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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Linux ads?

The Linux Foundation has announced the winners of the "We're Linux" ad contest.

Consider me underwhelmed.

Don't get me wrong: I've been using Linux for nine years, it's my primary operating system at home, and I expect to keep using it for the foreseeable future. But the Linux Foundation ads don't impress me.

My first reaction was, Who is the target audience? The winning ad talks about freedom, but doesn't ever explain what that means. As one commenter on Reddit said, it sounds like an ad for a feminine napkin.

The first runner up is creepy. It looks too much like a trailer for an low budget horror film. Again, it doesn't say anything about the product. If you didn't know already, you would probably not guess it had something to do with computers.

The second runner up, in my opinion, is the best of the lot. (Or should that be, the least worst of the lot?) It connects the name Linux with the penguin logo, and shows the penguin operating on a PC. The penguin makes a joke about there being no difference between an apple and a window, suggesting who the competition is.

On the other hand, the operating room scene leaves the impression that Linux is something to try out on an older, dying machine.

So who is the target audience?

The first two ads seem to be targeting people looking for "freedom", however they define that. But let's face it: The real freedom does not come from the operating system kernel. For most users, freedom means being more productive with the applications they have to use. The people who want the freedom of a Unix-like operating system are already using one.

The third ad, on the other hand, seems to be aimed at people who have an older computer that won't run today's software.

If the point is to give users a reason to dump Windows or OS X, none of the ads succeed. If the point is to give Linux name recognition as an operating system, the third ad may be a start. But if the Linux Foundation wants to seriously promote this operating system, they should probably go with a professional ad agency. However, they probably don't the budget for it.

Who does have the budget? Maybe Red Hat, Novell, or some of the other vendors who offer enterprise distributions. But since they are targeting business customers, television ads may not have a good enough return on investment to be worth the expense. There are better ways to reach business customers.

So again, it comes back to target audience. Who, really, is the Linux Foundation trying to reach?