Yesterday Microsoft confirmed rumors that it was pulling its new Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates ads and moving in a new direction. The official line is that this was all planned in advance. Though some in the ad industry don't believe it (count me among them).
For those who may have missed the ads, here is the first:
And here is the second:
One thing is for sure, these ads got people talking. But what they were saying wasn't particularly good.
I wondered about the strategy when I saw the first. It was kind of funny in the Seinfeld way. But it seemed to be a good case of advertising as entertainment. It didn't say anything about Microsoft. Or Vista. What's the reason to believe? Amusing, but ultimately, not compelling. (Note to ad folks: When a company spends $300 million on an ad campaign, your work should at least pretend to sell one of their products.)
But the second ad went way beyond silly. It was horrible. Not only does it not sell anything—it makes fun of the very people that Microsoft needs to buy its products. Is eating scalloped potatoes really deserving of ridicule? Above ground pools? Grandma living with the family for 12 years? As Bill says to Jerry, "You and your real people..."
Only they're not real. This may be how the folks at Crispin think of real people, but it's not how real people think of themselves. It's condescending. And I'm guessing to many people, it is a big turn-off. What ever happened to aspiration?
David Ogilvy said it best, "The customer is not a moron. She is your wife." Good advice. Too bad no one in advertising reads Ogilvy these days.
So they pulled the plug. Mercifully.
On the bright side, Microsoft has released its first ad of the new new campaign. Here it is:
Forget for a minute that this direction is a little too reactive to the "I'm a Mac" ads, it does a much better job of humanizing Microsoft. And it doesn't talk down to or make fun of its customers. We'll see if future installments in the campaign actually give people a reason to buy Microsoft products. Which is exactly what the Mac ads do—watch them carefully. Each one gives the viewer a reason to believe that Mac is better wrapped in a brilliantly acted humorous situation (from free and easy file transfers to no viruses to peace of mind).
Microsoft has a long way to go. But at least they're capable of course correction.