Whooee! That was some crazy advertising for Microsoft last week, no? If you haven’t seen it, take a look at Bob Garfield’s review or Abby Klassen’s piece, both in Ad Age and both with links to the spot.
Klassen had an apt description: “the ad is a classic Crispin Porter oddity, and the software maker can only hope the weird exchange between Messrs. Seinfeld and Gates can garner the kind of buzz that, say, its peculiar iteration of the Burger King mascot did for the fast feeder.” To recap the ad: the former star of the comedy series everybody loves to quote, Jerry Seinfeld first spots one of the richest men on the planet shopping in—of all places—a discount shoe store. Seinfeld proceeds to help Bill Gates select a pair of el cheapo pleather loafers and the two exchange oddly amusing banter about wearing clothes in the shower. After he determines Gate’s appropriate shoe size, Jerry covers off on a great idea he has for a new product that turns computers into cake. The ad closes with an atypically cute butt wiggle from the usually fuddy-duddy CEO, a quick flash to the Windows logo—the only reference to Windows in the entire :90 second spot—and the tagline, “The future…delicious.”
Thankfully, says Klassen, “you could be forgiven for not knowing what the heck Microsoft’s new TV ad…was about.” We sure didn’t. But then again, we’re in the minority of folks who found Crispin’s work for BK—the King ads and Subservient Chicken promotion in particular—so freaky and thoroughly unappetizing the thought of eating a Whopper made us want to vomit. In fact, we’ve come to think BK’s recent sales improvements have been in spite—not because of—its bizarro ad campaigns.
Same can be said for the work for Microsoft—a company whose name is taken in vain in home and corporate offices around the world at least every :30 seconds. At best, the spot is weird and quirky, at worst it fills us with even less confidence that the company cares about the hours of lost work, frustration, animosity, even rage upgrading to newer versions, migrating to the new operating system, and just general working around the infuriating bugs in all its programs has generated.
An internal email to MS employees explained the, “first phase of this campaign is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows—a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity.” Humor and humanity? There are the least likely words to come to mind when most folks think of Microsoft. Never mind whether either of those attributes—“humorous” or “humane”—might motivate anyone to buy software, are they even believable?
The truth of the matter is Microsoft has enjoyed a long reign as top dog in the market by virtue of being the ONLY dog in the market. As Henry Blodget pointed out on Silicon Valley Insider: “People don't buy Microsoft products because they love them or the company: They buy them because they have no other choice (or didn't, before the Internet came along and began to break apart the Windows hegemony, making room for Apple's resurgence).” In spite of its best (legal) efforts, the firm’s domination in core areas of its business is coming to an end and it didn't exactly spend the better part of the past 10 years solidifying its image as the preeminent supplier of QUALITY software or offer any other reason why consumers should buy from it other than "by default." If this first ad is any indication, MS’ new $300 million dollar campaign won’t either.