Does Microsoft Have the Stupidest Ads on the Planet?

January 5th, 2010

You just know that Microsoft is struggling mightily to remain relevant in the 21st century, while making the lion’s share of its income from products and services that were first created in the last century. However, it’s also clear their executives have no taste when it comes to choosing the proper marketing methods to sell products to consumers.

Now producing stupid or just plain obnoxious TV spots isn’t too hard. That explains why the Fast Forward buttons on TiVOs and other DVRs are being regularly worn to the bone, and TV networks and local stations are struggling to stop ad income from sagging big time.

So Job One for Microsoft would be to actually deliver a message that stops you in your tracks when you are ready to push that button, or go to the fridge for some liquid refreshment as you wait for the show to resume. Apple has managed to do that with the Mac Versus PC campaign. GEICO, an insurance company, has captured plenty of attention with its “Gecko” lizard puppet, and those modern-day cavemen. In fact the latter marketing scheme proved so popular it actually inspired a short-lived comedy show, until they woke up and realized that the concept only succeeded within the 30 second constraints of a TV ad.

Into this clutter comes some of the most absurd TV spots on record. First, Microsoft teams ex-CEO Bill Gates with 1990’s sitcom veteran Jerry Seinfeld to produce two commercials about nothing. Well, wasn’t that the concept of Seinfeld’s show? In any case, when that campaign fizzled, Microsoft began its Laptop Hunters promotion, which garnered so much attention from Mac users over its misleading claims that Apple actually demanded that Microsoft fix the content. In retrospect, it was never certain whether Microsoft was actually selling gear from its hardware partners, or just pushing Windows.

With the arrival of Windows 7, Microsoft wants to create the illusion that it is not only something truly innovative, but that regular customers actually inspired some of the most significant features. So we have this nerdy character who rushes around his home with a laptop perched clumsily on one hand as he struggles to move two document windows to the corners of the screen. Other than demonstrating how not to handle a note-book computer, I wonder how many times the actor actually dropped the thing before making it through the scene successfully.

Worse, the slow, halting movement on the tiny display doesn’t reassure you about the graphic capabilities of Windows 7. But worse, the character in this spot goes on to claim that HE was the inventor of this particular feature. Well, I hope he doesn’t quit his day job, assuming he has a day job beyond appearing in poorly produced TV spots.

Another Windows 7 ad extolls the ability to use Wi-Fi. So we have yet another ignorant dude showing us his one-handed note-book move as he delights in explaining how he can print and share music wirelessly in his home. Again, he feels that this is a feature that he inspired Microsoft to place in Windows 7 and thus he, too, invented it.

I presume most of the people who spent the time to watch this misguided production realize that Wi-Fi is an international standard that was not only not invented by Microsoft, but has been available for years on both Macs and PCs. Maybe Windows 7 handles wireless networking a tad more efficiently than Vista, but how does Microsoft expect anyone to believe that it’s something new and different?

Why indeed!

At the same time, Microsoft continues to try to persuade users of Windows XP and older versions of their office suites to upgrade with fire sale prices; that is if you regard 50% discounts to small and medium-sized businesses as genuine discount pricing. Of course, Microsoft wants them all to forget the draconian upgrade process when moving from XP to Windows 7, which requires a clean install. That means backing up your hard drive, installing the new OS and then restoring your files.

Maybe Microsoft should take the money spent on foolish ad campaigns and invest it in developing a workable upgrade method. Up till now, Microsoft’s biggest obstacle to expanding use of its newest operating systems has been the insistence of tens of millions of users to stick with XP. Certainly many of these customers will probably adopt Windows 7 when they buy new PCs, but Microsoft earns much higher profits selling upgrade kits to end users as compared to OEM partners.

This doesn’t mean that Windows 7 is a bad operating system. So far the early reviews are extremely positive. Microsoft has apparently done some solid work to clean up some of the worst problems of Vista as well as adding some fancy new eye candy in the process. Stability is improved, and performance is at least incrementally enhanced. These are very positive developments, and worth crowing about.

But Microsoft lost its marketing mojo long ago, and the best they can manage these days is more and more hot air.

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17 Responses to “Does Microsoft Have the Stupidest Ads on the Planet?”

  1. Andrew says:

    Hey, wifi? THEY STOLE MY IDEA!!!!! Oh well, that said, Windows 7 is much better than the ads.

  2. Al says:

    “But Microsoft lost its marketing mojo long ago . . .”

    This is the biggest misconception about Microsoft: That once upon a time they had great marketing. In truth, what people thought was great marketing was just the typical predatory monopolist’s ability to ram their product down people’s throats. It’s just raw, naked market power.

    Once you give them real competition, then their true marketing ability reveals itself. And like you said, that ain’t marketing mojo that you’re looking at.

  3. madpsychot says:

    Did anyone mention the Office 2007 ads? “I use Microsoft Excel to track my cheese”?????? I have to endure those ads while watching my favourite shows online, and I have come close to throwing anything close to hand at my TV screen when they come on!

  4. dfs says:

    Agreed, Windows ads are horrible. But a good deal of the blame must lie with the ad agency that cooked them up, the copywriters evidently have no real idea of what they ought to be selling, the strong points of the product, or the nature of the target audience. So they flounder pathetically. But there’s a reason for this. Developing an ad campaign for any software product must be tough, and this is especially so when you presumably aren’t allowed to mention the single strongest selling-point you have, “this thing doesn’t suck quite as much as the previous version did?”

    • @dfs,

      “But a good deal of the blame must lie with the ad agency……”

      Sorry, no. Not as such. An ad agency is the servant of and is directed by their employer. It they are producing drivel, the fault lies with Microsoft.

  5. mcloki says:

    I disagree. An ad campaign that said just that “Sucks Less” would be a fantastic campaign. Microsoft’s campaign is not the worst. RIM’s new campaign “All you need is love” campaign is useless drivel.

  6. bmovie says:

    Advertising copy-writing and concepts are a result of marketing surveys and numbers reinterpreted to a client’s advantage. What people “complain” and “bitch” about to Microsoft is easily turned around to being a feature “invented” by the them. A more realistic campaign would be a series of commercials of people complaining about the short comings or faults of Vista and end with the tagline: “One bitch of an Operating System!”

  7. Alan Smith says:

    Lets not forget the Mojave experiment when they took a bunch of people who only knew how to turn the computer on and then they showed them Vista under the name Mojave and they were supposedly impressed. Shall we also mention about BestBuy and their Geek commercial where someone has to call the Geek Squad to install their printer driver (wife pretends to be using magic while the Geek installs it in the background). OMG!!

    Microsoft is their own worst enemy.

  8. John Davis says:

    Truth be known, Microsoft ads were created by Apple employees working under cover. Microsoft has never worked it out. Don’t tell anyone!

  9. KenC says:

    Can those ad-dorks sue MS for stealing their ideas? Prior art?

  10. DaveD says:

    I could not figure what Microsoft was marketing in the “Laptop Hunter” series. After viewing the Windows 7 ad, “So What!” and “Who cares?” came to mind. If Microsoft doesn’t care about spending money wisely then be my guest and dump it all down the drain. I am definitely not a shareholder.

    All they are showing me is that the company has nothing better to offer and slowly morphing into the next General Motors.

  11. Reginald W says:

    Microsoft sells to OEM’s. not to the public. Microsoft sells to the corporate crowd, not to the public, except of course for XBox, Zune and some of the games they’ve bought over the years.

    Microsoft advertises heavily and spends money, in my thinking anyway, to influence the media to push Microsoft. After all, if you push Microsoft, you can also get ad sales from all the PC vendors too, and that multiplies the amount of advertising you will get in the various media.

    Apple is only one company and they will only do so much advertising, so if you favour their products in reviews and such, then you will lose our advertising as a punishment, and Microsoft and all the PC vendors have a lot more advertising dollars than Apple spends.

    But then maybe I’m just paranoid. Could it be anything else that keeps all these media people and IT people praising half-baked Microsoft products when other vendors have products that work better? Other than keeping IT people employed because the products fail so much or are so complicated that it requires someone to babysit the product? I dunno, I’m just asking….

    • Carmelo says:

      The fact that IT people push Microsoft software is pure truth. I used to work for a big corporate in London and I was hired to take care of all the Macintoshes in the Company. I was the only one supporting about 60 machines. The IT director at some point had to justify spending so much money to pay so many people to support a much less number of PCs (in perspective).
      So at the end they decided to eliminate all the Macs, fire me, buy all the PCs as replacement, and hire more people for the support rather than paying just one person.
      Not to mention buying the Windows Servers to replace the Mac servers. One PC Server was more than 4 times in price than the Mac server, considering the licensing of the software and the hardware…
      But as they say, no IT director was never fired for supporting the Windows platform…

  12. Blackeye says:

    Worst Commercial ever.

    Just the Worst

  13. MacSmiley says:

    The foundation of MSFT’s television marketing is the ignorance of the average computer user. Apple’s response is to create compelling products that override ignorance, otherwise the Get a Mac commercials would be nothing but air.

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