I'm a PC, and I Write Blog Entries
I’m enjoying the talk everywhere about the new Microsoft ads, far more than I’m enjoying the ads actually. Opinions seem to be wide-ranging, and of course your day wouldn’t be complete unless you heard mine.
First off, all of the Apple fanboys, who’ve been giving them the thumbs down from the start (big shocker there, eh?) are talking about “Microsoft’s panicked reaction to these Seinfeld ads, yanking them from the air and severing ties with Seinfeld”. Microsoft has said that the plan has been all along to have Seinfeld do those first couple ads, and then other people do later ones.
Anyone who thinks they’re lying has little or no understanding of the way anything works in this universe. The first Seinfeld ads debuted 2 weeks ago, and the first non-Seinfeld ones today. Which means that even if you accept the idea that the ads are a dud (and I don’t, at least not yet, but more on that in a second) and that Microsoft went into panic mode, they would have had to somehow create a new ad and get it on televisions in what, 1 week?
My understanding is that the lead time for placing an ad on television is measured in months, and that doesn’t even count filming it. You can’t simply start making five ads with Jerry Seinfeld, start airing them, decide you don’t like them after a week, film a new ad, and switch the old one out and the new one in within 7 days. Except for Presidential candidates (whose commercials are so simple that they could be produced using Microsoft Movie Maker in 20 minutes) in an election year, it just doesn’t work that way. (And my understanding is that even they purchase the add slots a few weeks in advance and deliver the ad itself later.) There’s really no way that this could not have been planned months ago.
Then there’s the idea that the ads are bad. Tech bloggers are saying “I don’t really get these ads, or like them, therefore they’re a waste of money.” Meanwhile they’re talking about Microsoft for the first time in five years, and more than Apple to boot. If, as I and many others believe, any publicity is good publicity (except your obituary) then these ads are brilliant.
Microsoft’s main objective with these ads is to get back the mindshare that Apple has totally stolen from them in the last 5 years. They can’t do it by just splashing some ads up that say “Vista is good.” They’re targeting consumers (and businessmen, but businessmen with their consumer hat on watching a football game) so to get any attention at all they have to come out of left field, and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Microsoft might be the bigger dog, but Apple clearly has the momentum. Microsoft has to remind people of its presence, and it has to do it in a way that is genuinely cool. And while not everything different is genuinely cool (and these ads may not be) everything genuinely cool is different.
If people watched the ads and thought “I get it” it wouldn’t be effective. It wouldn’t be what Microsoft needs. It would be yet another giant corporation telling people how good their products are, which has been doing nothing for them for a decade now. They clearly needed to (and did) think beyond that.
I think there’s a very good chance that we’re seeing the sort of marketing campaign that will be studied in universities for years to come. I’m not sure which way it will go. It might be looked back upon as the spark that ignited a massive resurgence and a prime example of one of the all time great ad agencies at the peak of their game. Or it might go down as act of hubris on par with Gigli but with ten times the budget. Only time will tell. But one thing I’m sure of is that it’s far too early to write them off.
Most of the people counting them out aren’t the target audience. And it’s easy to say you don’t like the ads. I really don’t either (except for Jerry’s making fun of his car purchasing addiction) but if the only ads on television were the ones I thought were enjoyable, our nation’s last surviving corporation would have just been bought by InBev. Ads aren’t movies. Being enjoyable is one way for them to be effective, but not, by any means, the only.