By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm
[Update: See this post for the latest news on Microsoft’s next wave of Windows ads.]
It’s unthinkable. And astounding. But the world will probably survive. Valleywag is reporting that Microsoft will announce phase two of its $300 million Windows ad campaign tomorrow–a phase that doesn’t include Jerry Seinfeld.
According to Valleywag, Microsoft is maintaining that the company planned to say goodbye to Jerry all along. But it’s hard to imagine that they paid him $10 million to do two spots, or that the two spots we saw were all the Seinfeld that Microsoft intended to give us. And Valleywag quotes Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw as saying “People would have been happier if everyone loved the ads, but this was not unexpected.”
Catch up on Technologizer’s ongoing coverage:
If the end of the Seinfeld campaign is true, and wasn’t planned, it presumably has something to do with the lousy reviews that the first two ads received. (Offhand, I know of only one pundit who gave ‘em a thumbs up, Cnet’s contrarian Don Reisinger.) I can’t say I loved the ads myself; as I’ve written, I’m a traditionalist who’ll take a straightfoward argument for Windows over two aggressively quirky ads that barely mention the operating system. But Microsoft being Microsoft, there are teeming masses of critics who are predisposed to hate anything and everything it does. You gotta think that the company understood that, so the notion that it was unprepared for the negative reaction and is shifting gears because of it is startling. At least to me.
A few questions to bide my time until we know more about what’s going on here:
–Were there more Seinfeld ads in the can? Did they get better or worse? Did Jerry himself pitch Windows? Will they leak out? Or maybe Microsoft should release ‘em on the Web–wouldn’t that be an appropriate move in this era of corporate transparency and conversational marketing?
–Are there more non-Seinfeld ads in the can? Are they quirky or straightforward? Or–I’m guessing–somewhere in between?
–If there are more non-Seinfeld ads ready, will they begin to air immediately? Or will Microsoft need to fill the gap with some new commercials?
–Why axe Jerry? Yes, plenty of people said he was a stale and uninspired choice. But most of the dogpiling-on-the-rabbit over the ads wasn’t about Seinfeld per se; it was about their self-indulgent quirkiness and lack of salesmanship. If they’d starred Gates and, say, Steve Carrell, they wouldn’t have gotten a much better response.
–What about Bill? No, Microsoft isn’t going to give him his walking papers. But it might decide that bringing him back as the face of the company so soon after he retired was a bad move. Will he appear in other ads in the campaign?
–Can any Microsoft ad campaign for Windows get good reviews? Like I say, I think that many, many people will instinctively hate anything the company does; if it somehow came up with something that was, objectively, as effective and funny as Apple’s “Get a Mac” spots, it wouldn’t get anywhere near the credit that Appple does.
–Will Microsoft retrench with straightforward, sensible ads? When it hired Cripin Porter Bogusky, the creator of Burger King’s Subservient Chicken and other out-there ad campaigns, it got lots of positive ink. But out-there appears to have failed for Microsoft.
–How about that “Windows, Not Walls” tagline? It’s supposedly at the heart of the campaign, but we haven’t heard it yet.
–Will I stop asking endless questions about Windows ads? I hope so ! I’ve said this before, but I’m ultimately way more interested in Microsoft’s plans for Windows then in its plans for Windows advertising. If you use Windows, I suspect you feel the same way.
Got any questions of your own? Here are the first two ads, in case you somehow escaped seeing them or need to refresh your memory: