Google unofficially sides with Apple in Microsoft-hating

by Jonathan Marshall

After letting Microsoft and Apple battle and wear each other out with aggressive and targeted advertising campaigns, Google has finally thrown its hat into the ring as a newcomer in the trash talk game. The timing is not surprising as a necessary response to Microsoft’s Bing, and their ad-campaigns that allege consumer dissatisfaction with Google’s keyword-based search engine. The creative advertising round robin is interesting to watch unfold, and further demonstrates the industry dominance that each one of the digital giants have, let alone their collective influence.The Channel Wire published an article that further discusses the reasoning, behind-the-scenes game plan and competitor-focused campaigns below.

Microsoft has spent much of the past year taking shots at competitors through advertisements, and company executives have been crowing about the positive impact this is having on Microsoft’s brand perception. Perhaps that’s why Google is now getting into the act with some Microsoft-focused advertising of its own.

Google on Monday launched a billboard advertising campaign that will highlight the frustrations associated with using Microsoft Office. Over the next four weeks, billboards in Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco will illustrate how an anonymous IT managers’ struggles with Office leads him to recommend that his company switch to Google Apps, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Sometime in the second half of 2010, Microsoft will offer Office Web Applications, lightweight versions that run in a Web browser and will be available in advertising-supported or subscription versions. Microsoft hasn’t revealed pricing for the subscription versions yet. Google Apps Premier edition is $50 per user per year, but the Standard edition costs just $10 per year for a domain name. That’s a pretty low bar to match for Microsoft, which has spent years milking the Office cash cow.

This type of advertising isn’t exactly Google’s bailiwick, but the Big Dog in search probably feels a need to respond in some fashion to Microsoft, whose recent slew of Bing advertisements suggest that the poor signal-to-noise ratio of today’s search engines is frustrating to users. Microsoft is also trying to create the impression that Google’s keyword-based search business model is to blame.

Google’s billboards will also focus on the high cost of software upgrades as one of the advantages of using Google Apps. That’s a delicious stroke of irony given Microsoft’s recent efforts to do the same to Apple through its Laptop Hunters campaign. Microsoft has scored points by playing up the higher price tag of Macs, and last month Apple’s lawyers asked Microsoft to change one of the ads to reflect recent price cuts.

Microsoft’s advertising campaign has been expensive, but executives are clearly pleased with the results. And the Apple-focused campaign has been cheered both by shareholders and partners who’ve admitted to feeling a certain queasy feeling every time they saw one of Apple’s brilliant “Get A Mac” spots.

Google may have watched the dynamics between Apple and Microsoft play out and decided to get some skin in the game. And, by using billboards as the medium, the search giant may be looking to get a bigger bang using fewer bucks.