Codebreaking: “We built a PC store in her house.”

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Look at the new Windows ad. Cheryl’s house is turned into a computer store so she can get a new computer. I thought Windows was only sold in Best Buys, but apparently it’s in Apple stores as well. Up the stairs is the Really Smart Person Counter.

The ad is straightforward, and it’s not. All ads sell a product, of course, but they also sell other things which require vigilance: aspirational images (like the black man in the Nivea ad); behavior patterns (“sure you should eat at this restaurant, but also this is what good food looks like; this is what well dressed and attractive people look like, this is what they do.” Sometimes the ads even sell the ad agency, “look how clever we are!”

In this ad, her problem is she wants a new computer. No, wait, actually she doesn’t want a new computer, the ad explicitly says she doesn’t. “[She has a] four year old computer she doesn’t think she needs to update, so to show her what she’s missing…” She needs to be convinced.

She’s given dozens of choices, and a tech savvy guide to explain it all to her. Yet what draws her in, each and every time, is the design. “Where’s the tower?” It’s all in here! And why not spin the spinny thing for a while? Squares call it a “monitor.” “I like this one,” she says as she strokes it like a new car/penis.

At the end, she triumphantly holds up the closest Windows product to a Macbook– a Sony Vaio– and says, “I’m finally up to date!” That’s right: Windows 7, finally in gunmetal.

Following this ad’s logic, then what she needed to update, after all, wasn’t the RAM or the processor, but the design. And through the alchemy of retail, she has also updated herself. She feels young again, even at 40 something, and she only spent 2/3 of what a Macbook would have cost her. Her eHarmony friends will be like, “no way, that is so neat!” 

Related posts:

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  3. Codebreaking: Imported from the Rust Belt
  4. Codebreaking: Diet Coke’s “Stay Extraordinary”
  5. Codebreaking: Cyborg Eye from HAL 9000 to Droid Smartphones

15 Responses to Codebreaking: “We built a PC store in her house.”

  1. sunshinefiasco says:

    1) If your computer is 4 years old, you either: a) need to update it, or b) know that you don’t need to update it because you’ve been personally updating it all along and you’re a computer person.

    2) Even the people that aim to be the woman in that commercial know that she’s choosing the computer on 2 factors: appearance, and the list of 4 features that are listed on a sticker. In fact, to anyone who isn’t that lady, it’s painfully clear that that woman wouldn’t know a good computer if it hit her in the mouth. This means that the ad is meant to target exclusively the that-lady-people: not-technologically savvy, lots of disposable income, bored, kind of stupid, but like to appear informed. Sounds like the kind of people that would wander in and buy a computer when they don’t think they need one, because the style looks so much newer, doesn’t it?

    3) This ad made me realize: Windows has figured out that they have a lock on the old-computer-illiterate market (she looks older for mom age, but she still has the huge car, like maybe the kids are in the 15-college, they have their own computers range). (In fact, if the computer hasn’t been updated in 4 years, in her house, there’s a good chance she’s been the only one using it for at least the last 3.) “Hey, son, look, I updated my computer!” That’ll get ‘em.

    3) Side note: Can you actually have E-harmony friends? I honestly am curious.

    • londonmark says:

      Sounds like the kind of people that would wander in and buy a computer when they don’t think they need one, because the style looks so much newer, doesn’t it?

      No, not really. This is explicitly targetted at people who are entirely unlikely to wander into stores and spontaneously buy shiny new computers. They are the polar opposite of the people at which you sneer. One would not have to shell out on TV advertising otherwise.

      • sunshinefiasco says:

        The ad is exactly targeted at people who buy lots of random shit without thinking, just ones who haven’t thought of getting a new computer yet (i.e. wealthy stay-at-home/part-time employed moms of older children). It’s unlikely that they’d wander in and buy a computer (they don’t use them that much), but it’s incredibly likely that they wander in other places and buy expensive shit without knowing whether it’s any good or not– the commercial is designed to have them wander into a computer store instead of wherever they normally go (in this case, after making up a few reasons about why a laptop would be so much more convenient).

        If the ad were about people who are unlikely to spontaneously buy a new computer, they would have had the woman know something, anything about computers, or at least care about any of the features other than the DV-R. They certainly would have her mention something other than the design features of the various models. Do you honestly think she’s an informed, careful consumer in this situation?

        Lastly, if you think that companies don’t pay for advertising that reinforces the self-perceptions of the clients they already have, you’re clearly new ’round these parts. And you’re reeeeeally mistaken.

    • cliche says:

      If your computer is 4 years old, you either: a) need to update it

      Windows Vista is 5 years old, and a top of the line computer from 4 years ago is still better than today’s low-range.
      The leap from 2007 to now (e.g. Core 2 Quad to Sandy Bridge) was nowhere near as large as 2003-2007 (Pentium 4 EE to Core 2 Quad).

