Talking to the Kids in Their Language


When I was young, I used to cringe when adults made clumsy, if well-intentioned, attempts to speak in what they thought was “youthful slang” in order to make a connection with us.

Now that I’m one of those adults, I can’t tell for sure whether the message in this poster (which I saw in the Toronto subway yesterday) comes across to today’s net/text-speaking youth as clever or clumsy. I’m torn – should my reaction be LOL or WTF?

(And is it me, or does the expression on the guy’s face say BRB?)

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Burger King’s Windows 7 Whopper

To celebrate the release of Windows 7, Japanese Burger King franchises are offering a Windows 7 Whopper with 7 patties, selling for 777 Yen (CAD$8.92 as of this writing), available only for the next 7 days. I have no idea why they’re not doing this on this side of the Pacific; I’m sure it would be a big hit:


According to Julie from ObjectSharp, the Japanese text after “13cm” says “American-size buns”.

[Thanks to Ian Irving for pointing this to me!]

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Old IBM Ad: “150 Extra Engineers!”

Alternate titles for this ad: 150 Receding Hairlines! 150 Giant Foreheads!

IBM "Electronic Calculator" ad: "150 Extra Engineers"

Click to see at full size.

Here’s the text of the ad:

150 Extra Engineers

An IBM Electronic Calculator speeds through thousands of intricate computations so quickly that on many complex problems it’s like having 150 EXTRA Engineers.

No longer must valuable engineering personnel…now in critical shortage…spend priceless creative time at routine repetitive figuring.

Thousands of IBM Electronic Business Machines…vital to our nation’s defense…are at work for science, industry and the armed forces, in laboratories, factories and offices, helping to meet urgent demands for greater production.


Old Apple Ad: “What Kind of Man Owns His Own Computer?”

Old Apple ][ ad featuring Ben Franklin: "What Kind of Man Owns His Own Computer?"Click the ad to see it at full size.

From roughly the same time as the Honeywell “What the Heck is Electronic Mail?” advertisement I showed you earlier, comes this Apple ad for the original Apple ][ computer. You have to remember that this was a time when most people didn’t have a computer at their desk; in fact, if an office had a computer, it had just one. And the desktop computers of that era had far less processor power (they typically has 1 MHz 8-bit chips like the Z80 or 6502) and RAM (maximum address space was 64K; machines typically maxed out at 48K RAM) than even the cheapest of today’s mobile phones. And yes, that’s a standard TV set being used as a monitor – its highest resolution was 280 by 192 pixels.

The tricky part about creating such an ad is trying to convince people of that era that they needed a computer. Remember, in those days computers were relegated to their own rooms, the fax machine was still new, mobile phones were toys for the rich and were carried in their own briefcases and when office and even legal documents were typed or written out in longhand. I’ve been trying to think of a present-day analogue for a late 1970s/early 1980s computer ad, but I’m drawing a blank.

Here’s the text of the ad:

What kind of man owns his own computer?

Rather revolutionary, the whole idea of owning your own computer? Not if you’re a diplomat, printer, scientist, inventor…or a kite designer, too. Today there’s Apple Computer. It’s designed to be a personal computer. To uncomplicate your life. And make you more effective.

It’s a wise man who owns an Apple.

If your time means money, Apple can help you make more of it. In an age of specialists, the most successful specialists stay away from uncreative drudgery. That’s where Apple comes in.

Apple is a real computer, right to the core. So just like big computers, it manages data, crunches numbers and prints reports. You concentrate on what you do best. And let Apple do the rest. Apple makes that easy with three programming languages – including Pascal – that let you be your own software expert.

Apple, the computer worth not waiting for

Time waiting for access to your company’s big mainframe is time wasted. What you need in your department – on yourdesk – is a computer that answers only to you…Apple Computer. It’s less expensive than timesharing. More dependable than distributed processing. Far more flexible than centralized EDP. And, at less than $2500 (as shown), downright affordable.

Visit your local computer store

You can join the personal computer revolution by visiting the Apple dealer in your neighborhood. We’ll give you his name when you call our toll-free number…


First, Lauren. Now, Giampaolo.

First, there was Lauren, and now we have Giampaolo. The ad follows the same “You Find It, You Keep It” formula: someone gets a set budget to buy a new computer and they get to keep any money left over after the purchase. And of course, he picks the PC:

The first ad featuring Lauren got that minority of people who buy Macs for boosting their self-esteem rather than getting stuff done a little riled up and coming up with laundry lists detailing what’s wrong with the ads, and I suspect that there’ll be more of the same with this one.

I’m impressed that The Empire’s ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, came up with another ad that’s neither funny-as-in-strange but nonsensical nor forgettable. It’s also good to a portrayal of a Windows user as attractive, funny and not John “I’m a PC” Hodgman.


Mac Fans Freak Out Over Microsoft’s “Lauren” Ad

The best measure of the effectiveness of the new “Lauren” ad is that it’s driving some thin-skinned Apple fans nuts. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the ad:

<a href=";playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7&amp;showPlaylist=true&amp;from=shared" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

It’s one of the greatest strengths of the Esteemed Competition; as a long-time Mac and iPod user, I know first-hand the Apple experience is a very satisfying one that creates a lot of passionate users. This passion led to more than the usual number of pagehits and comments for my previous post on the “Lauren” ad (not to mention more than the usual amount of AdSense cash – thanks for the beer money, folks!) as well as a number of huffy articles including:

Some thoughts:

“Offensive?” Really? 

