'Desperate': What agencies think of PC makers' new ad campaign

PC makers are scared as hell and they’d like to not have to take it any more.

A new alliance from Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo and Microsoft are unveiling a joint ad campaign Thursday that attempts to convince Apple users how good PCs are. The campaign, called “PC Does Whaaat?” is set to be unveiled via a webcast Thursday afternoon, which, according to a release, will feature chief marketing officers from all five companies looking to change the way people think about their products.

The global PC market has struggled for market share against Apple computers. Research firm IDC forecasts that PC sales will decline 8 percent this quarter. Gartner said the global market has seen 7.7 percent decline in PC shipments, compared with the third quarter of last year.

David Eastman, managing partner at MCD Partners said that the partnership between the PC makers feels “desperate.” And possibly even, “nostalgic” — a yearning for days gone by that probably won’t come back. “Campaigns in which multiple competitive brands with common vested interests come together rarely succeed,” said Eastman.

Ted Florea, who heads strategy at PNYC, said that for him, suggested PC makers are admitting defeat in a way, finally accepting a binary worldview that Apple itself put out a decade ago with its “Mac vs. PC” ads. Worse, the tagline itself is misguided in that asking “PC Does What?” feels almost tone deaf. “Not knowing what a PC does is a failure of all the players involved to stay relevant,” he said.

Still, other observers suggest that coming together as a consortium might make sense from a consumer insights standpoint. People often don’t shop brands, especially when they’re starting out — they shop categories. Advertising as a collective acknowledges the power of “comparison shopping,” where people considering one brand, like Lenovo, will also check out other PC brands alongside like HP.

“So this new effort to pool resources is actually a really smart way to acknowledge the reality of comparison shopping,” said Caroline Krediet, partner and head of strategy at Figliulo & Partners.

For years, bigger and more profitable players like Intel or Microsoft, which work with PC manufacturers, have been paying for advertising that other companies may benefit from. With this one, it’s a one-shot, said Jason Clement, president of media agency Noble People.

“It also gives them more leverage with the manufacturers to keep the message consistent and focused on category growth instead of the classic co-marketing play for Microsoft and Intel which usually funds very product-focused work that pits manufacturers against each other to steal share by touting features.”