Here is an email I just received about the infamous Seinfeld Microsoft ad.
So, imagine you are stranded on a desert island. No, wait, how about this: imagine you found a magic lamp. Oh, no, no, we've got it -- imagine you had 300 million dollars to spend on an advertising campaign for a brand that has been made the butt of one brilliant ad after another at the hands of your competitor. With that much money, hey, what would you do first?
Apparently, you can take 300 million dollars and use at least a chunk of it to hire Jerry Seinfeld to re-run his shtick, this time with Bill Gates in tow -- a man so uncomfortable on screen he ignites dreams in Al Gore of staring in a reality show. And, apparently you can also, as an agency, forget completely what advertising is supposed to do. Oh, right, yeah, sell something. That is so, ugh, traditional.
For those who have had the good fortune of not seeing the maiden voyage of the new Microsoft advertising campaign from the too-cool-for-research guys at Crispen Porter + Bogusky, let us explain the premise. This guy walks into a mall. Wait, it's Jerry Seinfield. Wait again, there's Bill Gates, buying shoes on the cheap -- pleather to be exact. After some discussion about Bill's shoe size, loyalty points, and mall food, they leave. The punch line? Bill Gates adjusts his shorts. We couldn't make this up. We're funnier than that.
This Microsoft ad is not funny. But, even if it were, the standard it is being held to is that of Apple's amazing advertising about the PC and Vista -- ads so funny they bear up under repeated viewing -- and how those ads sell the Mac with not only a brand position but the proof points to back it up, something increasingly out of vogue in these days of ad-as-slapstick. One is left wondering what exactly the Microsoft ad was intended to do. If not built for the heavy lifting of actually creating an in-market result, was it at least supposed to muscle us into a new way of feeling about Microsoft? If so, what new information were we supposed to take away from this ad? That in the PC-Apple wars, Microsoft is the nerd who, no matter how many zabillion dollars it has, it still can't figure out how to dress itself? The PC as un-cool. Got it. But we already knew that. You know who told us? Apple.
That makes this advertising worse than a waste of money. It makes it a redundant waste of money. And that's about as un-cool as you can get.