's kind of a fun dork. And putting a sympathetic human face on the PC makes it seem less daunting and less... well, faceless than it otherwise might. Add in the fact that the PC is played by John Hodgman who is quite funny and able to make being a geek seem, if not attractive, at least not quite as bleak a fate as these commercials would want to make it, then I wonder about the actual effect of these commercials on viewers.

And add ironic? I think that iTunes is mildly passable software and QuickTime is utter dreck. As if to prove my point, when I went to the Apple site to check the URL for the ads, QuickTime crashed my browser and I had to start this post over again. As Borat would say: nice.

Update: There's an article on Slate by Seth Stevenson making pretty much the same point.

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