How to Spend a Big Advertising Budget on Linux

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 22, 2008

At first I laughed off the idea that Linux needs a $300 million dollar ad campaign, especially after Linux Journal's John Gray concluded that Linux really just needs an "informed press corps." I'd wager that Computerworld's Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols agrees, as long as the information campaign extends to the employees of box retail stores.

Today, the Linux Foundation announced that the Linux ecosystem is worth $25 billion. When it comes to a Linux-centric ad campaign, now I'm thinking, "Why not? When you're talking about something valued in the billions, what's a mere $300 million?" Let's pretend for a moment that we have an ad budget...

Gray says, "Admittedly, mainstream journalists often don’t know what to do with Linux due to ignorance and are often too quick to categorize it as for geeks only. Nevertheless, Linux’s ethos characterized by sharing, volunteerism and merit will always draw warm feelings from journalists. We just need them to be more informed so that they can write about us more effectively. That task is probably more important than a big ad campaign."

That's pretty much spot-on. I'm not sure I'd go as far as to suggest ignorance on the part of journalists, but it's true that many could be better informed. Perhaps that's because journalists that cover the entire tech space yet don't work with Linux on a daily basis and don't have the information they need to write -- as Gray says -- informed articles. Tech journalists that specialize in writing about Linux, on the other hand, are often preaching to the choir -- writing about Linux for Linux enthusiasts. Perhaps word about the virtues of Linux just aren't trickling out to the right spaces.

The solution? Maybe we should funnel some of the energy that goes into all those community conferences and create some press junkets with half the $300 ad budget we're speculating on for fun?

Vaughn-Nichols laments that the salespeople at Best Buy are also totally uninformed about the benefits of Linux. In some cases, they actually steer people away from the open source platform and toward commercial options.

"I was looking for a mini-notebook the other day for my mom-in-law at a Best Buy when I happened to hear a senior sales guy telling a newbie the 411 on selling PCs. 'You sell them either Vista, or, if you have to, point them to the Macs because those computers work. That XP stuff is old junk and Linux doesn't work,'" he writes.

Let's spend our other hypothetical $150 million on more in-store ad campaigns designed to pull in consumers but also has the added benefit of educating the store employees while they stand around waiting for customers.

Of course, the reality is that the Linux community doesn't have a $300 million check to spend on advertising. Even if such an account did exist, that money could surely be better spent on strengthening the architecture and underpinnings of Linux itself.

While it's fun to imagine what could be done with such a staggering amount of money, there are plenty of low- or no-cost ways to spread the word about Linux. What are some of your ideas? Let us know in the comments.