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Microsoft Ads Are Genius

September 12th, 2008

Lately we’ve been treated to the introduction of a couple new ads from Microsoft, featuring Jerry Seinfeld:

Windows Ads

The prevailing thoughts on the internet seem to be that these ads are ridiculous, that they make no salient point, that they are barely funny, and that they are a pathetic, misguided attempt by Microsoft to rekindle affection from a public that has grown quite accustomed to viewing the company as a stodgy old curmudgeon.

I think these ads are genius. Or if not genius, as close to genius as Microsoft could ever dream of coming. If I was one of Microsoft’s competitors, I might not be quivering in my boots quite yet, but I’d be thinking, “my god, I am wearing boots!”

Most critics of these ads point out, quite rightly, that the message doesn’t ask viewers to buy anything. If an ad doesn’t ask you to buy something, surely it’s a failure. I find this assessment flawed by default. Come on, people. Surely you, as sophisticated citizens of the internet, can appreciate that advertising is an art more than a science. If you want to criticize these ads, come up with something deeper than their failure to clearly condense into 30 seconds what purchasing action a consumer should take!

A more savvy viewer will notice that these ads are not meant to influence the immediate buying patterns of viewers, but instead to alter the long-term impression of the company that develops and markets the world’s leading desktop computer operating system. The company, Microsoft, is at once desperate to change your impression of it, but at the same time in no particular hurry to do so.

Imagine yourself in Microsoft’s position. you’ve got some 90% of the market share for computer operating systems, and you’re facing increasingly negative reports about the public’s impression of your place in the world. You’re a cold, hard company. You’re not very much fun. You don’t care about innovation. You’re a sleeper in a dancer’s universe. You’ve got no soul. You’re a plain old, boring, damn it all ridiculous stick in the mud. Microsoft, you suck.

If you’re Microsoft, and you’ve grown tired of these assessments, you wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that owning 90% of the market and having a bajillion dollars … is a pretty good place to start from, in turning around your public image.

So begins the patient public image reform. When rumors started swirling about Microsoft enlisting Jerry Seinfeld to help sell its wares, the reaction was appropriately cynical. Come on, Microsoft. It’s going to take more to spin Windows than asking last decade’s comics to stand up for it.

But the ads that have actually come out, so far, are nothing like what anybody might have expected. They are so random, indeed so touchy-feely, that the universal reaction among the “smart-asses” I know, is to declare them ridiculous, not-funny, and utter failures.

These people are expecting something cliche from Microsoft, and instead the company has handed them a revolution. While Seinfeld’s collaboration with Microsoft has been widely heralded as a long-overdue reaction to Apple’s Mac/PC ads, Microsoft has instead taken a completely different path. And people can’t stand it.

I propose that Microsoft’s ads, with their mysterious yet evocative plot, are the most creative and purposeful ads ever to come out of the company. While devoted Apple fans might relish in declaring them an utter failure, I make the opposite assessment. These ads are the last best hope Microsoft has at erecting a dam in the face of a tidal shift towards Apple. Microsoft’s relative silence over the past few years has damaged the company. While Apple has charged the public’s mindset with compelling 30-second Mac/PC aphorisms, Microsoft sits idly by, taking the punches and sucking up the pain of each landed blow.

With these first ads from the Seinfeld era of Microsoft marketing, we see a company that is no longer simply spittling up blood, but instead spraying it in the face of its opponent. If Apple has been wondering when the competition will strike back, the answer is now. With a vengeance, albeit a somewhat mysterious one.

People ask what the point of Microsoft’s ad campaign is. What are they trying to convince us of? What do they want us to buy. Who are they trying to fool? If you have to ask, then you won’t be convinced. Microsoft already controls 90% of the market, and only a subset of the other 10% cares to call into question the motives or quality of these latest ads. The very fact that Microsoft can dance at all will be enough to sell them as belle of the ball to most who look on. So if you think the ads suck, don’t worry, you’re not the target audience. Laugh away!

59 Responses to “Microsoft Ads Are Genius”

  1. Paul Robinson Says:

    By god I AM wearing boots.

