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Elmlane

Fred's Views


Every once in a while a series of commercials will air that really "gets to you". For several years, Duracell ran ads featuring various non-existent devices running forever with their batteries. Then Duracell was brought to its knees by the Energizer "bunny". Budweiser has had a slew of commercials, some great, some really lame. Many commercials have so impressed us that we remember them long after the product may have disappeared: "Brusha brusha brusha with the new Ipana". "A little dab a do ya."

One set of commercials that are currently impressing me are the Apple computer jabs at Microsoft. The ads are deceptively simple: two guys. One paunchy, weaning glasses and a suit and vaguely resembling Bill Gates while the other is young, slim and "cool". The paunchy one, PC, laments about this or that problem he faces due to his inadequate operating system and the cool one, the Mac, empathizes but claims he does not have that problem with his OS. What makes them so memorable is that anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with a Windows-based computer knows exactly what PC is talking about.

Although I have a copy of Vista that I received because I bought my laptop during the "transition" stage, I have not upgraded to Vista. I have, however, spent a few minutes with a Vista-based machine. And that was enough time to get annoyed with its continued prompting, "Do you really want to do that? Accept or Deny?" (Or words to that effect) When the Apple commercial aired about Vista I nearly died laughing. It ought to be enough to get me to buy a Mac, but so far I have resisted. I'm not sure why. I guess I can't believe that the Mac can be that much better. Or is it because I know the Mac has its own peculiarities that would irk me. I hate being dictated to by my machine's operating system (or programs) even if it is in my own best interests.

Sticking with computers for a brief moment longer, Vista has been out for more than three months now. While I have no idea of how well it is selling, I also have no idea why I should upgrade to it - and at least two good reasons not to: The aforementioned annoying confirm or deny "feature" and the belief that some programs won't run on Vista. I am not about to upgrade all my programs just for Vista - unless Microsoft can give me a whole lot of more and better reasons why I should. Since Microsoft has done a rather poor job of selling Vista's benefits, I can only assume that those benefits are few and far between. So I'll stick with XP for now. I hate the user interface, but at least it's relatively stable. What more can we poor PC users expect?

Back to TV ads. Here in Canada, at least, there is a really annoying phenomenon occurring. We get to see the same ad not once, not twice, but several times during a single program. If we watched Canadian TV exclusively (or, in our case Satellite/cable TV) we could be subjected to a dozen or more showings of exactly the same commercial. Can you think of a better way to get people to tune out or lash out by boycotting the product? I can't. It is really annoying. Can't these advertisers come up with more than one version of an ad?

We also have the problem of the "So what was your point?" ad. I can't remember one ad that made me wonder at its conclusion "What were you trying to sell?" - it was that memorable. Currently there is a series (at least it's more than just one ad) running for Solo Cellular. One person is talking to another but the conversation doesn't end in that commercial - it is carried on in another which also starts a new conversation that is, you guessed it, carried on in another. Different, mildly interesting, at least for the first few times you see it, but what really is their point? So you can carry on a conversation with a cell phone. Most of us know that. Why buy from Solo? I don't know.

In a sense, the same could be said for the Apple ad. It's a soft sell in that, unless you are a computer junkie like me, you might not understand what they're trying to sell. And that's a problem. To be cute and entertaining at the risk of not getting you "message" across - or be brazen and loud stating your "message" in uncertain terms - but alienating your audience.

I have always claimed to be pretty much immune to advertising of whatever type. I like what I like; I buy what I buy. If it does what I want done and it does it for less money than its competitor, I'll buy it. Thus, I still use a PC. It's cheaper than a Mac. Oh, and despite the great Duracell and Energizer ads of the past, my batteries of choice are Rayovac. Do they work as well or last as long as Duracell or Energizer? I don't know. They do seem to give adequate service - and they're cheaper. (They also often come packaged in containers that can be reused for storing batteries - a nice touch.) Am I different from a lot of people? Probably. But that doesn't mean that I don't pay attention to commercials. Even though I get to fast forward through about two thirds of the commercials I am exposed to, I see enough to know what they're about.

Bottom line for me, at least, is this: If your commercial is entertaining, I'll watch it and not feel so bad about wasting time during the commercial break. If your product is good and reasonably priced, I'll buy it. However, there is no correlation between the two.


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