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September 19, 2008
I salute Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Talking about ad agencies and their campaigns is not a regular feature of this blog.
But I have to hand it to CP+B for its recent work with Microsoft, not for the ads -- for resetting expectations of Microsoft. Now, it seems, that Microsoft can take creative risks. Whoa. That'll stir people up!
The first set of ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates were so far out of left field that it was impossible for the big talkers in technology not to: 1. be excited or 2. be sanctimonious. You loved them, hated them, or were baffled by them. That made them polarizing, therefore a strong foundation-builder. (Note: they weren't offensive, the stereotypical route taken by stereotypical agencies to generate buzz.)
The next task: Reframe how your competition frames you. With a new series of ads, Microsoft has reframed Apple's "PC is a stereotype" frame. Take a look:
Now that Microsoft is sitting atop a big pile of word of mouth, is reframing the persona of what it means to be a PC user -- you're not a schlub anymore, as Apple would have you believe -- what next? After all, Microsoft products are still Microsoft products. New and magical unicorns aren't streaming out of Redmond.
Will it reframe conversations inside Microsoft?
Will it encourage Microsoft to take more risks, not with security, but with expectations?
Will it encourage Microsofties to defy convention and not be pummeled into submission?
Will it encourage Microsoft to understand the Apple user, not crucify them (which happened to me and Jackie on the Microsoft campus at the end of a workshop we were conducting!)?
I see this as a campaign to change both external and internal expectations.
Whatever the outcome, it's fascinating to watch the real-time evolution.
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I have always liked the thought that advertising is as much for customers as it is employees (ref. Steal These Ideas by Steve Cone). Just imagine some of the rebels in Redmond changing the course of that ship. It could be big.
I still don't get these commercials though.
I'll give MSFT points for trying, but really -- are any of these ads going to change the way we think of the company and its products? For me, all the new commercials accomplish is reminding me that most people still use Windows. So? MSFT's problem isn't market penetration, it's market perception. And I don't see anyone watching these commercials and suddenly thinking, "Wow. MSFT is great. I really need to upgrade to Vista now, after all." I don't think the commercials change anything. The MSFT brand is too entrenched for such a quick whitewashing.
Todd & Matt -- Yup. It's a huge ship. Big ships take awhile to turn, both in actuality and perception. I see it as a years-long effort. If it's done anything, it's changed the nature of the conversation, which I see as the first step.
Ben: why were the two of you crucified in Redmond?
Re the "I'm a PC" spots, they work because they work. No one is talking Vista, they're talking the length and breadth of the user base that relies on them. No more stereotype of the round guy in the glasses next to the hipster with the soul patch.
PC equals interesting, varied, multi-cultural people who do interesting things with their PC's. These are very smart ads. They begin (or maybe "re-start" is a better word) the dialog with users and create a sense of relevance. PC's aren't the hopeless schlubs portrayed in the Mac ads: they're acutally cooler.
As for the Seinfeld ads, they weren't offensive -- they were just very Jerry.
Stephen -- Because we both had Macs.
LOL@"very Jerry." Exactly. There's a weird expectation that an ad is supposed to make me want to buy or switch to something immediately. That day is long-gone, if it was ever here at all.
I love what Microsoft has done with this campaign. Personally, I am always opposed to the creation of the negative - in any form. Trash advertising - which is what Apple campain was (in my eyes) works on creating negative. I love this approach.
Advertising is about creating an image and the Apple ads were trying to convince me that I could never be cool and hip. And my response has always been - if being cool and hip means that you have to talk negatively about something else to prove how hip you are - count me out!
Interestingly, it appears that the I'm a PC ads were crafted on Macs.
Ben: I moved heaven and earth to make sure I had a Mac for an Apple meeting. All of my insiders said not to worry, that people came in all the time with PC's, but frankly I think that we all know what happens when you show up with the enemy's hardware in hand. Sounds like you crucified yourself! Next time, borrow a PC for a meeting with Microsoft.
I agree that the expectation of an ad converting a customer -- especially in a non-impulse category like PC's -- is hoping for too much. They should be able to reframing the conversation, though, and the CP+B ads have delivered. PC is no longer the dork. PC is actually more than just cool -- it's real, tangible people, doing real work. And not a stock broker amongst them! Imagine!
The Seinfeld spots are hilariously off-kilter. Gotta give 'em credit for that. If the objective was simply to generate some buzz among industry insiders and win some advertising industry awards, they've accomplished their goal.
But the masses just don't get it.
As far as the follow-up spots are concerned, I think CPB missed it completely. "I wear glasses. I am a PC." C'mon. It's like the client stepped in, killed the great work with Seinfeld, and approved the third or fourth creative choice.
I find the "I'm a PC" ad really defensive and silly. If you are the market leader which clearly PCs are (powered by Microsoft), you shouldn't get defensive and that is all this ad says to me. I think this was a huge mis-step for Microsoft. While the Bill Gates/Seinfeld ads were way more risky and out there. Good on them for trying that route whereas the I'm a PC is a cop-out as far as I'm concerned.
@Shelly I actually think that the result of the ads is that Microsoft appears like they are trying really hard to show that they aren't dorks. Perhaps not the people but the company is for clearly ripping off the competition. It's like Goliath trying to be David (or some similar analogy). It left a really bad taste in my mouth.
Polarizing? Or just Boring? Seinfied's ship has sailed and he's not resonating with the targeted audience of today. The only curiosity driven by the follow up ads is what the heck did they bleep out with the "headband" guy?
I do agree with Mr Denny on what should be the main point of this sort of advertising - the masses don't get it.
and if they don't get it - why bother?
Kudos? You have to be kidding me. Crispin Porter did a swing and a miss on this one. All these ads did was reinforce the Mac message that PC is NOT COOL. And to prove it, they used Bill Gates as the white man with overbite dancing out of beat. The new stuff showing real PC users is dead on. Look, just because it's Crispin Porter doesn't mean you automatically anoint it genius, for God's sake.
Crispin has been doing things like that for a while. About a year or so ago, they auctioned "products" like towelettes and face straighteners related to their "mini" campaign.