    Who knew….

    You are exactly right, Daniel. These ads are very, very clever, and I have to say I enjoyed them. I’d let Bill live in my house for a week….

  2. Manton Reece Says:

    I like the ads too. I get the feeling that it’s an ad campaign experiment that will eventually be supplemented with a stronger brand out of Microsoft. Less selling on features, more larger themes. And like you said, they aren’t in any particular hurry.

  3. David Weiss Says:

    At the end of the WWDC 2008 Keynote, Jobs ended with, “Thank you very much. I’ll see you this week.” He may not code, but you get the feeling that he’s one of us. I think Jobs effortless ability to simultaneously be cool and one of us has been the underpinning message of Apple’s brand for years.

    Earlier this year Microsoft hired Crispin to help them with their image. They understood the challenge immediately; said Andrew Keller, “To try to be cool is to not be cool” And yet to me these ads amazingly put Microsoft in an approachable and personal place, a place where trust can be built again, slowly. This is not a shock and awe type of deal. It can’t be.

    Only time will tell, but “If Crispin can pull off [this] stunt, it will be not only the Steve Jobs of advertising but also its Evel Knievel.”

    Indeed.

  4. Jose Vazquez Says:

    Some say Microsoft is not selling anything. I say they are trying to get us to buy into a new public image.

    Apart from the format and the silliness, what is radically different to me from everything they have done before is that they are not trying to come across as “professional”. They are more “personal”. The ads are not going to court corporations, they are courting individuals. If you see the other videos on the web site, the ones without Gates & Seinfeld, you will see them selling the idea of people being efficient yet casual.

    They already own the corporate market. Now they are trying to be endearing. And it might work… (unless you actually use their stuff and realize it still sucks… lipstick on a pig anyone)

  5. huxley Says:

    Only time will tell, but “If Crispin can pull off [this] stunt, it will be not only the Steve Jobs of advertising but also its Evel Knievel.”

    Nigel Tufnel: “It’s like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.”

  6. gnif Says:

    Ok, you guys must be on crack, the only sightly humorous point I found in the ads, was the grandma in the 2nd ad. I have been working with PCs (not macs) for many years, I still wont use a mac, because I believe that they are overpriced for what they are. I am by no means a mac fan, and I am by no means a windows fan either, especially after their utter failure with windows vista. With a budget of 300m to develop these ads, I consider them an utter failure.

    Seriously, two people living in someones house, out of context, out of place, jerry can get away with it, but bill gates, the most hated person in the computing industry, all I see is a desperate attempt to become liked again.

    If microsoft want to fix their image, they need to stop being just a money making machine, and start developing truly new, innovative things, not ripping off existing ideas from other companies. Start using their monopoly to reduce their software pricing.

    I mean, look at the mess called vista, or even, go back to windows XP, there was only 2 desktop versions of vista, the home (crippled) version, or professional. As a software developer, I know that it costs them more, not less, to make a crippled version of a product, the time involved in building the code to cripple crucial parts of the system.

    I say jump on the open source bandwagon like other nice companies like Novell, Sun, HP… etc. It was Bill Gates that introduced the idea of selling software, and now its Bill Gates who is still trying to sell software in a world that does not want to buy it, especially when it doesn’t work properly and the support sucks.

  7. Jesper Says:

    Ding! Correct, sir.

    Look. We’ve been over this. What kind of commercials did Microsoft do before? They did people_ready, which does nothing for anyone. They did “Wow”, which reasserts the already faithful and peeves the millions that one way or another ran into trouble with Vista – it showed one short clip of Flip 3D, and there was no attempt anywhere to demonstrate a tangible benefit other than “it looks cooler”. People knew about Vista even before; all this did was raise their expectations for some sort of unspecified greatness that never showed up.

    If at least we concede that the ads are not funny ever, then won’t it be worth it just to reassociate the thought “Microsoft ads” from halfwit and unimaginative to weird? Weird is a better place to start from.

