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Tuesday, May 19, 2009, 03:45 pm PT (06:45 pm ET)

Microsoft's ads doing damage to Apple, one study claims

Even as critics have attacked Microsoft for bending the truth in its PCs-are-cheaper ad campaign, one firm's research shows that it might be working and turning the public minds, though not necessarily wallets, away from Apple.

After talking regularly with 5,000 people over the course of several months, ad trackers at BrandIndex discovered that Microsoft overtook Apple in value perception scores — the belief that a given brand gives more value for money — starting from the end of March, or roughly when Microsoft began its Laptop Hunters ad campaign on TV and online.

Where Apple had crested as high as a score of 70 in late February, the advent of Microsoft's promo spots has led to a gradual but noticeable decline that, as of the end of the study on May 12th, gave the Mac maker a score of just 12 points on the study's charts. Microsoft, meanwhile, has almost uniformly risen in its perceived value from very nearly zero (neutral) to 46 points this month, or more than three times Apple's portrayed worth.

The analyst company's global managing director, Ted Marzilli, treats this as a role reversal prompted by the ads. He sees Apple as having regularly trumped Microsoft in the past with a younger, 18-to-35 crowd more receptive to its 'cool' but now challenged by reminders that Macs are frequently more expensive. Many of these are more conscious about what they spend and, particularly in a tough economy, are more likely to think twice about their spending.

"Apple did a great job of putting Microsoft on the defensive," Marzilli told AdAge. "It made them look old, stodgy, complicated to use and unhip. But Microsoft has started to hit back, and younger folks are more cost- or value-focused."

BrandIndex compares Apple and Microsoft

Value perception scores for Apple and Microsoft in 2009; Microsoft's ads started in late March. | Image credits: AdAge.


Cupertino-based Apple has still managed to claw back some of its share in the 35- to 49-year-old set and is tied with Microsoft for the older demographic.

Whether or not Microsoft's campaign reaps any rewards for its investment as part of a larger $300 million project to rejuvenate the Windows name is considerably less certain; BrandIndex tracks perception and not actual purchases. Apple is still expected to ship fewer Macs in spring than it did last year but in line with expectations reflecting the economic reality rather than the effect of an attack by Microsoft.