That’s the term Ed Oswald used in his article. My response: Oh, come on. Imagine the ridiculousness of someone complaining that Apple’s “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads were offensive to Windows users. If all you had were those ads to go by, you’d think that Windows machines were completely non-functional (lies!) and its users were uniformly dull accountant-types (bigotry!). Chill, people – good natured-one-upmanship is part of advertising; heck, it’s part of day-to-day life. If this ad is offensive, I suggest you stay indoors, because you’re not going to like the outside world.

Bob Caswell put it best in this article:

That’s how commercials work, you see. By and large, Apple and Microsoft are playing the same game. A game that Apple started, I might add. And kudos to Apple for starting it; it seems to have worked well for them.

But now that a strong response is out by Microsoft (a separate tangential conversation is whether Microsoft should be throwing so much money at a “response” campaign; that’s debatable), the Apple fanboys are restless (this topic was at the top of Techmeme earlier today) and feel the need to point out the “offense,” “pointlessness,” and “inaccuracies.

Wow. Talk about a classic case of dishing out but not being able to take it.

“But Lauren’s an actress!”

It still doesn’t mean that she’s not someone that the ad agency found through Craigslist, nor does it affect the credibility of the story within the ad. I might as well say “But John Hodgman and Justin Long are actors! They aren’t really computers!”

As I’ve said before, Los Angeles is packed to the rafters with pretty women, whom when you ask them what they do will tell you that they do something that pays the rent and that they also act. Yes, Lauren’s an actress, but she pays the rent with an office manager job. It’s a career path that’s common enough that they make fridge magnets like this:

"Actress" fridge magnet, featuring a picture of a waitress

Contrast this with John “I’m a PC” Hodgman, who pays the bills with his paycheques from Apple, Battlestar Galactica and the Daily Show (there’s also his book deal, but making money off books is a tricky thing) and Justin “I’m a Mac” Long, who pays the bills with his paycheques from Apple, Live Free or Die Hard, Zack and Miri, Pineapple Express and both Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Nobody with any sense dismisses them because they’re actors – they tell a compelling story well, and that’s the important thing.

Apple Doesn’t Need to Have a Monopoly on Good Ideas

That doesn’t mean that the Esteemed Competition doesn’t make excellent stuff – I know from having owned three Mac laptops and a couple of iPods over the past six years.

But Apple’s not the only manufacturer making great stuff and compelling ads, and that’s okay. Some people may not like the idea that the “Lauren” ad exists, just as some people don’t like the fact that a Microsoftie came up with the Coffee and Code idea – and to those people, I’ll remind them of what a smart guy once said:

“We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.”

The man who said that? Steve Jobs, back in 1997, when Microsoft made a $150 million investment in Apple.

It’s a big tech world, and there’s room at the table for a lot of people.


At Last, a Truly Impressive “I’m a PC” Ad

First, there were the bewildering Gates/Seinfeld TV spots, “Shoes and Churros” and the extended-length “Living with an Ordinary Family”. Then came the “I’m a PC” spots, which were half-decent, but still not a good enough foil to Apple’s very effective ads. But in classic Microsoft style, the Empire’s ad agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, seems to have gotten it right with version 3.0. Take a look:

<a href=";playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7&amp;showPlaylist=true&amp;from=msnvideo" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 – Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

It works. Instead of featuring famous comedians and techies-turned-philanthropists or framing the ad in terms of Apple’s ads, this one gets it right by featuring a story and a character that the audience can relate to.

In the ad, “Lauren”, a cute young woman, is driving around town, trying to get a 17” laptop that’s fast, has a comfortable keyboard and sells for under $1000. She first goes to the Mac store but finds the only $1000 model is the 13” MacBook. She’d have to double her budget to get a 17” model. There’s a great moment when she sarcastically remarks as she drives that “I’m just not cool enough to be a Mac person”.

(Cue howls of derision from Mac fanboy/pegboy Jon Gruber on Daring Fireball in 3…2…1…)

In the end, she goes to Best Buy and marvels at the selection of laptops that meet her criteria. She finds one and squeaks with delight. The camera zooms in on the cash register’s display, which shows the before-tax price of her laptop: $699.99. When asked how she’s going to pay for it, she looks at the camera and says this with great satisfaction: “Cash”. This is the sort of message that will really hit home for a lot of people, given the state of the economy.

Kudos to Crispin Porter + Bogusky for being clever in making these ads. They put ads on Craigslist and similar sites, offering people between USD$700 and USD$2000 to go buy a new computer. They were told that they could keep any money that was left over, which provided them an incentive to look for the best deals they could get. It’s good countermarketing: if Apple is using actors, go with real people.

(And Apple used real people in the “Switch” ad series – remember the series of ads which included “stoner chick” Ellen Feiss? Maybe Lauren is Microsoft’s Janie Porche.)

I’m interested to see what the other ads in this series – assuming it’s a series – look like.