• Explore the magic and the mystery!
  • The Tech Night Owl's Home Page
  • Namecheap.com





  • Microsoft’s New Ad Campaign Ignores Logic

    September 8th, 2008

    So Mrs. Steinberg comes to me the other day and starts talking about a new ad campaign featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. “What was supposed to be about?” she wondered. The puzzled expression on her face was obvious from across the room.

    Now Barbara doesn’t ordinarily talk about such matters. To her, they are strictly fodder for the fast-forward button on our cable company DVR. In this case, though, she was understandably surprised to see Gates pretending to be straight man to a famous comedian.

    Understand that she doesn’t follow the tech industry all that much. It’s not really on her radar, despite her husband’s extensive experience at the game. But clearly this particular TV spot struck a chord, but not the kind Microsoft would like.

    You see, other than the Windows logo and a brief blurb on the screen, there’s nothing in the first message, shot in a shoe store setting, to really indicate that this is part of Microsoft’s $300 million campaign to redeem the tattered reputation of Windows Vista. For a brief moment, I even thought they were trying to sell me a pair of shoes. Then I recalled the motto of Seinfeld’s popular TV show of the last decade, “a show about nothing.” So that’s it! Microsoft filmed a commercial about nothing.

    Certainly, Microsoft has reason to want to give this train wreck some sales traction. After all, the next version of Windows, dubbed “7,” is not expected until 2010 if then. More to the point, the core components will just built upon Vista, which means another bloated operating system that exacts an extremely large amount of system resources.

    The situation seems dire, although hundreds of millions of Windows Vista PCs have been sold since the operating system was released in January of 2007. In fact, Microsoft regularly touts the great sales, ignoring the unpleasant news that many businesses choose to stick with Windows XP. To add insult to injury, the enterprise seems, in large part, to be downgrading their new PCs. Imagine if that happened with new Mac owners, who wanted to ditch Leopard and install Tiger?

    It appears to me, though, that Apple seems to be going about this the wrong way. You see, humorous ads, successful or otherwise, tend to appeal to consumers and not the enterprise, which is where Microsoft possesses a the largest portion of its industry dominance. Regular people who want to buy a new PC will seldom inquire about the operating system, unless, of course, they want to buy a Mac. Even then, they’ll likely choose it on the basis of its name and looks rather than the underlying software that drives it.

    Apple understands this market. The Mac versus PC ads are sharply focused and their intent is very clear. You have two comic actors who portray the Mac as hip, the PC as stodgy. They are also dressed accordingly, to drive the point home even further. These short skits quickly grab your attention, and you never have a moment’s doubt what they’re selling. You don’t need a brief slide of a Mac at the spot’s conclusion to do anything but reinforce your initial impression.

    In contrast, that first Microsoft ad is 90 seconds in length, and thus not apt to appear very often on network TV, where 30 seconds is usually more than sufficient. If there’s a message, it’s so subtle that it’ll be lost of most viewers; in other words, it’s an abject failure.

    In Microsoft’s defense, maybe this is all part of some sort of series arc, where the totality of a number of these ads will supposedly convey their message about Windows Vista. That requires a sense of continuity, and the expectation that the audience will absorb all of it in the proper sequence.

    Perhaps I’m getting this all wrong. Maybe there is a subliminal message that Barbara failed to grasp. If that’s the case, she’s not alone. I don’t get it either, nor do any of the tech pundits whose columns I’ve read in recent days. Well, maybe the Windows fanboys can somehow comprehend this disaster-in-the-making.

    What’s probably most unfortunate about this whole silly exercise is that Microsoft very likely believes that somehow bringing back a TV sitcom star from the 1990s will appeal to their target audience. Or maybe they are stuck in the 1990s, believing they can somehow sell today’s products with yesterday’s marketing schemes.

    This is not to say that the campaign is doomed to failure. Quite possibly the sheer novelty of having Bill Gates as an on-air spokesperson will attract the curious. But auto accidents attract the curious too, and that doesn’t impact the sale of new products in any way that seems to make sense, although perhaps more people are somehow encouraged to wear seat belts as a result.

    Right now, though, it does seem that this new Windows marketing campaign will join the Microsoft Zune as just another failed marketing effort on the part of the world’s largest software company. However, they’re still laughing all the way to the bank, so maybe it doesn’t really matter.



    Share
    | Print This Article Print This Article

    16 Responses to “Microsoft’s New Ad Campaign Ignores Logic”

    1. shane blyth says:

      The message in the ad is that Vista is like a new pair of shoes they take a little while to run in and and for you to get use to the fit and then you feel “comfortable” in them… well thats what someone told me…

    2. pila says:

      Maybe we have it all wrong and this ad was so bad on purpose . They certainly got every body’s
      attention.

      Most of us will watch the next ad and maybe that will be the killer.

      Pila

    3. shane blyth says:

      killer ? we might all die of boredom

    4. Karl says:

      In this day and age it’s fashionable to “hate” Microsoft. (Just like in the 90s and Apple) So I’m trying not to let my Mac bias overshadow the ad for what it is. I think the ad’s messaging is a bit muddled… ultimately innovation working for the average-sensible-shoe-buying type of person is what I take. Getting to that thought was too much work and I don’t think most people will give the ad as much thought as I have done.

      All in all I found the ad entertaining. Bill Gates comes off pretty good. Of course Jerry is being Jerry, so I’m curious to see the rest of the ad campaign. Will it help Microsoft move more product?… that will ultimately determine the success or failure.

