Yes, it’s getting noticed and maybe people are clicking on it, but
Microsoft’s expensive new powered-by-Seinfeld campaign is looking like the
dud that many–including me–predicted it would be, both in strategy
We suppose the ad makes Microsoft seem less stodgy and uptight, which is the
image Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads paint of the company. But we can’t see this
going a long way towards reversing the popular impression that Vista is buggy
and unnecessary. The ads would probably have to, you know, mention Vista to do
Presumed Microsoft Business Goals: Grow revenue, protect
margins by increasing acceptance/take rate of Vista.
Presumed Marketing/Comm Goals: Fend off criticism and
negative perception of Vista. Counter the effects of PC vs. Mac campaign which
have eroded/pigeonholed image of PC/Windows while boosting that of Mac.
Assessment: How does this execution accomplish the above?
It doesn’t. Autopsy: First, who should use celebrities? Brands that want
more name recognition or those that want to draw attention to a new product.
One could infer that Microsoft gave Seinfeld a bunch of money without fleshing
out the actual marketing goals and getting him and everyone else on the same
page. In fact one of the key deal points was probably “free reign”
and “creative control.” After all, Jerry doesn’t need the
money. So everyone probably assumed the ads would be clever and memorable.
In addition the spot doesn’t even stand on its own as an interesting
piece of entertainment. It is, in a word, inane. It’s tone is dated.
So there won’t be much of a viral (pass along) halo except for forwarded
links accompanied by nasty criticisms of the ad.
Which brings us to the next point below. The WSJ quotes two branding
executives (”those who can’t sell, market; those who can’t
market, brand.”) asserting that the ad has done its job by generating
This point is supported by the following quote: “Most companies would
have to spend a billion dollars on advertising to get this kind of
attention.” First, I think he means most unknown companies would even
want this level of attention. Second, Microsoft has already spent billions of
dollars over the last 30 years to get “attention.”
Dear branding experts: “Attention” is not the goal.
“Attention” is not, in and of itself, a positive thing. Microsoft
is globally known and doesn’t need more “attention.”
Microsoft needs (a) great products that (b) create a better customer experience,
which in turn (c) results in a better perception. This campaign does nothing
to advance those priorities.
Microsoft is breaking the basic premise of Inside-Out Branding by trying to
solve a product problem with an advertising solution. Unfortunately they
can’t just paper over the negative perceptions with a big media spend
featuring a waning celebrity.
Bob London is president of London, Ink LLC (www.londonink.com), a
full-service marketing and communications firm, and serves as a Virtual VP of
Marketing for growth-stage companies that need hands-on project-based leadership
in marketing strategy and planning.
Critics Say Gates-Seinfeld Duo No Laughing
Despite the negative online chatter about the ad, Microsoft has
succeeded in getting people talking about the commercial, ad experts say.
“The initial reaction might be on the fence or leaning
negative but the ad did its job,” says Dean Crutchfield, a brand
consultant. “Most companies would have to spend a billion dollars on
advertising to get this kind of attention.”