Microsoft hires Seinfeld to improve Vista perceptions

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In an attempt to counter Apple’s popular & effective ‘I’m a Mac’ series of ads, Microsoft has apparently signed on Jerry Seinfeld, reportedly for US$10mn. It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, citing ‘sources close to the company’ -meaning, this story was leaked to them. Was it from Microsoft or from the agency insiders? There is no way to tell. The blogosphere has gone to town with it. Here is a brilliant take on it from Dan Lyons and Joy of Tech’s latest comic on it.

Steve's mail

There are pros & cons to the approach. The use of a celebrity does give visibility and buzz to the brand. But it depends on the choice of celebrity, how the celeb is used and the objective behind the campaign. Seinfeld’s light-hearted personality seems like a nice way to convey the message that they are not taking themselves too seriously in the ads. The moot point is the objective. From the recent Mojave Experiment it appears that Microsoft wants to convey the message that ‘ Vista is not actually that bad. It’s only a perception.’ Now, that’s a defensive approach. How will it pan out in the ads? My take:

  • Microsoft cannot own ‘cool’ (atleast not in the same way as Apple is cool). People use Microsoft products not because they are cool. But because they have no choice. As Alley Insider put it, ‘9 out of 10 people cannot be cool’. Apple may suffer the same fate as its market share grows – in fact, with the iPod (and iPhone?) they may face the same situation – their products are so ubiquitous that everyone may not want to be seen with an iPod.
  • Jerry Seinfeld is a likeable personality. The humour can overcome the competitive stance of ‘I will not let Apple ride roughshod over Vista perception’.

The campaign to improve Vista’s perception is anchored on the thought ‘Windows, not walls’ or variations of this theme. Seems like an attempt to take a dig at Apple preferring to control so many aspects of its product usage – from hardware to software to DRM on iTunes. And on the choice of the celebrity – does Seinfeld have appeal among the youth? I thought he appealed to those who would be in their 40s by now. Or does his appeal cut across ages? I think it cuts across ages.

Given that the agency behind this new campaign is Crispin, one can expected the unexpected from the ads.

5 comments

  • I think there is enough of MS bashing and I would like to take up the cudgels on behalf of MS ( sure one of the very few). My reasons in support:

    a) Apart from the intially teething problems on the Vista -the corrected one is definitely far better than what earlier MS launches.
    b) The one problem that still exists as per my understanding is the usage of memory space once installed. But then better features -definitely more space.
    c) MS is very functional especially for working crowd whereas Apple is more style ( sure of the many hate mails) – and I believe “design should follow function”
    d) The Big hate is for the fact that MS has monopolistic intentions and they cannibalize competition. But aren’t we in business ? If competitions lose so be it.

    This is definitely not anti Apple but for MS. Let’s accept the fact that both are iconic brands and have equal space in history. Or is the bashing because of personalities involved ?

  • Thanks Biju, nice comment.

    a) I agree, Vista has improved. But why couldn’t they get it right the first time? Yet they still have so many annoying features – like the User Account Control. I am no Microsoft hater. I admire the way in which they have built the business – an iconic brand certainly. My issue was with the approach – ‘lets have a sexy campaign and all Vista problems will be sorted’. Frankly, I don’t see what XP cannot do that Vista can. The user-friendly features are marginal improvements.

    c) Apple is ‘all style and no function’ is a myth and I am not saying this because I am an Apple fan. I use both and with Apple the user experience is more stable and error-free (by and large).

    d) I am all for business success. But when businesses get comfortable in dominant position and take consumers for granted it bugs me. Ditto with Apple and its monopoly in iPod.

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bhatnaturally

Ex-ad man. Love advertising, Apple, tech, digital, design and all things creative. VP - MarCom, @Robosoft. Views personal. See disclaimer for more.

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