  8. Greg Loesch (compulsiveguile) Says:

    I’m glad you shared this. I posted a Microsoft “bashing” on my website earlier this week in regard to commercial #1 (http://greg-loesch.com/blog/youtube-gates-seinfeld-commercial), and I think I do need to re-evaluate. It’s obviously too early to tell where these commercials are going to take us.

    It’s somewhat refreshing stepping back from my own bias against Microsoft. Thanks Red-Sweater for an insightful post! Kudos for the “lipstick on a pig” allusion. Way to stay up with the news :-)

  9. Adam Lisagor Says:

    I think you and I ought to start an ad agency.

  10. Jeffrey Long Says:

    Can you imagine if we devoted as much scrutiny to regular advertisements as we do to anything with a Microsoft or Apple bug in the corner? Good luck to anybody bashing these ads to find a better campaign out there. The Microsoft ads are more enjoyable than 99% of the uninspired commercials for prescription drugs, fast food, sportswear, and whatnot.

    Even as a Mac fan, I’m happy to admit that the new campaign is really impressive. If nothing else, each time Microsoft releases a new ad I’ve been eager to see the next in the series. That’s buzz and it’s priceless.

    Like you said, the reason the commercials don’t make sense is that they’re nothing like the Microsoft we have in our heads. “What? Fun? But I thought they were the frumpy guy that likes spreadsheets?”

  11. David Van Brink Says:

    Who would you rather spent a week at your house: Bill Gates or Richard Stallman…

  12. Andre Says:

    All moot if the product does not match the ads. Which it doesn’t. The problem with vista is vista. And the problem with vista is it doesn’t solve problems. These ads, good as they may or may not be, do not fix that. The product is the marketing. Its a sales guy move. Also, the public already likes Bill Gates. It’s we nerds who hate him.

  13. Victoria Wang Says:

    I liked the ads too — a little awkward, but cute!

  14. Davide Says:

    One of the basic points of EVERY marketing course is that any ads, no matter how brilliant it is, must be easily connecatble with a product. There was a case here in Italy, years ago, a brillliant, super funny ad about a dishwashing product; the only problem was the actual brand wasn’t really linked to the ad, so now everyone uses the ad slogan, but has no idea about the product it advertised. Would you call this a successful ad campaign?
    Of course everyone loves Windows, but this is not about Bill’s skills as an actor (which are ususpectably remarkanle!), it’s about a product which is mentioned only in super-subtle metaphor.
    What is more, the people who love ads as a an exercise of creativity… sorry to say that, but they usually are already on the mac.

  15. Davide Says:

    Ach, I meant everyone KNOWS Windows, and I am scared by my feudian slip!

  16. Benjamin A. Wendelboe Says:

    I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who was blown away by this new move from Microsoft.. I’ve never had anything positive to say about the company before, I don’t use a single app of their’s, and I’ve convinced what equals a mid-sized African village to switch operating systems.. Yet I love this new campaign.. I agree with every word of your post, and I’m happy to have found I’m not the only one to recognize the genius of the campaign..

    Thank you!

  17. Ted Wood Says:

    First, to “gnif” above. Think what you want about Macs and their price tag. That doesn’t change the fact that you truly do get what you pay for. Go cheap and get cheap.

    I agree with the analysis of this campaign. They are very slowly easing in a new, light ‘n’ friendly image. Not afraid to make a fool of themselves. They *had* to use Bill Gates to tie the campaign back to Microsoft from the beginning.

  18. Christian Says:

    I like the ads, too. Who came up with the idea, MS has to advertise a product (like Apple does)? Instead (and I think I read this somewhere from the MS marketing) they focus on telling a story about MS, Windows, etc. They have to work on their image and that’s what they do. Take a look at any image-heavy ad campagne out there. Nike shoes – how long do you see them in a spot? How long do you see someone jumping and dribbling instead?

    I think they did a brilliant job, although I don’t think positioning Gates as a long-term character in this campagne is clever. He’s out, there should be a better, new face for Windows.

