Microsoft’s new ad campaign featuring the (not at all) talented Bill Gates and (really brilliantly) talented Jerry Seinfeld just makes me ask “Why?”
Just to make this clear upfront, I am not a blind Microsoft basher. I used their products for nearly all of my life until a few years ago and was even happy with some of them (original Xbox, I’m looking at you). Then something happened… perhaps it was the fact that Windows XP was their only operating system release for nearly 6 years, or that Xbox 360s are failing left and right, or that the Zune is… alright, that one’s just too easy. My main point is that when Microsoft does something right (such as giving Internet Explorer 8 better support for web standards) I am ready to praise them, but when they do something wrong (like the horrid new “Shoe Circus” commercial), they deserve a good bashing.
And a bashing is what they will receive. After getting hammered by Apple’s hilarious “Get A Mac” or “Mac vs. PC” ads for the past two years, Microsoft rightfully felt they needed to do something to change the public’s perception of their brand. Vista did enough damage on it’s own and with Apple helping push things over the edge, Microsoft was becoming more and more irrelevant everyday. So what is an aging mega-company to do in such a predicament? Hire comedian and 1990s sitcom superstar Jerry Seinfeld, of course!
Make no mistake, Jerry Seinfeld is an absolute genius. I’m a massive fan of his standup act and own every episode of Seinfeld on DVD. And yet, a brilliant man such as himself is involved in what I’m calling one of the biggest wastes of money in advertising history. Microsoft wanted to appear hip and relate to today’s technology buyers, but they just proved how out of touch and stuck in the 90s they really are. Jerry was simply not the right choice for this particular campaign.
So let’s get into the ad itself. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t. Yes, it’s just that bad. I won’t go through a whole line-by-line synopsis because at 90 seconds this ad feels like a full-length feature film when you’re watching it. Here are the basics: Jerry is walking in a mall and happens to see Bill Gates at a place called Shoe Circus, which has the slogan, “Quality shoes at discount prices. Why pay more?” I think this could be their attempt at a subtle jab at Apple, essentially claiming Microsoft is just as good for less. If you look at the storefront, it even looks a little like an Apple Store. From this point on, it continues to just be nonsense.
I know Microsoft’s mission was not necessarily to tackle Vista’s horrendous reputation right away, but to instead position themselves as a light-hearted and friendly conglomerate (oxymoron?). With that understanding, I didn’t get it — plain and simple. I’ve watched the ad five times now and have found just one moment amusing: towards the beginning when Jerry interrupts Bill asking if he wants a churro. A simple thing most people wouldn’t really notice, but classic Seinfeld nonetheless. The rest of the bits are very tired, specifically the Hispanic family’s subtitles and Bill’s 1970s membership card photo.
Microsoft says this is only the first in a series of ads starring Bill and Jerry, which will eventually lead up to actually promoting their products.
“These initial ads are the first in a creative campaign to spark a conversation about the Windows brand – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity,” the company stated.
Oh, they’re sparking conversation all right. Not for the reasons intended, though. Let’s hope they decide to put this wounded animal out of its misery now before both Seinfeld’s and Microsoft’s reputations are tarnished even more.