      • sunshinefiasco says:

        That’s probably true. But there’s also 4 years worth of crap on it, and if their family computer is anything like the “family computer” at my parents house, that means that it’s best used as an oversize, hot paperweight.

  2. Or says:

    I’m just trying to figure out what that suspense-movie sound effect is all about.

    • eqv says:

      I saw that as being in the style of those ‘Extreme Make0ver’-type shows where they fix up someone’s house while they’re away. “Don’t look… don’t look… okay open your eyes and look at your new living room complete with forty-inch plasma!”

      Those VIAOs are very MacBook-ish. She says “I’m a PC…” — substitution of product for identity. (I don’t know, I guess Apple started this, right?)

      To my ears, it was strange that she asked “where’s the tower”– in my experience, only ‘computer savvy’ people call it a tower. People who don’t really know what’s going on inside the box call the whole thing a “hard drive”. But that might just be regional.

  3. Jerboa says:

    I think the weirdest message is that someone who integrates their store into your house without asking wouldn’t be treated exactly like a home-invader with a rape-kit.

  4. xiphoidmaneuver says:

    Now I expect to feel like & be treated as a (reality TV) celebrity next time I shop for a Microsoft Windows product. When I get back those Macs will see that I still got it.

  5. zozo says:

    Codebreaking: TheLastPsychiatrist is a Mac.

    • TheDevastator says:

      Nope. TLP is built from parts salvaged from computers the local university was throwing away, running Debian, inside a Faraday cage. Red pill, mofos.

      • zozo says:

        No, he’s a Mac. A little leafing through the archives reveals this gem:

        “I just bought a MacBook with edges so sharp I can slit my wrists on it while I’m looking for the right click button. But it’s a slick ride, and boots up fast enough for me not to punch the CPU. Is it “better” than a PC? Sure, I’ll grant that.” (

        If we’re going to do the po-mo thing, may as well address the author’s particular biases as well.

        • Dirk Anger says:

          Is it “better” than a PC? Sure, I’ll grant that.”

          Of course, by now he’s been pestered by his non-Mac-people friends enough to know it’s better than a PC, but only if said PC costs less than about half the price

  6. HeXXiiiZ says:

    “She needs to be convinced.” …
    “she says as she strokes it like a new car/penis” …
    “Her eHarmony friends will be like, “no way, that is so neat!” ” …

    This is probably a stretch, but what the hell.

    What follows from this line of reasoning? What is she really being offered that the new PC is simply a stand-in for? In other terms, what is getting a new PC an achievable, consolatory substitute for? Consider the shot of the old PC. What is this old PC qualitatively to the woman in the commercial? It’s dependable, utilitarian, familiar, comfortable, and tied into her life. But on the other hand, it is unkempt, showing its age, sloppy, and its peripherals are starting to hang out. Despite the fact that on some level she knows this, part of her cannot admit it to herself. Is this old PC not a signifier for her husband? The old PC is an aging man in her life who has lost his charm but become a good provider and cornerstone of safety and regularity in her life.

    To “show her what she’s missing” (out on), the PC store suddenly comes storming into her house and the domesticity is evacuated from her living room, and the commercial make it a point to show this transformation. When she walks in the door she is not so much shocked as overwhelmed and a bit elated. She initially looks around with a slight sense of embarrassment indulging herself in the possibilities the PC store has permitted her to entertain. And indeed, she is looking primarily at the design, but not simply because of its aesthetically magnetism.

    She responds a bit embarrassingly when the salesman tells her “its all here”, regarding the absence of a “tower”. What is a tower anyways (aside from the literal)? A tower is a fortress, an exaggerated metaphor for her being kept in the confines of her home. When the salesman says that the sleek new PC does not need a tower, she is says “oh stop”, not in genuine surprise or disbelief, but bashfully as though she is being offered too much. She is being offered a new young PC without a tower, which is in essence, the possibility of an affair with a younger man, with no strings attached.

    In the end, after looking again a little bit overwhelmed, she indeed strokes the PC with the 500GB hard drive, a little reluctant and indecisive, and goes for it, and there is a “new PC … in the house”. In other words, there is a “new man … in the house”, and she is “up to date” him. She has learned how to get “up to dat[ing]”.

    Maybe this is overreaching, but it made me laugh.

    • operator says:

      . . .

      0:16 “Oh, stop!”

      0:17 “Flip that _____ around…”

      0:18 “Very _______!”

      0:19 “… a ________ hard-drive…”

      0:20 “I like the _____ thing!”

      . . .