  19. Julian Says:

    I think the ads are brilliant (and by-and-large I’m a Mac fanboy). What they do for me is allow Bill Gates to merge with the PC guy in the Apple ads. After all, the Apple ads make the PC guy the one you sympathise with, and so watching the Microsoft adds I find myself sympathising in the same way with Bill Gates…

  20. Chris Says:

    MS doesn’t need a nerdy, folksy image. That’s what got them into the predicament they’re in. What they need is a sophisticated, trendy, leadership image, in a friendly sort of way. Does anyone have a worse, more nerdy persona than Gates? I think not.

  21. Joseph Crawford Says:

    After watching the first commercial that Microsoft released I was thinking oh my. They only mentioned a computer once, what do they want consumers to buy? Shoes?

    After the second one I see that they are trying to convey that they can connect with people and that they have connected people through the years via the internet.

    My only question is this. How mnay housholds actually know the Bill Gates face? My family has seen these commercials and they did not know his face. So if you do not know that he is representing the Microsoft Corp. How would you know what they are selling. How is that reaching out to the 10% of the market that they do not have?

    I think a better way would have been to introduce his face to the public, I mean when was the last time he was on a commercial?

    Now I am not saying that Steve Jobs is a household face either, but dare you go into someone’s house and say Hi I’m A Mac, they know right away what you are talking about, unless they do not watch tv at all.

    Personally I find the ad’s boring and a waste of time, I think they should have introduced Bill and put more emphacism on who he was in the first few spotss, then once people knew the face they could do what they wanted.

    To a lot of people these are commercials that really do nothing until the end when they explain that Bill built Microsoft.

  22. Jeff Says:

    I completely agree. I already think more positively of Bill Gates…

  23. Brian Yamabe Says:

    I get that these are “image ads,” I just don’t get the kind of image they are trying to portray. Two quirky, guy-pals, that are at times obnoxious and petty.

  24. Blad_Rnr Says:

    @Andre,
    Thank you for stating the obvious! Vista is a joke. Even MSFT knows it. The Zune? Please. So behind the iPod Touch it’s an embarrassment. What do these ads do for actual MSFT products? Isn’t that the point of advertising? So people BUY your product?

    Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads are killer, because they point out the flaws in Windows and the strengths of the Mac, while being funny and engaging. How many comic duos have their been over the years? Many. We can relate to them as they bounce things off one another in a hilarious way. In the end they sell more Macs. 41% YOY. Seinfeld and Gates? Interesting, but pointless and not funny.

    Bottom-line: it doesn’t matter whether you like them or not. If they don’t transition to more sales, what’s the point?

    I wish I had $300M to blow on my image.

  25. Andrew A Says:

    I think it remains to be seen how genius these ads are, but I certainly agree that the backlash seems overdone. I watched the commercials because I’m interested in Microsoft as the giant in our industry, and I found them mixed bags – I enjoyed the tone fine, as well as some of the content, and some of it didn’t work for me. But I definitely didn’t think they were the massively unfunny failures that a number of people have labeled them.

    Also, many people complain about how these commercials are not about products at all. Have we all forgotten the reaction to Think Different? Apple went through its own phase of brand-only commercials, and they were vilified by many for not talking about products (and for ambiguous grammar). Yet those commercials resonated with many others, and while they were only a part of Apple’s resurrection, they were there at the beginning, and I’m inclined to believe that they did indeed help Apple.

    Microsoft’s attempts probably shouldn’t be discarded so dismissively just because they don’t talk about products or because a few people dislike them. Microsoft has an extremely difficult task with this campaign, and there are an awful lot of people out there who will see them – I think it’s hard to predict just how successful they will be with the broader audience. I think an argument could be made that Microsoft is rushing through this campaign too quickly – Think Different ran for much longer before Apple transitioned to product-centric commercials, whereas Microsoft has said that more product-centric ads are due soon. I wonder if that will have actually given these open-ended commercials enough time to do what they need to do.

  26. Andy Lee Says:

    @Brian Yamabe:

    I get that these are “image ads,” I just don’t get the kind of image they are trying to portray.”

