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Microsoft's Ad Blitz Targets Wrong Enemy

Stocks in this article: MSFT AAPL ADBE

REDMOND, Wash. ( TheStreet) -- Within the last year, Microsoft (MSFT) has been Jerry Seinfeld's pal, a PC, a party planner and a 4-year-old girl. It has been a costly identity crisis.

It has also been a long 18 months of ad wars that's only intensifying with Windows 7's launch on Oct. 22. In July 2008, after Microsoft and its embattled Windows Vista operating system suffered no small degree of public humiliation from Apple's (AAPL) "Get a Mac" ads, Microsoft's vice president of Windows consumer marketing Brad Brooks took the stage at the company's worldwide partner conference and said the company wanted to "take back its name and take back its brand again." According to TNS Media Intelligence, the company spent $470 million on advertising the following fiscal year attempting to do that.

The effort included more than $305 million on television commercials produced by ad firm Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, including the "I'm a PC" spots featuring hip-hop star Pharell Williams; "Laptop Hunter" ads that focused on the price disparity between Apple hardware and Windows-laden competitors (resulting in an Apple objection); and "Kylie" ads featuring a 4-year-old girl making photo editing look simple.

Despite holding more than 90% of the operating system market and limiting Apple's share of the PC market to 8.7%, according to Gartner, Microsoft outspent Apple's $214 million ad budget for the same period and doubled its rival's TV spending in the last two quarters. Months later, the question of "why" remains.

"People look at this and say it's positioning versus Apple," Brooks says. "The reality is, nope, it's going out and building brand loyalty and pride around the brand."

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