The new Microsoft ad campaign by iconoclastic agency Crispin, Porter & Bogusky has sparked a frenzy of debate in the past few weeks. This blog reflects the fairly negative slant of most of the commentary. But not all of the churn was negative. Check out this post by what appears to be an Apple fan, or this one, which points out that the initial TV ads were designed as teasers for a much broader campaign focusing on Windows and Vista. Mission accomplished.
The critics focused largely on several key points: the ads seem pointless – without a key message or “selling” line; focusing on geeky Gates was a mistake; the ads are unoriginal and dated (featuring Jerry Seinfeld); and they seem a poor response to the wildly successful Apple vs. PC ad campaign. All of these might be true, but the reality – and the point emphasized by fans of the campaign – is that they put boring old Microsoft on the top of the buzz meter. Heck, one of my older relatives, who rarely watches TV and thinks advertising is a bunch of balloons on top of a car dealer, asked me what they ads were about. Not all of the attention was positive, but there was clearly a great deal of attention and discussion. Now Microsoft has a rapt audience to launch the subsequent elements of the campaign – which are apparently designed to highlight the positive attributes of Vista and Windows.
While the initial broadcast ads were not my cup of tea, I admire Microsoft for doing something different and risky. For me there is no worse sin in advertising than being boring and forgettable. And there are many successful, celebrated campaigns that had little or no mention of specific products or a clear pitch in their ads – including Apple’s own legendary “1984” commercial. I’ll take thematic and lifestyle ads over pedantic “hard sell” ads (hello Big 3) any day. So I say let’s give Microsoft a chance to show it’s full hand and give them credit for making some noise and appearing…if only tentatively… a bit hip.