Microsoft has a rather ignoble history when it comes to trying to counter Apple’s hyper-effective and popular “Get a Mac” campaign. Their first efforts were just embarrassing: a series of advertisements featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates awkwardly mumbling non sequiturs at one another. That desperate bid for hipness failed, and so Microsoft launched their Laptop Hunter ads, which were comparatively straightforward: a camera crew followed “real” computer shoppers as they looked for new machines, and documented their ultimate choice of Windows laptops. Simple, pleasant and marginally effective… even if they did repeat all of the old, stupid fallacies about Apple computers costing significantly more than similarly specced Windows machines.
Pretty soon, though, controversy hit. Lauren deLong, an adorable red ead featured in the “Laptop Hunter” ads, turned out to be an actress with a filmography of ten movies to her credit. Since Microsoft’s ads purported to be following “real computer shoppers,” that made the ads’ truthfulness somewhat dubious.
So here’s the question: were the Laptop Hunters ads what the proclaimed themselves to be, or completely fictional? The “behind-the-scenes” footage of the Laptop Hunter ads shoot, as embedded above and first posted back in September, baldly asserts that participants were not told they were in a commercial until after they had picked their machines.
I’m not buying it. Not only are the individuals in the ads just a little too pointed in their dismissal of Apple products — I think a more common response to why a PC users would reject a Mac would be “I’ve always used Windows machines!” and not “It really seems like you’re paying for the aesthetics” — but surely, a professional actress like Ms. deLong would be savvy enough recognize the financial opportunity that had just presented itself if a film crew that had followed her around all day told her she’d be in a national campaign for Microsoft. The next thing she would have said is, “I have to call my agent,” not “How’s my hair?”