    Same here. To me the ads come off like Bill Gates spent millions of dollars to try to pull off the illusion that he’s the kind of guy who could hang out with Seinfeld, in Seinfeld’s quirky comic world. The reasoning behind the campaign seems to be: (1) let’s soften Microsoft’s image; (2) let’s do that by tying the image of Microsoft to the image of Bill Gates; (3) oops, Bill’s image sucks, so let’s try to make him look cool.

    Aside from whether this is a smart strategy, I just don’t think they’re pulling it off. The timing is poor and there is zero chemistry between the two guys. Bill has come off well before, but not here.

  27. Pchin Says:

    Good God, how many Microsoft employees posted here today! Get serious and get real, this serious of ads is nothing more than rich boy Bill finally getting to live his dream of being on the Seinfeld show. Except that Seinfeld was ‘the’ thing 10 years ago, just like Windows.

    So now the man with more money than all his Windows’ Users combined is spending his companies easy earned money to live his dream.

    World may not be colliding, but Bill’s out there and lovin’ it.

  28. DDA Says:

    I rate the influence and popularity of ads by recognition; YouTube satires and such are indications that people *know* the ads. I’ve seen all kinds of Mac/PC fake ads from World of Warcraft to Wii; I kind of doubt I’ll ever see satires on these ads.

    In the latest ad, the delivery boy says they are the “two top people in their respective fields,” which is clearly wrong. And then he gets stiffed for his troubles. Yup, that is the image *I’d* want to convey about my characters!

  29. AaronS Says:

    This will be interesting.

    Ads can be used to change how you are perceived, but they can’t change who you are.

    Apple isn’t “cool” because of their Mac vs. PC ads, or their iPod ads. They are “cool” because of the products they make. While those ads might have helped change the perception, the reason it has stuck is because “cool” is what Apple is now.

    Microsoft might be able to use these ads to change the perception that they aren’t “very much fun” or “don’t care about innovation” or “don’t have a soul”, but if they really aren’t these things none of that will matter in the long run. You can only use ads as a disguise for so long.

    Branding can’t change Microsoft at its core. Microsoft has to do that. If they do, these ads will help push that perception to the public. If they don’t, none of it will matter.

  30. D9 Says:

    Oh, I don’t doubt the cleverness or the purpose of these ads. They are to make Microsoft not seem like MICROSOFT THE SOFTWARE GIANT. To that, the creative team should be commended.

    But as the old Indian parable ends with the bitten , dying woman crying to the snake she helped heal “Why?”, the snake answers coldly but directly, “Look, bitch, you knew I was a snake.” Microsoft is still Microsoft…Balmer is still Balmer.

    Once bitten, twice shy…regardless of your commercials!!

    /

  31. Sanjay Samani (ssanchez) Says:

    Daniel Jakult said:

    “Most critics of these ads point out, quite rightly, that the message doesn’t ask viewers to buy anything. If an ad doesn’t ask you to buy something, surely it’s a failure.”

    The Microsoft ad campaign reminds me, more than anything, of Apple’s Think Different campaign. A warm fuzzy feel, with no mention of products and designed to create a new brand for the company.

  32. J Says:

    Nice example of how to write sentences without saying a fcuking thing…

    J

  33. AaronS Says:

    Sanjay Samani said:

    The Microsoft ad campaign reminds me, more than anything, of Apple’s Think Different campaign. A warm fuzzy feel, with no mention of products and designed to create a new brand for the company.

    Creating a new brand isn’t something that can be done with an ad campaign. You can create a new brand perception, but not a new brand. And as I mentioned before, the perception that the ads create won’t last if they don’t match up with what the company is at its core.

  34. Rob Meyer Says:

    I agree, these ads so far are pretty good, although I fear they are setup for more obvious product pushes and they will start to fall down at that point.

    Aside from that, the most interesting thing to me about them is that Bill Gates is completely retired now, but they are obviously driving the connection between MS, him, and innovation.

  35. Doug Petrosky Says:

    Give me a break!

    This is not a 30 second spot. It is a minute and a half during which I’m mostly annoyed because it is neither informative or clever. The closest thing to positive that came out of this was an ego boost to Bill about his huge brain and how others in the company are better for it.

