Microsoft Jumps The Shark

by Jeff Abbott on September 6, 2008

I like Jerry Seinfeld; I think he’s one of the funniest comedians ever. I don’t have an opinion much about Bill Gates, other than I use Microsoft Office for Mac to run my business and I think it’s a good product. (I took Bill Gates’s picture once, many years ago, when I worked in marketing for a software company, and Gates stopped by our booth at a trade show for a product demo. He glanced up at me as I took the picture from several feet away during his demo and he looked slightly irritated. My boss had ordered me to take the photo and I mouthed “sorry” to Gates and he gave me a slight smile.)
I am a shareholder in Microsoft, and I have to wonder why this is the ad that starts Microsoft’s $300 million dollar campaign to “reconnect” with consumers? I worked in advertising for years, and the industry has a long and rich history of weird ads. But this is just bizarre. What does Jerry and Bill shopping for shoes have to do with anything a computer consumer cares about? This ad is brought to you by the same agency that does those completely creepy (and unappetizing) Burger King ads with the plastic-faced king.
Perhaps they’re trying to be so bizarre that you’ll be interested in the next ad in the series, just to see how left-field it will be. This ad is getting a lot of discussion–but given Seinfeld and Gates being in it, that was inevitable and doesn’t speak to the quality of the ad. They’ve lost my interest right out of the gate because this is all about them–not about the consumer. (And I don’t even know what Microsoft is trying to convey here.) Maybe it’s time to sell my shares.

    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Meg Gardiner September 7, 2008 at 6:39 am

    This ad is simply mystifying. And stupid. It’s like something some wannabes would make, thinking it’s Seinfeld-esque.
    “Adjust your shorts?” Weird and embarrassing.

    Jeff Abbott September 7, 2008 at 8:19 am

    The two most embarrassing moments had to be “adjust your shorts”–because, yeah, that’s how business tycoons talk to each other. And the pseudo-meaningful look that Gates gives Seinfeld when he says “leather”. Not to mention the family watching Bill Gates try on shoes. I mean, why do they care? It’s like Microsoft said “we want to be cool like Apple’s ads” and completely missed the boat. (Apple’s ads convey the differences that could matter to consumers.) This just conveys that Microsoft has no idea how to reach people–despite the pervasiveness of their products (not just on the Windows side; Word and Excel started as Mac products, and Office is nearly universally used on Macs).
    I think what they were trying for was to make Bill Gates seem more approachable, more human. But why? He’s one of the world’s biggest philanthropists now (and kudos to him), and he’s not CEO any more. Apple promises that their products are easier to use and more hip. (I don’t feel hip for being an Apple user, but whatever.) No idea what Microsoft is promising us here.
    This has the smell of New Coke about it.

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