After two weeks of running a series of ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates that left many people scratching their heads, Microsoft's latest spots take direct aim at the Apple ads that have turned Windows into a punch line.
"I'm a PC and I've been made into a stereotype," says Microsoft employee Sean Siller, who looks a whole lot like John Hodgman, the actor who plays the PC in Apple's ads.
The spot then goes on to have other people say that, they too are PCs, including an Obama blogger, a McCain broadcaster, actress Eva Longoria, a school teacher, and a fish salesman, among others. (My favorite is a guy standing near cows saying "I turn No. 2 into energy.")
Bill Gates does make a cameo, saying "I'm a PC and I wear glasses." The ads will debut later Thursday on NBC's The Office.
The purpose, Microsoft says, is to show that Windows is part of a common language uniting people around the globe.
The software maker is counting on the massive ad push to help improve Windows' image. The campaign is expected to last beyond this year and spending has been estimated at around $300 million.
Microsoft will also run print ads focusing on the notion of "Windows without Walls" and "Windows: Life without walls"--notions that Microsoft expects to use for years to come. A series of print and outdoor ads shows a single image split across multiple desktop, laptop and Windows Mobile phones, aiming to show Windows as an experience that spans many devices.
In an interview, Microsoft VP Brad Brooks said Thursday that the new ads are aimed at making sure the story of real Microsoft employees and customers get told.
"So far the story that has been told about Windows over the past couple years has been very negative," Brooks said. "It's just not true."
Despite some reports to the contrary, Brooks insists the plan was always to shift away from the Seinfeld-centered ads. He said that the company did not film any other spots with Seinfeld.
That is consistent with what Brooks told me in an initial conversation a couple weeks ago, though I must say the shift in conversation seems quite abrupt with little connection between the first ads and the new pitch.
"Hey that's fair feedback," Brooks said. "We'll work from that."
As for whether it got the value of the reported $10 million it spent to hire Seinfeld, Brooks had several things to say.
"We spent nowhere near $10 million for Jerry," Brooks said. "We've got options with Jerry and we consider Jerry to be a very good friend of Windows and Microsoft. Right now, we are entering a new phase, but it's not to say we might not bring back (Seinfeld). We've got our options open with Jerry."
Brooks said to expect the "I'm a PC" notion to run for some time, being joined by a Web push that will go live at Windows.com tonight and invite users to tell their own "I'm a PC" story, some of which will be made into online advertisement.
"We're definitely not afraid of the truth," he said. "The problem is it just hasn't been told."
Brooks cited surveys that show 89 percent satisfaction among Vista users. However, I must say, he also quoted a statistic that 78 percent of people liked the Jerry Seinfeld-Bill Gates spots.