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Microsoft says Apple legal wanted 'Laptop Hunter' ads pulled


Microsoft's chief operating officer claimed Wednesday that Apple's legal department demanded the Windows maker pull its "Laptop Hunter" ads — the TV spots in which company casts Macs as overpriced novelty items.

Speaking Wednesday at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference 2009 in New Orleans, La., COO Kevin Turner said the advertisements, which portray Windows PCs as a better value than Apple products, have proven effective. So much so, according to a transcript of Turner's speech, that he received a phone call from Apple.

And so we've been running these PC value ads. Just giving people saying, hey, what are you looking to spend? “Oh, I'm looking to spend less than $1,000.” Well we'll give you $1,000. Go in and look and see what you can buy. And they come out and they just show them. Those are completely unscripted commercials.

And you know why I know they're working? Because two weeks ago we got a call from the Apple legal department saying, hey — this is a true story — saying, "Hey, you need to stop running those ads, we lowered our prices." They took like $100 off or something. It was the greatest single phone call in the history that I've ever taken in business.

I did cartwheels down the hallway. At first I said, "Is this a joke? Who are you?" Not understanding what an opportunity. And so we're just going to keep running them and running them and running them.

Reading into Turner's comments about lower prices, MacDailyNews hypothesizes that Apple's problem with the ads came with one in particular. In the ad, Microsoft shows a MacBook Pro that costs $2,000, but since early June it has been replaced by a newer model that costs just $1,700. The advertisement, with old pricing, has continued to run on TV well after the price drop.

And while Turner claimed the advertisements are unscripted, Microsoft came under fire after their first Laptop Hunters ad aired featuring a member of the Screen Actors Guild.

For the past year, Microsoft has ramped up its advertising of Windows. Some of the company's earlier attempts, such as the ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, fell flat. For its $300 million campaigns, Microsoft hired acclaimed advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

But this year, at least one study claimed the new Laptop Hunter ads are working. In May, 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.

In one advertisement, a woman named Lauren looks for a system with "speed, portability and battery life" under $1,700. She briefly looks at a Mac, but eventually settles on a Dell Studio XPS 13, on sale for $899. Like the rest of the advertisements, it plays up the notion that PCs offer more choice and value than Macs.

Responding directly to Microsoft in May, Apple released three new "Get a Mac" ads refuting claims from the Windows maker. The ads, featuring actors John Hodgman and Justin Long, suggested that poor Windows PCs are no choice at all.

In one response, entitled "Elimination," a shopper named Megan tries to choose between Long's Mac and a number of PCs, led by Hodgman. The PCs walk away as fewer and fewer of them meet the actress' criteria of a big screen, a fast processor, and – the deal breaker – a system that "just works" without crashes or viruses. In the end, Megan is left with only the Mac as her real choice.