I just don't get the new MS commercials

The new commercials Microsoft is running are now out, disclosing the strategy Microsoft will be employing to make the argument to buy Microsoft based products now and in the near future. Apparently the strategy is to mildly amuse people and convince us that Microsoft has some great new stuff coming out, as evidenced by Bill's subtle gestures to Jerry at the end of each commercial.

As is typical of the Windows experience, there seems to be a lot going on in these commercials, in sharp contrast to the simple presentation of products and solutions in the Apple commercials.

I chatted with a good friend of mine online that's a Windows / Linux guy about this. His portion of the chat went like this:
Jeff: here's my take
Jeff: Mac commercials - plain, simple, easy to make sense of, not too many moving parts
Jeff: Win commercials - no f'n clue what they're doing, long, bloated, inscrutable, stuff happening everywhere and you can't relate it to anything that makes sense
Jeff: I think that about sums up the OSes as well
Jeff: I swear I want to by a Mac just as a protest against these moronic commercials
I was pretty shocked to see that coming from Jeff, who has observed my conversion from Windows to Mac user with detached amusement. I'm pretty confident that Mac users watching this won't be encouraged to pitch what they are doing and get WinTel hardware when Windows 7 comes out, and I'm sure MS is aware of that. This marketing has to be targeted at the average Windows user that is considering a platform change or whether or not to continue upgrading their Windows machines.

I'm with Jeff on this one; I just don't get it.


RetroMacCast said…
I'm with you on the commercials though I'm beginning to think that if I forget that these are Microsoft commercials and forget trying to understand how these ads sell Windows, I might be able to enjoy them on their own -- at least a little. The second one did get a little bit funnier.
Bry said…
Totally agree! I think if they've spent $300m on these ads then they've wasted every cent. Not one thing about these ads does anything to dissuade viewers from believing Vista is crap, in fact you'd never know it was about Windows at all.

The Get A Mac ads by Apple in start contrast tell you about the strengths of the platform using humour and are a joy to watch.

I do quite like Vista, but I have to say I am seriously thinking my next computer is a MacBook.
Anonymous said…
I honestly think Microsoft is trying their best to lose as many home customers as they possibly can. I just can't imagine how those ads are supposed to draw people to Microsoft or Vista.

I have watched both and have no desire to watch them again. I watch the Apple ads over and over again. They are a blast and easy on the eyes. I just get bored with the Microsoft ads.

All I can say to Microsoft is: "Thank's Microsoft for driving even more business Apple's way."
David said…
Personally, I think the ads are an amazing waste but I'm not the target which could be an important thing for us to keep in mind. Trying to figure out just what Microsoft and the ad company is about, my first thought was they might figure any kind of talk (other than Vista sux) is good talk. But I just can't buy that.

But what if they are making Gates the face of Microsoft - no stretch there, right? Then making Gates an approachable guy, the kind you might go out and have a drink with (and be only slightly embarrassed to be seen with) is the start of giving Microsoft a different face. As the audience begins to adopt Gates into their television family, when he begins to talk about Microsoft products the effect might be interesting.

We'll see. At any rate, right now I'm having more fun laughing.
Patrick said…
Oh come on guys... You're way over-analyzing these and missing the point.

All these ads are supposed to do is
1. Be funny

and in the process

2. Leave you feeling light hearted and a little more positive and open about Microsoft.

Microsoft's image needs some serious help, and you don't accomplish that by punching people in the face. You get them laughing and subtlety change their perception by associating humor and good feelings with a brand.

Apple has mastered this. Their iPod commercials don't give a list of reasons buy an iPod. Rather, they have super catchy, light-hearted music and catchy visuals. By the time the apple logo appears at the end, you associate having a rocking good time with it.
Anonymous said…
It seems that the folks at MS's ad agency have been eating too much of the exotic mustard.
Unknown said…
If, as some have said MS's goal is so low, to leave viewers with a slightly improved image of the company, then MS has really fallen alot further than I imagined. Is their rep so bad?

Second, if Gates is still the figurehead, even though he's retired, what does THAT say about the company? He's not the healthiest looking guy out there, and I say that in comparison to Steve Jobs. If those two were in a cagefight or a MMA battle, I'd put my money on Jobs.

Three, can a company really change its spots? Is this how you do it?

Four, how many serial commercials have been successful? The last one I can think of was that Maxwell House coffee one from years ago. This Bill and Jerry insult America with inane blather is not putting positive vibes in my head. Of course, as David said, I'm not the target audience either!
Anonymous said…
I'm with Patrick on this one. I think this last one was funny. I'm a big Seinfeld fan so that's obviously a bias but still. Give it time. They can't try and replicate apple so I applaud them for originality. I think no matter what they did they'd get criticized.
BTW, David, I have been following your journey and have like you, made the switch about 8 months ago and likely won't look back
David Alison said…
@Patrick: I don't know about over-analyzing, I'm looking at it as a $300M marketing campaign that was touted as remaking Microsoft, specifically in response to the very popular "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads.

Though it comes too late for me having already made the switch from PC to Mac, if this campaign came out back in late January when I was considering getting a Mac I doubt that I would have said "Oh, I get it, Bill Gates is just a normal guy!". Sure, there is an element of humor in all of this that I do appreciate - I thought the first ad was pretty amusing. But in the end, what purpose does it actually serve?

The Apple ads are both funny and informative, even though I like the PC character much more.

I didn't move away from Windows because I saw Microsoft as pretentious or evil, which is what these ads seem to be trying to address. Again, I just don't get the new MS commercials.

@Dean: I also like Jerry Seinfeld and this almost seemed like a throwback to his old show. I half expected Kramer to barge in through the door. I just don't think this is a very effective use of marketing dollars.

Thanks for following the blog; I hope you continue to get some value (or entertainment) out of it.
D said…
wooow I'm with you guys... I don't get it.
If it didn't say Microsoft at the end I probably would never have even known what the commercial was on. I enjoyed watching it though cause it shows how Microsoft hasn't learnt anything in the last 20 years, it's like that commercial from one of your posts earlier this year from the 80's where that woman was dancing around... random, odd and meaningless
Unknown said…
Perhaps the add tries to show Gates as a normal personable fellow. But I identified with the family... I grew up in a little middle-class house, my family is a lot like those folks. By the end of the ad I felt Gates and Seinfeld were making fun of my family after trying to be hospitable to them. It kind of reminds me of the kids in some clique making an insider joke at the expense some freshman.
MattF said…
Here's my take on the message:

1. Microsoft understands that there's a problem and doesn't quite know what to do about it.

2. Microsoft has a truly vast amount of money and is willing to spend it on things that may not make an immediate profit, or even make much sense.

3. Microsoft is not stupid.
Chris Howard said…
i actually preferred the first. The idea is quickly getting stale, and this second one felt that way. And in a sense, this one tried too hard and the message was too overt.
Anonymous said…
Yep, just two billionaires attempting to connect with the average family.
Anonymous said…
I thought it was very romantic. Jerry meets Bill in a shoe store, picks him up, and takes him home to meet the family. I suppose the wedding will be in California, so I wonder who they'll invite.... Well, no, that's not what it is, but it illustrates that these ads are harder to interpret than the book of Revelation. Microsoft thinks they are successful, because everyone is talking about them. Microsoft doesn't hear what everyone is saying. In other words, Microsoft doesn't have a clue.
Anonymous said…
Am I missing something, or do the ads so far seem to say "Stay tuned, because MS is going to release some really cool stuff"?

If that's the case, then I don't see how they'll help Vista. In fact, seems they'll hurt it, if people interpret the ads as meaning that MS has something better in the works.
Anonymous said…
Their's won't be the first ad campaign to reveal a purpose much later in the series. Granted, the first commercial was very abstract and boring. The second one's hints were more obvious but buried in an overly long story. Both suffer from bad acting, editing, and photography, but perhaps the amateurish production values were intentional. If anything, the ads are memorable and getting a lot of attention, which is no small feat in a world saturated with advertising. That said, if MicroSoft doesn't ultimately unveil some groundbreaking computing experience (Don't hold your breath), these ads will do more harm than good, reinforcing MicroSoft's reputation for being the antithesis of user-friendliness, elegance, and style.