    5. tom b says:

      If MSFT had competitive products to sell, they wouldn’t have to bet on cryptic, unfunny ads like the Seinfeld effort.

      As for Enterprise– they move at a snail’s pace and Apple knows this. They are all about being compatible with that VB script someone wrote in DOS in 1982. Few in Enterprise do anything more complicated than throwing together a Powerpoint seminar. Apple WILL target Enterprise, when the time is right. The iPhone is one “foot in the door”. Keynote is another. Filemaker. XServe. These products are ALL growing– the iPhone faster than the others.

    6. GUS says:

      The ad as entertainment was fair to good. The message? Windows is like a cheap pair of shoes that don’t fit, made in third world countries? I sure hope there is a series thread, other wise this is just zune-ish.

    7. Andrew says:

      I thought the ad was entertaining as well, and like Karl said, Bill came off pretty good. It doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy Vista, which I use and rather like, but then, Apple’s ads don’t make me want to run out and buy a Mac, which I also use and rather like.

    8. Karl says:

      …It doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy …

      I think the only ads that ever are created to do that are the ads with Billy Mays (Think OxiClean). I jump right up and order anything he promotes. 🙂

    9. Kaleberg says:

      Back in the 1960s Avis Rent a Car ran a very successful ad series based on the premise that they were the number two car rental company, so they had to try harder. They had ads, a print campaign, and even issued We Try Harder buttons in dozens of languages. They turned the focus on themselves and on Hertz, who was number one, and nearly eliminated Budget, National and all the other car rental companies from the public eye. This was a very effective ad, though I don’t know if it would work today as Americans no longer root for the underdog.

      According the ad man Jerry Della Femina, the ad was so successful that it started hurting morale at Hertz. Back then, who wanted to be the big bully. (It’s different now.) Hertz actually had to run counter-ads aimed internally and at outsiders, if only to buck up their own employees. (Can you even imagine a big company nowadays being concerned with employee morale? We’re all Dilberts, or maybe even Wallies.)

      It is quite possible that the very successful Apple ads have been having their impact internally at Microsoft, and that this new ad and likely others to follow, are being aimed at internal morale rather than at the market place. The awkward choice of a 1990s comedian echoes numerous attempts of companies to rebrand as up to date in the 1960s, but blowing it horribly by choosing entertainers from the 1940s and 1950s, rather than the up and coming crowd. Of course, inside Microsoft, it is still the 1980s or 1990s, just as it is still the 1950s or early 1960s in Detroit, so what appears to be a weird advertisement to us outsiders makes perfect sense, and may even be quite effective, inside Microsoft.

    10. Michael Teuber says:

      If Barbara is anything like my wife, if she didn’t get it, it wasn’t there to be got.

      Does anyone actually believe that someone promotes showering with your clothes on? That is the sort of thing Kramer would have championed.

    11. If Barbara is anything like my wife, if she didn’t get it, it wasn’t there to be got.

      Does anyone actually believe that someone promotes showering with your clothes on? That is the sort of thing Kramer would have championed.

      Agreed. She’s super-savvy. 🙂

      Peace,
      Gene

    12. John B says:

      I think you missed the point of this ad. There is indeed a message at the very end, and it’s not about Vista. This ad is about “The Future,” which MS is promising will be “Delicious.” The message I get from this ad is, “Forget Vista. It’s the next big thing we have in store that will really, REALLY blow you away. Really. We’re not kidding this time. Just you wait. Seriously.” They’re trying to tell people to hold off switching to Mac for just a little while longer and it will be worth the wait.

    13. Tom B says:

      I think you missed the point of this ad. There is indeed a message at the very end, and it’s not about Vista. This ad is about “The Future,” which MS is promising will be “Delicious.” The message I get from this ad is, “Forget Vista. It’s the next big thing we have in store that will really, REALLY blow you away. Really. We’re not kidding this time. Just you wait. Seriously.” They’re trying to tell people to hold off switching to Mac for just a little while longer and it will be worth the wait.

      Gee, MSFT has been saying that since 1984. How long does MSFT expect people to wait? They haven’t even made the leap to UNIX yet, and that’s not planned for Windows 7. I’ll see flying cars and moonbases, I think before I see MSFT catch up to OS 10.5

    14. Arnold Ziffel says:

      First of all, the ad is way too long. And it’s way too meaningless. And it’s bloat advertising (to go along with MS’s bloatware!) compared to Apple’s tight and focused 30 second spots.

      Bill Gates wiggling his rear on tv borders upon the obscene–one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen on the public airways.

    15. Bridge Burner says:

      Hey Gene,

      It’s bridge burner again! This time your right on the money. The ad was too long, too moronic, too not to any point, and frankly an embarrassment. I think MS should send me $200 million, I can make them look foolish and save them $100 million!

      This ad proves just how out-of-touch MS is. They just don’t get it! Seinfeld was a very bad choice as he is a washed up has been, I hope he dusts off a place on the shelf for MS, that’s where they’re heading.

    16. Vito Positano says:

      Gene,
      I just thought that MS’s message was, “I don’t care what you think. We are on the right track with Vista, an OS for normal people like you and I. We are pedestrians, the average JoeSixPack and JaneCookieCutter, while you are an elitist snob. If you don’t like it, kiss my wiggling ass.”

      That butt wiggling was, really, obscene from an old man. You know how Chuck Norris kills the scene once he enters it, well, Gates does the same…so strained.

      A secondary message is that Gates is now irrelevant. Why? Because a pretty girl could cave enlightened the scene just by her presence.

    Leave Your Comment