Microsoft ran its first commercial with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld on NBC this afternoon, to mixed reviews. Seinfeld will reportedly take home $10 million for his part of the $300 million "Windows Not Walls" ad campaign.
Does that seem like money well spent so far? Below you'll find the commercial and two opposing opinions about it from members of the ReadWriteWeb team.
Con: This Was an Arrogant Waste
Marshall Kirkpatrick: The Windows Not Walls campaign is widely believed to be the first response to Apple's high profile Mac guy/Windows guy series. While Microsoft tried to be hip in its response, it's a faux hip based on a pointlessly obscure message.
The Apple ads do direct feature comparison. What is this ad saying? That Microsoft is lead by famous old people who are really just dorks that maybe you can relate to? That Windows is a lovable "tasty" part of everyday life? The only thing I take from it is that Microsoft has more money than it knows what to do with and is making a dorky attempt to be funny in the face of the PR crisis it faces with Vista.
Show me Jerry Seinfeld meeting people around the world doing good work with Vista and liking it - that would impress me. I thought this one was kind of cute, but spending this kind of money on "kind of cute" is cynicism bordering on obscenity. I don't think it will be effective.
Disclosure: I haven't bought Windows software in 10 years, except for Windows mobile on my phone.
Direct response from Sarah Perez: "I'm sorry, but last I checked, nerds were inheriting the earth! Dorkiness is the new cool."
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Pro: It Was Funny, Effective Branding
Sarah Perez: I just finished watching the new Microsoft ad and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. Microsoft has long suffered from a dearth of creative advertising, so it was nice to see something different from them for a change. Heck, it was nice to see anything from them. Microsoft TV ads are pretty rare these days.
I also appreciated the fact that the ad was not a direct counter attack against those Mac vs. PC ads. Although those Mac ads are usually funny, they sometimes cross the line into smugness leading to some serious "Mac guy backlash." There won't be any backlash with this Microsoft ad, though - no matter which side of the fence you're on, it's hard to watch Bill Gates in action and not see him as just the goofy, geeky guy that he is. And the bonus shot of his Shoe Carnival card featuring his mug shot? Hilarious! If anything, Bill came across as a loveable nerd, not a ruthless businessman of an evil corporation, as many like to paint him these days.
Now, you can debate how realistic or unrealistic that image may be, but, let's be honest, ads aren't about delivering "reality" - they're meant to communicate a message. They deliver a brand image. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the ad agency behind these ads, aren't known for failures, either. From their odd BK King ads to the frightening images of VW drivers getting creamed by oncoming SUVs, CP+B ads stay with you and cement various brands into your head. So what's the brand message behind the new campaign? From this first ad, it seems to me that the message is that "PC guy" isn't such a bad guy after all. Love live PC guy! And the Conquistador!
Disclosure: In addition to writing for ReadWriteWeb, Sarah Perez also writes part time for Microsoft's Channel 10.
Direct response from Marshall Kirkpatrick: "Sarah, your take on it makes me feel like an uptight jerk for saying what I did. I stand behind what I said none the less, I think the ad was an obnoxious waste of money."