“Wow. How sad.” That was my reaction to watching the latest in Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign against Google, this time using two of the stars from Pawn Stars to attack Chromebooks as not “real laptops” and part of Google’s overall plan to “Scroogle” people.
I’m struggling to understand how the geniuses behind the Scroogled campaign thought going after Chromebooks as somehow Google misleading people was a great idea. But to me — and I’m a big Pawn Stars fan — it comes off as weak and even desperate.
“It’s Pretty Much A Brick”
The video features a woman who walks into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, where Pawn Stars is based, to sell her laptop to get enough money for a ticket to Hollywood. In the video posted to Bing/MSN Video, she starts saying it was a gift from her mother (while on YouTube, that intro has been cut in the short version; it remains in the extended one). Here’s the MSN version:
I assume she’s already been to Hollywood, because it’s clear to me that she, as well as the Pawn Star folks, have been hired to do this all as a promotion for Scroogled. But the ad never discloses that she’s an actress, or that this has all been pre-scripted.
“What makes you think it’s worth that much,” asks Rick Harrison, one of the owners of the shop. “It’s a laptop,” she replies, followed by a cut-away to Rick laughing behind-the-scenes, part of the Pawn Stars format where the owners & assistants discuss items they’ve been offered away from patrons.
He explains, in keeping with the usual Pawn Stars-style, the background of the item. A Google Chromebook, a “relatively new style device” that, because it uses web-based applications, “when you’re not connected, it’s pretty much a brick. That’s a major drawback.”
Sure. And maybe I’m too familiar with Chromebook, but I’ve never heard any horror stories of people who bought one (it’s a best selling item on Amazon) and failed to realize they couldn’t use it without an internet connection.
Real Laptops Have Windows & Office
Rick goes on to explain to the woman in the shop that the Chromebook is not a “real laptop” because “it doesn’t have Windows or Office.” Which, presumably, makes anyone who owns a Mac without buying Office not having a real laptop. Or, anyone buying a Windows computer without Office only owning half -a-laptop.
Chromebooks Designed To Track & Sell Ads
Rick continues that without wifi, the computer isn’t of much use “and when you are online, Google tracks what you do, so they can sell ads.”
Again, there haven’t been a lot of horror stories about Chromebook phoning home about everything you do. Certainly the Chrome browser will fetch ahead for certain types of content; I’m fairly sure that Internet Explorer does the same.
If we’re talking ads, Windows 8 has new giant “Hero Ads” that show up baked into the operating system, an extension of other ad options in Windows 8 that people can buy. You can’t buy ads baked into Chromebooks. You just get them the old-fashioned way — in your browser.
“That’s how you get Scroogled,” Rick continues, causing his father — who also owns the shop and who is known on the show as “The Old Man” — to ask what Scroogled means. Rick goes on to explain that Google’s always trying to make money off your personal information. “This Chromebook hardware makes it even easier for them.”
The companion site to the ad does nothing I can see to document this “Chromebook spies on you” claim. There’s an entire “Chrome OS Cons” section where that’s not even listed as a drawback:
Chromebook gets slammed for poor apps & needing wifi access, limited access to games and media, no way to play DVDs and CDs, printing woes and lack of peripheral support. But as Google’s spy machine? Nothing.
You have to dig, oddly, into the “Chromebook Can’ts” area to get to Microsoft’s accusations which, in terms of Chromebook being designed to gather more of people’s data, isn’t really backed up:
The Bad Reviews Turn Out To Be Not All Bad
The companion site also features five expert reviews of how terrible Chromebooks are:
Going through the five reviews, three of them pretty much see no point in the Chromebook, such as where Jeffrey Van Camp came away completely convinced there was nothing good there: “Many people will see low price tags on Chromebooks and consider purchasing, hoping Chrome can meet their light computing needs. But it still has a lot of issues at the moment that could, and should, be resolved.”
But two others that are positioned as if they’re anti-Chromebook actually see value.
Julie Bort wrote for Business Insider that paying for the expensive Chromebook Pixel didn’t seem worth it but also concluded: “The upshot is, at under $300, like for an HP ChromeBook ($279, no touchscreen) a ChromeBook is fine for home, or school, where WiFi is reliable…. That said, I’m going to miss this Pixel after I send it back. For working at home on stable WiFi, I’ve learned to prefer it.”
Jill Duffy found it just wasn’t the thing for working offline on a flight, but added at the end, “I still do see the appeal for some people. A Chromebook costs less than an iPad $499.99 at Amazon and has a keyboard. All your work backs up to the cloud automatically (provided you have an Internet connection, of course). I’m not giving up on the Chromebook just yet, but I don’t trust it and will proceed with extreme caution as I continue to look for apps that might make the experience, well, tolerable.”
I wouldn’t recommend anyone by a Chromebook Pixel, myself. I did, but that was for work reasons, so I could be familiar with Google’s top-of-the-line machine. It’s a great machine, but it’s also a $1,300 web browser. That’s just too much money.
But an inexpensive Chromebook might be an ideal option for many people who want to get on the web in the way a traditional laptop allows but who don’t need all the features that also come with those laptops, including the higher price of those traditional devices.
A Scroogled Too Far
Overall, if Microsoft wanted to run a campaign comparing how Windows laptops are more versatile than Chromebooks, that would have been fair — and perhaps powerful. Even the Pawn Stars segment would have been great, in many ways. But when it starts falling into this somehow being an attempt by Google to “Scroogle” people, what’s next? Is the iPad an attempt by Apple to Scroogle people because it, also, can’t do all the things that a traditional laptop can?
Bringing in the Scroogled message just cheapens the message, to me.
I’ll be interested to see the reaction to this all. If it’s like the other Scroogled campaigns, there won’t be much. In October, there were a wave of stories on how Scroogled was working based off a terrible Ad Age story — which really just got ad experts to rate how effective they thought the ads were, not whether the ads were converting anyone. My story, Is Microsoft’s Scroogled Campaign Working? Not If Gaining Consumers Is The Goal, explains more.
Meanwhile, Rick of Pawn Stars has shared the video and gained three “sell out” responses, two in favor of the commercial and one person who says they like Chromebooks, so far:
It’s about separating the real deal from the imitation & well the Chromebook “laptop” isn’t fooling us http://t.co/WUkJXnYhoz #scroogled #AD
— Rick Harrison (@GoldSilverPawn) November 26, 2013
By the way, the Pawn Stars shop doesn’t have any inventory of Chromebooks for sale. Nor Macs. Nor Windows computers. The only computers that are apparently worth pawning are tablet computers made by Apple and Google — but not Microsoft: