IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THEM, Apple has been running a brilliant and funny series of TV ads that contrast Macs and PCs. Unlike Seth Stevenson, Slate's advertising critic, I find them to be quite effective (though I don't know if they've translated into increased sales, which is what counts).
In his article, Stevenson suprisingly gives the ads a C+, arguing that, "As usual, Apple hopes to shift the debate away from a battle over specs and value and toward a battle we can all understand: cool kid versus nerd. But these days, aren't nerds like John Hodgman [the guy who plays the PC] the new cool kids? And isn't smug superiority (no matter how affable and casually dressed) a bit off-putting as a brand strategy?"
I don't think that's what Apple is selling here, though, to be sure, it's no accident that the Mac guy (played by an actor named Justin Long) is a young hipster and the PC guy is stodgy. But there's nothing new (or counterproductive) about selling an attitude along with a product. That's practically what all of car advertising is about, attitude, whether it's wanting to appear as the virile speedster, the person drenched with money, the tough, rugged type or, more recently, the environmentally conscious one.
But more importantly, the Apple ads are selling simplicity. The spare (though almost cartoonishly so) ambiance of the ads is comforting, at least to people like me who tighten up with even the thought of having to set up or troubleshoot my PC. I love the take-it-out-of-the-box-and-get-going image these spots give the Mac.
I see PC ads all the time talking about all sorts of technical things that I don't understand and thus don't know how to shop for (luckily ,there are two great IT guys in my office who know what they're doing and have advised me frequently).
Notice I haven't said anything about which computer environment is better or whether the claims Apple makes in the ads reflect reality. The truth is, I don't know, though I suspect the answer is, 'it depends what you need it for.' I'll leave those discussions to the people who really know what they're talking about.
But I have to say, this series of ads has been a joy to watch, and, I have to believe, they're getting a lot of people thinking twice about their next computer purchase.