By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 7:39 pm
Curiouser and curiouser. An hour or two after news broke that Microsoft’s Windows ads would go Seinfeldless, the New York Times has lots of details on the new commercials in the campaign. They won’t be free of celebrities: Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, and Pharrell Williams will be on hand. (As will Bill Gates, but apparently only in a supporting role.)
But the most intriguing thing about the new ads is this: They will make explicit reference to Apple’s “Get a Mac” spots. The Times says that a Microsoft engineer who looks like John Hodgman (aka Apple’s PC) will even say thw words “I’m a PC”–before launching into what sounds like a possibly whiny, but accurate, complaint about being stereotyped by Apple’s ads.
I’m no ad critic, but I will take a tiny bit of credit for at least noticing that the phrase “PC” was used in the second Seinfeld/Gates ad, and wondering what was up with that:
At the end of the commercial, the phrase “Perpetually Connecting” turns into the abbreviation “PC.” I can’t think of another ad in recent Microsoft history that’s made reference to Windows-based computers as PCs–it feels like an almost direct response to Apple’s Get a Mac ads and their Mac and PC characters. I wonder if future ads will also call PCs PCs. (Actually, I hope not: I used to be a stickler for the notion that all personal computers, including Macs, are PCs; I’ve sort of given up, though.)
So yup, we now know that Microsoft will call PCs PCs, and it is a response to Apple’s ads.
Other tidbits from the Times story:
–The ads will use the theme “Life Without Walls”–I’m not sure if this is instead of the rumored “Windows, Not Walls.” or in addition to it. There will be a microsite called LifeWithoutWalls.com (which, right now, seems to simply redirect to the main Windows site).
–Microsoft will let real people upload video and photos explaining why they’re PCs, too, and will use some of this material in ads.
I’m done judging ads I haven’t seen yet, but we’ll all apparently get the chance to start critiquing these ones tomorrow. And I do have a few more questions:
–Can the campaign both be about PCs and not about PCs? Microsoft blogger Chris Flores said just a few days ago that the campaign “will talk about Windows in all its forms. Not just the OS for PCs we happen to be shipping today. In fact, not just an OS. And not just on PCs. Simply put, this campaign isn’t about Windows Vista. It’s about Windows.” Sounds logical enough, but possibly hard to reconcile with ads that take on Apple’s ads directly and talk about PCs.
–What does “Life Without Walls” mean, anyhow? And what does it have to do with PCs or operating systems? If Microsoft argues that Windows is better because it’s available in multiple forms on multiple devices, isn’t it contending that walls can be good?
–Will we ever learn whether Microsoft changed course with the Seinfeld spots? In a new post, Flores says that the company always planned to move beyond Seinfeld as the campaign progressed. I’m sure that’s true. But he doesn’t really address whether we ended up with less Jerry than was originally planned based on initial response to the campaign. (The Times article has a couple of research firms saying that buzz about the Bill/Jerry ads was highly favorable to Microsoft–news to me!)
Stand by for more bulletins as events warrant…