Last week's talk about FSF's "7 Sins" campaign made me think about the nature of such pro/con publicity efforts -- like Apple's PC/Mac ads, the "I'm a PC" ad. Are they designed to draw people into the fold, or keep people from leaving it?
I had conversations over the weekend with other folks who'd seen the FSF campaign and took a miss on it. They agreed that things like this seem more designed to appeal to the already-faithful and not bring in converts. Maybe that's not what was intended, but that's certainly one of the more visible end results.
Then I went a step further. Maybe the practical effect of these types of campaigns, I wagered, isn't to draw new people in at all. It's to reassure the already-faithful that they've made the right choices, that there's nothing to be gained by decamping and going elsewhere. Most people who switch to the Mac, for instance, do so because they have some direct experience with a Macintosh that paid off for them -- not because of Apple's clownish TV ads. (The same goes with switching from Windows to Linux, or vice versa.)
Again, maybe that's not the original intent (or even part of any of the conscious intent at all), but that's certainly how it comes off.
Crafting ads to raise awareness of things that are not understood by the general public -- the benefits of open source, for instance -- is tough. Really, really tough. I've written about this before in other forms. Example: the MakeTheMove campaign, which I criticized for being too mired down in FOSS terminology and politics to get its message across. There's a reason admen make tons of money; smartly-crafted campaigns of any kind are hard work, and can backfire badly. (Microsoft has no end of busted ad campaigns to their credit, too -- the terrible Office 2007 "dinosaur" ads, the lackluster "Wow Starts Now" Vista pieces, and so on.)
If the end result of some FOSS ad pitches is more to keep up morale than to draw in new users, I'd chalk up a good chunk of that to how tough it is to write any kind of ad pitch at all.
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