Personally, as much I enjoyed the earlier Apple PC/Mac guys ads, I feel that series is turning bad. Comedy must be hard to be consistent at.

Unrelated: Dave, I cuss as much as the next fellah, and profanity doesn't offend me, but your site is too classy to publish the f-word.
David Alison said…
@Ty: Thanks for pointing out the f-bomb in there. While I can be profane at times in person I do try to avoid it in the blog and let that one through. I did just sanitize it so that it's a little less caustic.
Chris Howard said…
Dave, the new commercials though are freakin home runs. MS has belted Apple's wussy PC clean out of the park. Game over.

Sure these ads don't make you necessarily want to rush out and buy a PC, but that's not their aim. Their objective is to stop people from wanting to switch by making folks proud to be PC users.

There's no comeback for Apple. Apple screwed up big time on this, they ran with the PC/Mac ads too long. It should have been Apple who took the high ground by following the PC/Mac ads with a campaign exactly like this new one from MS.

How can Apple top an ad that shows all sorts of people changing the world with their PCs? They can't.
David Alison said…
@Chris: I don't see how I missed that before but after reading your assessment I have to agree; MS is really on to something here. I heard John Hodgman is going to be appearing in the next series of ads for Microsoft. That is the first sign of the apocalypse for Apple.
Chris Howard said…
BTW, for anyone who hasn't realised, I am referring to the new "I'm a PC" ads, not the lame Seinfeld ones.

Check MacRumors to see them

Mac zealots try to diss them, but the reality is these ads send a powerful message about PCs.
David Alison said…
@Chris: Ah, the new commercials. I hadn't seen them until after I wrote my rather sarcastic comment, assuming you were fishing for trolls.

The NEW MS commercials—the I'm a PC ones—are vastly better than the previous ones. Kara Swisher has an excellent article on them, which includes all three of the new ones. You should read it if you haven't already.

The basic premise of the newest ads is to break down the stereotype that Apple has supposedly created. The big question is, do people switch from Windows to Mac because of the stereotype? Because they want to be seen as cool?

I'm sure there is an element to that but for me, a hard core PC/Windows guy for over 2 decades, I switched because OS X is a very stable and easy to use operating system, Macs are nicely designed from a hardware standpoint and the applications I can use on my Mac—even the ones from non-Apple vendors—generally look and work consistently.

If you look back through the Apple ads you'll notice that virtually every one of them hits on some feature or capability. That is actually the focus of the Mac/PC commercials; the two characters are the vehicle used to talk about them.

When MS comes up with ads that actually talk about why Windows based PCs are better than Macs (and unlike many of the current political ads have truth in them) then I'll think MS has its act together.

While the new ads are better, I just get a feeling that MS has come in very late to the game and is fully in defensive mode. If you can't attack on features, attack on character. As Kara Swisher says in her article, that has a Red-State/Blue-State vibe that I'm just tired of right now. The tail end of an election year is not a good time to do that.
Chris Howard said…
lmao - sorry, Dave, I didn't even notice your sarcasm! :) Tho I wasn't sure you realised I Was talking about the new ads, esp after I re-read my post and saw I didn't mention that.

As I say, I think these ads put Apple right back in its box. It might be a good time for Apple to stop advertising the Mac for a while, and focus on the halo products (i.e. iPhone and iPod)
Anonymous said…
I've heard it said that there's no such thing as bad publicity but Microsoft with its own ads has proved that there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Hmmm, perhaps Microsoft is hoping that if they can destroy themselves with their own ads perhaps Apple will pull their ads because there's just no since in beating a dead horse.
Anonymous said…
The "I'm a PC" ads are better but I can't help but hear in my head "I'm a dork" or "I'm getting paid to say this because there's no way anyone in real life would say this."

The Apple ads are not claiming to be real people that identify with machines but machines that identify with people. There's a huge difference! It's a sad commentary when a person defines himself as a machine -- it screams "I have no life!"

That just further associates PC users with the "out-of-touch" crowd which actually in turn reinforces Apples whole point with their ads.

That's my take anyway.

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