[Linux-aus] Marketing Linux

Paul Wayper paul.wayper at anu.edu.au
Wed Apr 18 07:56:11 UTC 2007

Nigel Cunningham wrote:
> I agree. I'd far rather see money spent on a really good TV ad.
> Especially one that said "The 'Wow' started long ago" or highlighted the
> benefits of Linux for your average home or business user.
I'm going to weigh in here before we get another one of the opinion wars
that caused so much trouble the last time anyone suggested any kind of
advertising for Linux.

There seem to be a lot of hand-wringers who think that 'advertising
Linux' is like 'advertising freedom' - no point, no specific goals, no
'how does this change your life' message, and we're not reaching the
'target audience'.  It's a very important criticism, except for the fact
that all these are fairly easily rebuttable.  Microsoft obviously thinks
that it's worth splattering "The Wow Starts Now" on TV screens,
billboards and newspapers - they also, of course, have advertising all
over places like Slashdot, SourceForge and other places where geeks of
various source persuasions hang out on the internet.  One of the things
that people (such as myself) in the FOSS community feel strongly about
is combatting Microsoft's ads with our own advertising.  You have to
open the door in order for people to want to come in.  You have to tell
people there is an alternative in order for them to think they have a

The real problem with this idea, and the real reason nothing gets done
about it, is that everyone agrees that we need to do something, but
everyone's idea of what is different.  What it needs is a good
old-fashioned project manager to cut through the myriad options to
choose the ones that are going to work, and then get a team of people
working on them.  Of course, we all know that the person who puts their
hand up for this is then going to get full-on Ballmer Monkey Tantrums
from all the people who think it's a bad idea, or who think that their
beautiful little creative idea has been ignored.  At this point even the
people with the will and the wit start backing away.  No-one wants to
just go out on a limb and do it by themselves because that's not being
'part of the community' (i.e. a violation of most of the Geek Social
Fallacies).  So nothing gets done, the public don't ever get to question
Microsoft's advertising, and the FOSS geeks stand around and whinge
about it.

I've put a couple of ideas for TV ads up on my blog when this last
(http://www.mabula.net/tbfw/2007/02/06#2007-02-06-the-linux-ads-1).  Of
course, nobody's sent me any email telling me whether they like the
ideas or not.  But at least it's a start.  Tell us about what your idea
of a TV ad for Linux is.

I'll add here that I think there are two styles of advert that we can
use to tell people about Linux.  One is a very nice, smooth,
modern-corporate ad involving lifestyles, such as Apple's original iPod
ads or Microsoft's "dream" ads.  Everything is very polite and seamless,
and it gets the message across without offending anyone or making any
statements about the competitors.  In other words, exactly like all the
other ads we see for computer products these days.

The other is the kind that we all, secretly, want to see: Linux sailing
smoothly on while everyone's Windows machines get haxxored and crash;
Linux costing nothing but providing the same kind of applications that
would cost thousands to buy for proprietary OSes; being able to solve
problems in Linux rather than just reinstalling or rebooting.  This is
implicitly what Apple did with their Mac / PC ads - the PC is an
ever-so-slightly stuffy, boring kind of guy that no-one really wants to
hang out with.  We want the ad that says "Linux: because Microsoft sucks".

I think there's a place for both.  The place for the first is on those
TV screens and billboards and in the newspapers and magazines.  The
place for the second is on YouTube, the viral marketing campaign passed
around in emails and on IRC channels; it gets servers slashdotted and
topics Digged (or Dugg, or whatever you're supposed to say).  Both will
do what we want to: promote choice and question the duopoly.

That's enough from me,


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