    It is possible that if this is part 1 of a 9 minute sitcom and I’m evaluating it too soon but I’m guessing that I will be so sick of part one that I will already have an attitude against part 2 before it airs.

    I’m not saying that a slow play ad campaign is a bad idea but each one has to entertain at some level and this one does not. IMHO

  36. zippy Says:

    I suspect the author of this column also thinks that modern abstract art is relevant and meaningful.

  37. Todd A Says:

    After seeing the first ad, I was baffled as to how this spot was supposed to sell copies of Office or Vista, but was quick to realize that it was obviously a set-up for more ads to come. I expected the buzz to be huge after all M$ is not well known for their use of creativity in their advertisements, and as the old adage says, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. So the folks at M$ must surely be pleased at the amount of attention the ads are getting, no matter how critical it is. After seeing the second spot I’ve come to the conclusion that they are just trying to break the rules of advertising by making the spots longer and making only a passing reference to the product line. I think however, that they’ve really missed the mark here. The spots are NOT funny or even the slightest bit entertaining and they do nothing to change people’s attitudes or perceptions of M$. The company is trying to solve their image problem in the same way they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to solve their product problems, namely by throwing enormous amounts of cash at it. I predict the ads will continue to cause lots of buzz but will do nothing to change M$’s bottom line. In a year we will have forgotten all about this ad campaign.
    Steve Jobs was spot on when he said, “the problem with Microsoft is that they have no taste” this ad campaign proves it.

  38. John Collins Says:

    No doubt on some plane these ads are clever… but if people have to take time, like this blogger, to explain the point of the ads, they have failed miserably in their purpose.

  39. Andy Lee Says:

    @DDA:

    The delivery boy actually says “two of the most accomplished guys in their respective fields,” which I think is a fair description.

  40. anonymous Says:

    If you have to explain a joke ….

  41. ckaltner Says:

    Microsoft ads were genius till I booted up my PC and then it froze. What a waste of time. Gates is prancing around with a comedian while Apple takes massive market share in current and new markets.

  42. Brian Christensen Says:

    You bring up interesting points, but I completely disagree that these ads are “genius.”.

  43. Ron Says:

    HELLO. If you’re a techie capable of finding RSB, reading the post, and are knowledgable enough about Microsoft’s history and missteps to post your opinion to a blog, then you are not the audience the ad is targeting. Ask anyone walking down the street if they’ve heard of Microsoft, they’d probably say “yes”. Ask that person about Microsoft Vista and they’d probably tell you about an experience they or a friend had — likely in a negative vein. The more you know, the more negative it gets. Advertising can’t spin negative word-of-mouth into a positive, no matter what politicians think.

    The article’s right, the ad is aimed squarely at the television viewer, a demographic way different than ours. Who cares if Seinfeld actually uses a Mac? Who cares if Gates is already fully retired? The viewer won’t, not if he’s being told an interesting fictitious story based on real people. I initially found the first ad marginally amusing and basically had the same epiphany after watching the second ad — “damn, I see where this is going”. I’d be very surprised if the ad spending stops at $300 mil, they have all the time (90% share) and money in the world.

    Besides, Windows Vista is only Microsoft’s most public failure to date (in a history of pretty fantastic ones). Microsoft sells lots of software that is arguably best-of-breed (Excel, despite its recent bloat, is still the de facto spreadsheet tool since, well, Lotus 1-2-3). Though I hate it, the fact that Exchange/Outlook is THE corporate messaging standard is no accident — Exchange is only so-so, but the Outlook client is sheer genius. Does Vista’s failure reflect poorly on Microsoft’s other products? From a branding perspective, you bet. And that’s what the commercials are trying to affect. They weren’t going for the “Boom”, but very subtle feather-touches on the psyche. Are you going to look for Bill in the next shoe store you visit? What if, as part of the campaign, he started visiting shoe stores in malls across America?

    If that last thought made you smile, they win.

    Disclaimer: I am not a huge Microsoft or Apple fan, but I use their products, and some I like very much.

