Mac vs. PC: A Simplistic Yet Effective Marketing Strategy

This time it’s gonna be different.”

This time it’s gonna be different. Trust me!

Apple’s Mac Vs PC ad campaign has been on the air waves since May of 2006 and features John Hodgeman of the Daily Show as “PC” and Justin Long from Dodge ball and Herbie Fully Loaded as “Mac.” By now most of you have probably seen the newest of the Mac Vs PC ads. You know the ones where Mac looks at PC with that smile and you know he’s thinking “I can’t believe how clueless this guy is!” I realize that doesn’t narrow it down much at all, but the one I am thinking about in particular is the most current of these ads, titled “Broken promises” (see below) where they depict Microsoft as a company that cannot be trusted to keep their “Promises” of a better product without the issues that each previous version has had. In this rather humorous ad, PC starts by saying “Hey Mac did you hear the good news, Window’s 7 is out and it’s not gonna have any of the problems that windows XP had.” To which Mac respond “I feel like I’ve heard this before PC.”

In essence, Apple is capitalizing on what would appear to some as Microsoft “crying wolf” syndrome and putting into question whether the new operating system can be trusted because its issues have not been effectively resolved by any of the previously released PC Operating Systems thus far. In fact since day one of this campaign, Mac has put into question Microsoft’s decisions to spend exorbitant amounts of money on advertising for its Operating Systems rather than to spend that money to fix all of the issues, so how can they be trusted? What a creative way to get your point across.

These ads are brilliant! They are the most simplistic of all ads, yet highly effective in getting their point across in a humorous and unforgettable way. The back drop gives the appearance of a plain white room and the props are few, if any and are overly simplified. The production costs of such a campaign must be unbelievably low, but the impact of such a marketing strategy is dauntingly high.

When you think about these commercials as well as others such as Geico’s “Even a caveman can do it” (see YouTube Montage below) what they are doing essentially is creating a “brand.” Not unlike the bottle shape of the Coca Cola brand soda or the Nike Swoosh, Apple computers is creating a solid and clearly defined brand identity. That is; a simple and easy approach to the issues that many PC users have been faced with over the years.

Again going back to the simplicity of the campaign, the PC character is usually in a suit and tie, often disheveled, almost always frazzled and completely clueless. Yet the Mac character is young, hip, calm, and laid-back, always dressed casually in jeans, sneakers and t-shirts and starts every commercial with his hands in his pockets, which in body language usually suggests defiance, but in this case seemingly meant to illustrate a relaxed and care free posture. This lends to the Apple “brand” of being user friendly, easy-going and innovative not to mention fun to explore with options such as iTunes, iPhotos and iLife.

Consider this, the time during commercials is when most viewers leave the room to refill their drinks, grab a snack or take a “potty” break. However, in utilizing this overly simple yet fun marketing strategy Apple has done something that few others have done in the past. People look forward to these commercials and will often rewind or pause their DVR or TiVo just to see the newest Mac Vs PC ad. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of hits on the many Mac Vs PC ads being showed on YouTube and the Apple website as well, where viewers go to see the newest ad.

When creating your campaign strategy, to build your brand it needs to be memorable and discussion worthy, but not so over the top that viewers don’t even know what the ad is for. In fact, about a year ago, you may recall their being a commercial on that for about 3 weeks featured different athletes performing tasks and the only thing giving any indication of what the product is, was a letter “G” at the end of the commercial. Some of you may have known what the product was, but for many, there was no clue.

They had the right idea, in that they were creating something that people talked about. But in reality, what it did was frustrate the viewer by their not knowing what the product even was. Viewers don’t want to play the guessing game, which is what made this campaign much less effective and probably somewhat damaging to the “brand.”

So when you considering your “brand” keep the Mac Vs PC advertising campaign in mind. Clear, concise, consistent and repetitive messages in your campaign are key. Simple is good; memorable and even a bit funny is even better. Follow this path in your advertising and brand creation and I can say, “Trust me, this time it’s gonna be different.” “Trust me!”


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of

Join the Discussion

8 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for John Brisbane]
    John Brisbane
    April 2, 2010 03:57 am

    It never ceases to amaze me how many small business owners think. They are quite happy to employ a salesperson on 45K+ per year, but ask them to spend $2000 on advertising and they think it’s a waste of money. The truth is if they spend the 45K on advertising, they wouldn’t need sales people, just order takers 🙂
    Thanks for your post.

  • [Avatar for vince]
    December 14, 2009 06:30 pm

    Beyond the ads, there’s the reality of what its like to own a mac. Checkout the following:

    imac complaints:

    apple complaints:

    80 pages of complaints on (latest) imac forum:

  • [Avatar for Kim]
    December 10, 2009 12:36 am

    Not only that MAC vs. PC are effective way of marketing for both sides. It’s also hilarious and entertaining. The way they bash each other is just funny.

  • [Avatar for EG]
    December 3, 2009 09:13 am


    I’m a PC user but I love the Mac vs. PC commercials. (My oldest son, a digtial design major, uses a MacBook.) Right up there with the Geico commercials, especially those involving the gecko.

  • [Avatar for Pissed Off Programmer]
    Pissed Off Programmer
    December 2, 2009 04:05 pm

    I realize that I made a mistake and thought this was by Gene. I guess I just saw the last name and didn’t look any further. My apologies.

  • [Avatar for Pissed Off Programmer]
    Pissed Off Programmer
    December 2, 2009 03:07 pm

    I had no idea you were such a Windows fan Gene…. lol

    I’ll admit, I like the ads even though I don’t like Apple, or Microsoft.

  • [Avatar for Renee]
    December 2, 2009 01:00 pm


    Thank you for reading. Thank you also for pointing out the Apple Philosophy. I agree, simple IS better which is the reason for this article. Some of the most simplistic things are those that make the biggest impact in our lives. Not just in advertising, but in every day life.


  • [Avatar for Alphaman]
    December 2, 2009 09:31 am

    It’s not just the ad campaign that’s “simplistic” — they follow through with this concept in their designs, too.

    Have you seen the new “Magic Mouse”?

    What of their laptops?

    And their desktops?

    Even their website — they keep things simple:

    No long, convoluted, unintelligible URLs. Just words that humans can understand. (To see the opposite, visit HP’s or Dell’s sites.)

    The advertising campaign’s simplicity just mirrors their overall design philosophy, which is their brand identity: simple quality.

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