Microsoft’s $300-million Campaign Takes Flight

Commercial number 2 is released.  It’s really more like an info-mercial, as it’s 4-minutes long. 

I can sum this up really quickly for you: it’s an ad about nothing.

Microsoft sent out a release stating the first ad (see here) was just to get the attention of everyone.  The ads that follow will certainly be more relevant and we’ll all understand the campaign as it rolls out.  My take on this new spot, and from what comments I’ve seen on the Interwebs, the consensus is, “huh?”

I’ll say that Jerry is funny, Bill is even funny and the old lady is a crack-up.  However, the writing is weird, the editing is a bit off and what’s this ad got to do with anything?  If this spot showed up at the beginning of a Billnote at CES, we’d all laugh our asses off, which would help get us in the mood for a 1 hour talk from Bill.  But Bill no longer does CES–in fact, he’s retired from Microsoft’s day-to-day!  Didn’t Microsoft spend hundreds of thousands of PR dollars to remind us that Bill was retiring? His last day was promoted harder than Microsoft Office for Mac.  Yet, now, we the public get to see him as the figurehead of Microsoft, hanging out with Seinfeld, trying to get closer to “real” people.  Huh?

For a few dollars less than $300-million, I could have come up with some ads that would make people think Microsoft Windows was the only way to go in the PC world.  

So the inevitable comparison arises: how do these Microsoft spots compare to Apple’s PC/Mac-guy campaign?  I could summarize with “not even close,” but I’m not going to let you go that easily.  So, I will summarize with this:

  1. Apple’s ads are cool
  2. Apple’s ads are usually quite funny
  3. Apple’s ads tell a story about computers and how computers help people be productive in the real world.  
  4. Microsoft’s ads don’t encompass any of these elements. 

These ads are truly a metaphor about all that is wrong with Microsoft.  The company is lacking clear direction and has no cohesive strategy in product lineup, product design or product marketing.  Microsoft doesn’t know if it wants to be a computer software company, an embedded-computer software company, a gaming company, a consumer-electronics company or an advertising company.  It comes out with products that don’t talk to each other, look like each product comes from an entirely different company and in some cases even use entirely different related services. (Zune has the Zune Store, but Play-For-Sure MP3 players work with a different Windows Media DRM strategy–guess Zune’s don’t play for sure?) 

It’s almost as if a bunch of geeks are standing around the campus reading the Trades and gleefully deciding on Microsoft’s next move, based on what other companies are doing.  Can’t you see it, it may go something like this…

“Whoa, did you see Google’s revenues for the year in advertising,” says one MS Geek to another. 

“Yes, it’s crazy…we need to do what they do. Oh, did you notice that Apple, our nemeses, have sold billions of iPods? We really need to get into that market.”

“That’s right, we can rule the world with products just like Google’s and Apple’s,” says MS Geek 2, “we can certainly attract top-quality individuals with our high-salaries and stock options!” (little does he know, Microsoft’s stock hasn’t seen significant growth in years).

This story is about to make as much sense as this ad, so I think it’s time to close it.  With that I’ll leave you with this tidbit: at the end of ad #2, Bill goes into robot mode and Jerry basically has to reboot him. Is that the arts imitating life or what?  Brilliant.