Oct 15

PC companies did WHAT?

A wise man in advertising once said that 99% of the world’s failed ads fail before the creative team even gets the assignment.

That’s because strategy is critical. Even great creative work can’t save a bad strategy.

But what we have here is something else.

It’s that rare combination of bad strategy compounded by bad creative, then multiplied by the combined effort of four different companies — three of whom are actually competitors.

This is nothing less than an advertising miracle. Like Halley’s Comet, I doubt that we’ll see anything like it again in our lifetime.

So hold your noses — we’re going in for a closer look.

It’s not hard to understand why this started, even if you can’t fathom how it ended.

PC sales have been on the decline for years now, as mobile devices have become more and more powerful. Having entered the “post-PC” era some time ago, you might even say we’re in the post-post-PC period.

But some unnamed genius somewhere had a brilliant idea to restore PCs to greatness: “If no company can fight this trend alone, what if we band together? Let’s combine forces to tell the world that PCs are really amazing!”

Even more amazing, four companies happily signed up for the effort: Dell, HP, Intel and Lenovo. (Hereafter referred to as “co-conspirators.”) It boggles the mind that at least one person in each of these four PC companies (and likely far more) thought this was a good strategy.

Unfortunately, there are some things advertising can do and some things it can’t. A good ad can lead you to buy one brand over another — but it can’t produce rain in a drought zone.

No doubt the co-conspirators imagined that a great ad could indeed produce an impossible result. In all the excitement, however, they forgot to produce a great ad. In fact, they produced one of the worst ads the PC industry has ever seen.

The goal was to dial up the PC lust factor by screaming that PCs can do things other devices can’t. And what better way to do this than come up with a catch phrase: “PC does what?” And for extra catchy-ness, the line can be shouted instead of spoken.

Good idea, except (A) it’s not catchy, and (B) it’s embarrassingly awkward.

But what’s really essential to the success of this ad is that it shows off features that will reignite passion for PCs. So, after all the conversations that must have gone on between the co-conspirators, these are the three features they settled upon:

– Laptop and tablet in one
– State of the art sound
– Up to 18-hour battery life

Never mind that most people buy smaller mobile devices precisely because they’re not laptops, get fantastic sound with their headphones, and enjoy all-day battery life.

Even worse, a casual viewer has to work hard to get the message. If you don’t notice the small type that flashes on to describe the features (it’s easy to miss), what we see on the PCs looks mostly unremarkable.

In fact, it’s almost hard to view this commercial without asking yourself “PC does what?” with a sense of mockery throughout — and feel validated for the decision to leave your PC behind.

I don’t know. Maybe I just have a bad attitude. Maybe this type of advertising will become an inspiration to other industries.

Maybe GM, Ford, Honda and Toyota will get together to run a campaign that says “Gas-powered cars do huh?”



  • Jurassic

    Exactly! This is a good example of how to repel customers by talking down to them as if they were idiots.

  • dr.ama

    most damming part of PC is that Office was released in 1990.
    That is their ace.
    That means Microsoft has no software for tablet.
    Most reviews of their products don’t even mention apps or OS.
    It is all hardware benchmarking using gamed optimizations.

  • hannahjs

    Oh that is dreadful. Someone should hang himself with his Seigo necktie.

  • The Pool Man

    Are PCs (and Macs for that matter) known to have indestructible keyboards? That would be a big NO. Just go to any Best Buy and see PCs missing keys.

    So what PINHEAD thought it was a good idea to have laptops invert themselves and become the BASE of a computer? In the helicopter ad they someone flip the book around and hold the back firmly — which you MUST in a helicopter with no doors. You know how easy it would be for someone to hold it ‘the wrong way’ and clasp the keys? REAL EASY.

    This flip crap is a sad sad fad.

  • Doctor Biobrain

    Did I really just hear Danger Zone used non-ironically? It’s like they WANT us to think PC’s are outdated.

  • The Gnome

    Even my Grandma ditched her PC. I think its only the 50somethingyearolds that cling to Windows PCs. I understand their desperation and willingness to embrace anything that comes along #surfacebook

  • Garth

    I can’t hear that phrase without thinking “asphinctersayswhat?”

    That’s probably not the best association you want for your product.

  • stevenjklein

    Actually, Microsoft Office was released June 19, 1989. But it was a Mac-only product. The Windows version wasn’t released until over a year later!

    Surprised? Not only was the Office suite a Mac-first product, so were the individual apps — Word for Mac came out 5 years before Word for Windows! More details here: http://www.yourmacexpert.com/blog/2015/06/09/of-course-microsoft-office-is-available-for-the-mac/

  • Ted_T

    Mystified why 50something people would cling to Windows, considering that I am a 50something, and my first job from college was programing on a DOS 2.1 PC (for a terminal emulator company) — and bringing in my Mac to the office to show them how a terminal emulator app was properly written. If one could figure out in 1985/86 that DOS PCs and Windows 1 were jokes compared to the Mac, it’s hard to figure out why they’d be clinging to Windows in 2015

  • Dan Katz

    “Sphincter says what?”

  • Shawn Dehkhodaei

    Actually the author misses the biggest co-conspirator in the pack: Microsoft !!! They’re the instigator of this campaign, and it’s got their finger prints all over it :-) With them in the group, we have a total mess of competitors, because actually Microsoft, the OS vendor, is also a competitor of HP, Dell and Lenovo …. they may take a “neutral” position as a PC Vendor, but they’re probably the fiercest competitor of them all …. because they don’t have to pay a license for Windows !!! This thing is just a disaster …. like all of Microsoft’s previous campaigns.

