Negative advertising works

Aug 21, 2008 16:58 · 414 words · 2 minute read apple marketing

Al over the place, there was news of Obama and McCain moving into a dead heat in the polls. Earlier in the summer, Obama had more than 320 electoral votes according to the polls (270 are required to win). Now, Obama and McCain both have less than 270. If you check out the graphs at, you can see that 2008 looks suspiciously like 2004, with the Democrat leading and then losing ground after the negative ads kicked in. (Not coincidentally, McCain has placed a Karl Rove protégé in power in his campaign, so we can expect more Rovian behavior from that camp.)

Of course, Obama is a very different candidate from Kerry, and I think there’s still plenty of time in the election for the trends to shift back.

I was struck by an interesting parallel in the software world:

The new ad effort is expected to use some variation of the slogan “Windows, Not Walls,” according to several people familiar with the matter. Those people say the point is to stress breaking down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting.

[From Microsoft Hiring Seinfeld for Major Ad Campaign – Mac Rumors]

Apple’s “Get A Mac” ads were basically negative advertising, playing up the strength of Macs relative to the annoyance of Windows. (Contrast with the iPhone ads, which just show the overall goodness of the iPhone.)

As noted in the MacRumors article, Microsoft sees the Get A Mac ads as having been effective (and how could they not, with Apple’s market share, revenue, unit sales and profits all surging?). Microsoft is taking the “high road” in their response. I tend to think that stressing the “openness” of Windows is not a good approach. For one, Windows is hardly the king of openness. Secondly, Microsoft tried a similar approach with their various media playing attempts, but people still preferred the experience of the iPod. And finally, it seems that the negative, yet still entertaining, spin of the Get A Mac ads is likely to resonate much better.

As with anything, time will tell. But how many people really think this kind of campaign with stop the Mac’s rising tide?

(Update: I should note that the MacRumors article is really about Seinfeld starring in the new Microsoft ads. I presume that they’re going for a humorous slant to the ads, which I do think is a good move. I just still think that the “openness” theme is one that won’t resonate as well.)