Moral Defense of Microsoft

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Client: The Committee for the Moral Defense of Microsot, Charlottesville, VA
Category: Nonprofit activist group opposing antitrust actions against Microsoft

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Background

In late 1997 and early 1998, the Department of Justice’s assault on Microsoft over alleged antitrust violations was reaching its apex.

As I became more aware of the issue, and supportive of Microsoft, I also learned of an organization that was aligned with his views on it: The Committee for the Moral Defense of Microsoft (CMDM). The press release announcing the creation of this organization is located here. (A PDF version is archived here)

I contacted the CMDM’s founder & director, Robert Tracinsky, who explained that the organization’s purpose was to rally advocates of capitalism to support a petition drive, and a fundraising effort to develop and place ads in major newspapers to defend Microsoft.  Upon learning of my background in graphic design, advertising and copy writing, Robert suggested that perhaps we could work together to produce print ad that would help to:

  • Explain, in layman’s terms, the nature of the Microsoft – DoJ conflict
  • Rally everyday Americans to help support the CMDM

I agreed to do so, and further offered to donate a half-page of ad space in a magazine I had founded, and was about to begin publishing in South Florida, at no cost to the CMDM.


 

Development of the CMDM print ad

Robert initially wanted to adapt some of the copy of the petition he’d written into the ad, but I said that as space was so limited, and visuals would be needed, we needed to think in terms of a theme that would rapidly capture and draw in the reader’s attention.  Ultimately, I wanted to find a way to put the entire concept of antitrust in general – and how it is being applied to Microsoft in particular – into a perspective that anyone could understand.

Robert agreed with this view, and we began generating thematic ideas.  Ultimately, we came up with an analogy to an athlete in his moment of triumph – as contrasted to a top businessman, being led away in handcuffs.  Both have achieved the highest level of performance – but whereas one is celebrated and is visibly proud of his achievement, Microsoft, for having achieved market dominance through superior technology and marketing, is being treated as a criminal.

The following is the copy that we developed:

Imagine you were an athlete… and after years of struggle, hard work, long hours and determination, you had achieved the ‘golden ring’ in your discipline; that you had pioneered a level of excellence so high that the judges viewed your performance as the world’s new, highest benchmark.

Now, imagine that your competitors – unable to match your achievement – had amassed sufficient political, legal, academic and cultural influence to impose controls on what events you may compete in, how many points you would be permitted to score, and how many judges can declare you the victor – and that if you refused to comply with these edicts, you would be punished, or even imprisoned.

Sound farfetched? In the world of professional sports, perhaps. In business and industry, however, this practice is becoming commonplace. Its name is Antitrust.”
From there, I and Robert took the copy into straightforward, unapologetic capitalist advocacy:

In a free society, producers compete against each other without controls, and consumers have the right to deal with any of them (or not to), under mutually-acceptable terms.  Consumers are the judges who freely determine the winners in every industry, and naturally seek out and trade with producers whose wares they deem to be of superior quality, functionality, and/or value.

Antitrust subverts this basic freedom to choose, by shackling and controlling individual    achievements, for the benefit of less successful competitors. In the end, everyone loses: the consumer, who has fewer, lower-quality, more expensive choices; the producer, whose goals and abilities are artificially constrained; and the nation as a whole, having been subjected to the doctrine that productive individuals (especially innovative ones) must be controlled “for the good of society.”

Antitrust’s most recent victim is one of the greatest pioneers in American history: Bill Gates, founder and CEO of Microsoft Corporation. The argument now being presented to the American people by the U.S. Department of Justice is that Microsoft’s products are of such high quality and broad desirability that they have created too high a hurdle for competitors to reach, let alone surpass – and that legal measures should be enacted to punish, shackle and control it.

As shown below, the ad concludes with an appeal to the reader to:

  • Sign an online petition
  • Contribute to a fund to help place ads such as this one in major newspapers and magazines
  • Develop articles & media education materials
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I then donated and transferred the digital art for the ad to Robert, who placed it in numerous publications throughout America.

Although no formal survey was done, all of the feedback I received from the readers of my magazine was very positive on the ad.

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