  44. Friendly Stranger Says:

    These “ads” are just as confusing as the various versions of vista.

  45. Leo Says:

    Stop bashing Vista like you’ve used it.

    I’m using it since day one and SP1 solved everything for me. Shut up already.

    Vista is a fine product and much more reliable and good looking than XP ever was. Oh, and I really love the saved searches feature. (aka smart folders, kinda)

    I like the Microsoft ads and I liked the first round of Mac/PC guy ads. (It’s boring now.)

    Stop saying the same crap from 2007, Vista isn’t crap anymore.

  46. My Ink Pro Says:

    I have to admit, I’m among those who didn’t like the new ad, not out of any deep philosophical issues with them, but simply because I found them not funny. Then again, I’m one of the minute percentage of people who find Jerry Seinfeld not funny, so I guess that would explain it. :) Speaking of ads though… I’d love to talk to you about advertising on your site (specifically the Black Ink site). Please shoot me an email at amy.sage@myinkpro.com if you have any interest. Thanks!

  47. Kim Campbell Says:

    I think the best that can be said about these new adds is that Microsoft is trying to scrape some of the layers of lipstick off their pig. Yes the denuded pig is even uglier than we imagined and now we also know she’s a moron. Who knew!

  48. Sean Hamblett Says:

    The genius of the commercial has to do with the answer to “do these jeans make me look fat?” How so do you ask, well we all have answered honestly to this once, and the question or scenario might be a little different, but we have all have pulled a ‘Vista’. Where you thought you were doing the right thing and it blew up in your face. Now, what have we done to fix our ‘Vista’ moments, well we start saying things like “I’m sorry, and I didn’t mean it, and I am just stupid”, etc, etc… This campaign is Microsoft’s way of saying they are sorry, they were stupid. It is all about image, it is the guy sitting in the department store going clothes shopping with his girlfriend/wife to make up for the boneheaded ‘Vista’ moment. The absolute genius is that subconsciously we can all relate to it on some level and what it is accomplishing is trying to make you forget about the ‘Vista’ moment. Eventually it should work when/if (my guess here) Microsoft relaunches Vista under a new name at the end of the campaign, maybe with some new features, blah, blah, blah… Even if they don’t try to sell a product they are trying to clean up their image, and get a buzz going that is not about their Vista moment, but what are they doing… As an aside the grandmother in the second episode is awesome!

  49. James Katt Says:

    The Microsoft Ads have so far been disturbing.

    Seinfeld made millions using humor about dysfunctional, mean, vindictive characters who were convicted and placed in prison for the things they did.

    This humor is now applied to Microsoft. As such, the ads look like an inside joke about Microsoft’s failings.

    Messages from the ads are:
    1. Microsoft’s Vista is DYSFUNCTIONAL, MESSY, and BUGGY. Look at how disorganized this commercial is and how the grandmother appears – looking like a computer bug. Look at how Seinfeld leaves his toenail clippings and toe crud in the young girl’s bedroom.
    2. Microsoft is MEAN, CHEAP and STEALS. See how Bill and Seinfeld steal the pizza from the delivery guy. See how Bill steals the giraffe toy from the family. Hilarious is how they get caught – like Microsoft was caught for monopolizing behavior.
    3. Microsoft connects but cares little about the customer. Aside from giving the teenage boy a pirated software game, Bill and Seinfeld live off the families they stay with, steal some things, and leave the home messier than it was with their toenail clippings and crud. No wonder that the teenage girl wanted revenge on them.

    Not so good a picture, I say.

  50. Paul D. Waite Says:

    Aw man. I wanted to say “Microsoft and Jerry Seinfeld. Huh. Two things that mattered in the 90s.”

    But then I watched the ads. The first one’s a little hit and miss, although I reckon it sets the tone well. And Bill adjusts his shorts with impressive comic timing. Second one was hilarious.

    It almost made me feel good about Microsoft’s products. Sadly, I then saw the “Get Silverlight” badge next to the flash video, and it was back to square one.

    Looking forward to more ads though.

  51. Rob Kouwenberg Says:

    Hi !