  • Martinicat

    Olive (I love) to be playing on my PC, my PC, out in the middle of the deep blue sea. Shall we have a Mar-tee-nee? Cheers!

  • I noticed they featured pinch-to-zoom on maps here, something pioneered by Apple and its iDevices. Doesn’t seem like a PC core feature at all …

  • qka

    Another 50-something weighing in. I’ve been using Macs since 1984. Probably before you were born.

  • Jostein Toftebakk

    I can’t help but think that in any of the situations in the ad, It would be better to just use your iPhone. Or Lumia, for that matter. The slogan should be: “Your PC can do what my phone can do? What?”

  • nex

    Excel and Powerpoint came out for Mac OS before they were available on a Microsoft OS, but Word didn’t: there was a DOS version before the Mac version.

  • popweasel

    you’re right, this does smell like a Microsoft advert; like those stupid commercials with the Happy Windows Family and ‘Windows Dad’ dancing in front of the TV (because Windows has this amazing feature, where it can edit video and post it to YouTube).

  • „PC does what?“ Catchy indeed… we all will remember that ad for a while ;-)

  • I see one big problem: the ad shows things that we do on tablets because they provide better user experiences. The ad fails to show what PC can do that other devices can’t. So, it seems like Intel and the like just don’t get it yet… why so many people leave PC behind… This is alarming.

  • art hackett

    Most people I know (many over 50) are moving to iOS/Mac from windows and android in spite of knowing that I’ve used Apple for twenty years. They seem ashamed to admit there was an easier and nicer path, especially after their years of aggravation. Even all the pc diehards at work moved to macs when we went FCP. For some it started with iPads, then phones, now Macs to organise/edit their pictures and music, stuff they struggled with on their pc’s, never mind the regular service calls to get their boxes running again. Now they’re visiting Apple stores to decide what to get next.
    I can see why the windows guys have started to panic. After years of overpromising and under delivering, their chickens have crossed the road.

  • art hackett

    Lucky you. I wish I’d known about macs earlier, but I thought they were all the same vile command line boxes that did nothing interesting. Mind you, I could never have afforded a printer then. It was a struggle to find a printer under $500 even in 1995.

  • Zactu

    Perfect. Spot on. Maybe the author was afraid of the big M for mentioning the obvious.

  • AaronD12

    “…and feel validated for the decision to leave your PC behind.”

    The last 3 family trips we took had no “PCs” (Mac laptops). We exclusively used our iPads and we missed nothing. We were able to do everything, including editing video of our trip and posting it online. So, what am I missing by bringing my “PC”?

  • Wayne

    And Unix was developed in 1969, therefore Apple has no OS for the iPhone? Come on, this is a dumb commercial, but let’s not just make things up. Microsoft has plenty of software for their tablets.

  • KevinD

    Really though, Macs were very expensive and Windows had the app advantage that iOS now enjoys. That’s why PCs were so great in the 80s and 90s. And it’s why Apple devices are so great now. Even though I am writing this on my 2010 PC notebook with my iPhone, iPad, and Apple watch sitting around me!

  • Eric Swinson

    Why am I reminded of Wayne’s World?

  • Frostbite

    Red Ryder ftw!

  • marcoselmalo

    That takes me back. Microsoft Word’s main competitors were Word Perfect and Wordstar. There were CP/M versions of those, as well. MS dos was only beginning to dominate.

  • As a 50-something myself, I have to admit how irritated I was when I had my first Mac dumped in my office in 1984. The irritating thing was that I was forced to part with my Lisa to make room for the Mac. It took a couple years for the Mac to move past what the Lisa was able to do at the time. Over the years I’ve owned about 20 Macs and a single PC that my wife needed for some school work about 10 years ago.

  • marcoselmalo

    I got to play around with Win 7 and really liked it. And Win 10 looks very interesting. I might even consider it if I hadn’t gone all in on iOS. I don’t even have a functioning Mac anymore (an old white plastic MacBook that I never seem to get around to fixing is all that’s left).

  • NB

    Disagree, this smells like Intel. Look at their YouTube channel, and look at the site. It’s all them.

  • jameskatt

    PC tells you to buy a Mac. That’s the secret.

  • Moe Better 11

    IDK, yet I think if I saw a PC, today – out in the open, I would have to POINT and say, WHAT ARE THOSE!?!?!?! (mostly safe for work): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFtRDtgX7kk

  • Moe Better 11

    yes, I’m sure people who by “PCs” know why buy buy them … I also remember an MS Surface ad – for the original – iirc – and I was pretty sure it did three things:
    1) Show nothing new.
    2) Show nothing unique about it.
    3) Justify the purchased an an iPad – or possibly an Android phablet.

  • you’re making and editing videos of your holiday and telling people about it, that’s what you’re doing wrong…

  • Pete Austin

    The author totally misunderstands. The advert is screaming that PCs can do THE SAME THINGS as mobiles – not unique things. That’s why battery life, sound and touch screens are important.

    It’s trying to persuade their core market not to switch away from laptops.

  • omitwords

    The strategic blunder here is that, even if this campaign succeeds in getting people to consider PCs over mobile devices, the ads to nothing to remove Apple products from the mix. If the takeaway is, “Oh, PCs are actually useful”, even a little bit of research will tell potential customers which laptops and desktops are highest in customer sat.

  • Andrew D

    Absolutely nailed it – this has the unmistakable stank of Ballmer all over it… right down to the completely unironic Top Gun soundtrack.

    And the guy in the liferaft – that’s right, when floating at sea I’d most *definitely* want a laptop and keyboard rather than a smartphone in a waterproof housing.

  • angel love

    Very good brother..