Everywhere I turn today, I find a story by colleagues or comments by readers saying that the new Microsoft ad with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates fails on almost every level. Some complain that it doesn't mention Vista at all, which makes it useless, while others say that watching Gates' derriere waggle at the end of the commercial was just a bit too much.
Either way, Microsoft is getting killed from all sides by people that think the ad was nothing more than a waste of time and money. "Apple's ads are so much better!" they say until their hearts are content. "Who would want to buy Vista after watching that ad?" they exclaim.
Do me a favor: sit down, put your MacBook Pro away, and be quiet.
"The first phase of this campaign is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows--a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity," Microsoft Senior Vice President Bill Veghte said in an e-mail to employees.
That logic seems perfectly acceptable to me. The way I see it, Gates & Co. have been looked at for years now as the evil tech company that bullies others and tries to form monopolies. And yet, when it tries to put a human face on, it's heavily criticized in the media?
I don't get it.
It's quite obvious where this commercial was going. It wasn't meant to be a Vista pitch, it was meant to recreate Seinfeld and his "show about nothing" and bring Gates into that world. Sure, he may not have been Kramer, but Gates did an admirable job in a role that doesn't suit his personality all that well.
More importantly, though, this commercial acts as a building block for the rest. Before Microsoft can try to make people want Vista, it needs to repair its image. And what better way to do that than with a commercial with one of the most popular and respected comics in the world?
What does Microsoft need to do to make pundits and Apple fanboys happy? My guess: hire Steve Jobs.
I'm willing to bet that if this commercial was released by Apple, those same people saying the Seinfeld ad was a misstep would be calling it a triumph of "1984" proportions.
Instead of looking at Gates and using that as the vehicle for contempt, maybe everyone should step back for a moment and realize that the Seinfeld ad did exactly what it needed to do: it took the focus off Gates' money, Vista's problems, and Microsoft's poor public image, and started erecting a more positive image of the company, which will eventually allow it to promote its products.
See, what most of the critics don't understand is advertising isn't effective unless the target audience believes that advertiser. Right now, Microsoft's image in the world isn't so hot. And if the company tried to put Seinfeld in its ads and talk about Vista, it wouldn't have gone anywhere.
I'm the first to take Microsoft to task when it's wrong, but in this case, I think all the pundits trying to put this ad down are totally off-base. It may not have been an ad that will sell a ton of Vista copies, but it was an ad that will lay the foundation for doing just that.
Nice work, Microsoft. Keep 'em coming.