    I don’t know about all the other comments, but hey, am I the only one to fall asleep almost twice ? Single highlight was bill’s clowns club member card.

    What’s the point of this ? To bore everyone to death ? Oh my ! There was a giraffe in it ..

    Seinfeld is definitely the smartest of all people involved, he at least gets paid for his performance. Still I don’t get the marketing message .. ?! Bored ? Be like Bill perhaps ? Must be, for not once did he shift his glasses (his tic)..

  52. Dallas Hockley Says:

    I don’t dispute that there’s some spark of interesting creativity in the ads. I think the one thing that actually remains completely true to form unfortunately is that Microsoft is treating their reputation and perception as a marketing problem. I’m afraid that it’s beyond that point in my opinion, and it’s a situation that they need to fulfill needs and desires with quality products at good prices that just work. They need to take all the brains and capability and do at least a bit of what Apple does. Or even a bit of what Google does.

    Today’s public, and especially those on the web that are crawling all over these ads. are getting too savvy with their hard-earned dollars to just go buy something or believe something through marketing effect the way they used to. Trusted brands had successful marketing campaigns. Untrusted ones had additional noise.

    I’d rank the Mojave experiment ads as being closer to the point. Get some opinions on Vista not sucking horridly, and with a scientific basis as the storyline. That has a chance of shifting some meaningful opinion. Put together products and quality, useful innovation with the Seinfeld series, and it may have a good effect. Without that, and it’s just additional noise in my opinion.

  53. DavidPhillipOster Says:

    The Mojave experiment ads had a point: “We lie to our customers because we think you are stupid, and we are proud of it.”

    The Seinfeld ads are more like those Enron ads from the dotCom era (metalman ask why http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZ8XM7JVpYw : Those incomprehensible ads of a guy in a tin suit strutting around in various foreign countries.

    The message here is that a marketing company that is good at marketing itself has found a corporation with more money than sense.

  54. Matt Says:

    “A more savvy viewer will notice that these ads are not meant to influence the immediate buying patterns of viewers, but instead to alter the long-term impression of the company that develops and markets the world’s leading desktop computer operating system. ”

    This is definitely true, but I’m already sick of hearing about it in Web postings about the MS ads.

    Why? Because this practice – not directly or immediately trying to influence purchasing decisions – isn’t new or different (hasn’t been for decades), and the problem with the MS ads is that they’re just not good ads, even for this “indirect” purpose.

  55. Dallas Hockley Says:

    DavidPhillipOster –> Good point! I had not thought (somewhat cynically, no offence) along the stupid/misleading line. That puts it in another light. :-) Thanks for that point of view.

    I still think the most brilliant illustration of Microsoft marketing is the “If the iPod packaging was done by Microsoft” movie. It’s on YouTube and elsewhere. Really has a good illustration of design by committee. ;-)

  56. Ashly Says:

    I find that I am now looking forward to the “next episode” from Microsoft, and to seeing where Bill and Jerry go next. I want the narrative to keep unfolding, to move forward. Isn’t that clever: I suddenly am willing to see Microsoft as part of the future, instead of the bothersome, boring, aggressive, nasty, controlling, frustrating, clunky, commodity of the past.

    http://www.unboundedition.com/content/view/7978/50/

  57. Edward Miller Says:

    I don’t know if I’d use the term Genius to describe the new MS ads.

    I think the Apple Mac Genius ad where they say go ahead bring in your windows computer and we’ll help you move your files over to you new Mac.

    That’s the last reason that most people don’t switch. (That and some unknown uncertainty of working with a new operating system)

    Mac Genius.

  58. Roger Poole Says:

    I just look at the fact that the entire run of Seinfeld had a Mac sitting in the corner on the desk near the window.

    And I think:
    1. Someone didn’t do their advertising research.
    2. Jerry picked up a lot of cash for someone that had always identified as a mac user.
    3. MS got taken because they didn’t know how to do an ad campaign.

    Credibility blown.

    On the other hand they’re funny and well scripted.

  59. Rebecca Says:

    well spoken :) the ads are simply great!

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