Seinfeld / Microsoft Ad -- What's the Deal with That?

Look, advertising is a mysterious thing, okay? It takes some crazy genius can figure out how to make you want things without you even realizing that's what's happening. Any Don Draper monologue can tell you that.

But, as Rene asked, who were the geniuses who came up with this one?

Alright: devil's advocate time: We get it, time spent humanizing Bill Gates is time spent humanizing Microsoft; we even get the secret 'anti-switcher' message for hardcore Seinfeld fans who remember the Mac in his apartment. Heck: we get that Bill/Microsoft1 is a mensch and shops at regular stores for regular people, not some overpriced, all white and chrome, well-designed... you get where we're going with this.

So, like the Apple ads, we get some cute humor with a heart of gold -- it's as though Microsoft went ahead and took PC, admitted straight up he's Bill Gates himself, and then ran with it. Ok, we're a little sold that this will help people warm up Microsoft. Feeling better about Vista (or, yes, Windows Mobile2) -- not so much.

Finally, and we hesitate to even mention this, but was it really necessary to make us not only watch that little derriere-shake at the end, but anticipate and wait for it? Jerry Seinfeld: you imp you.

  1. Yes, Gates has retired, but he's still the soul of the company and not a bad soul at all. Plus, can you imagine this commercial with Steve Ballmer instead of Bill? The horror. The horror.
  2. Ha HA! The iPhone-related angle is finally revealed!

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Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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Reader comments

Seinfeld / Microsoft Ad -- What's the Deal with That?


I'm talking about the ad on an email list now, I still like it.
quoting myself:The ad is designed from top to bottom to make us feel like we're 'in' on the joke. The churro, the old picture of Bill on the membership card, etc. Plus -- the 90s were the last time a lot of people got really excited about Windows -- win95.
The only thing I can't quite figure out is the Shoe Circus thing. Yes, it humanizes Bill, but it also is an association with a chinsy marketing thing.... Are they taking the implication that Windows is often filled with cheap crap head on, saying that yes, there's a "shoe circus" element to windows but fundamentally the main product is
really good (the conquistador shoe)? I mean, I imagine that "Let's put it in a low-end shoe store" had to be part of the core idea for the commercial, so there's clearly some sort of intention there.

Dieter, Don Draper would hate this ad. It's like the Volkswagon anti-ads that he couldn't stand last season where they mocked themselves and their product in order to get attention for something that was different. He's much prefer to create something like the carousal ads for Kodak where there was a connection between person and product (dare I say the Apple approach) at a level that was hard to describe (YouTube that speech it was AWESOME).
An interesting tidbit is that the ad agency doing the Mr. Softie campaign is the same group doing the current Volksvagon ads. They're offbeat, kind of funny but also don't connect product to the consumer. Where it may work for VW I can't see it happening for Microsoft. Why? Because you don't actually buy the Microsoft product. You're buying HP, Dell or Brand X and happen to get Microsoft. It's like buying the VW and getting tires made by Michelin - is changing to Pirelli's going to really close the sale or is it about price? IMHO, Balmer should save the money on the ad campaign and put it into engineering and innovation. The sooner they can point to Vista successes the sooner they can regain credibility.

I think the biggest thing is that they're trying to cast microsoft as "the people's platform". Whereas Apple is for elitists and yuppies. The ad is kind of saying "bill gates may be worth 2938753094285 trillion dollars, but he shops at discount shoe stores, he eats churros, he's just a regular guy." Its in stark contrast to the apple commercials where the apple guy is an attractive, hip young yuppie, the background is stark white and modern, etc.
Microsoft isn't trying to win back the people who changed over with these ads, they're trying to "solidify" the base by making apple seem snooty, while bill gates and microsoft are making stuff for the people. While Apple is trying to make the celebrity phone.
I don't know that it will work, because I think people WANT to be elitsist and want to be yuppies, even if they're not.

Jerry Seinfeld (JS): Hi, I'm-- Wait a minute, you're--
Bill Gates (BG): THE PC... guy...
JS: Wow, what are you doing?
BG: Playing Crysis. I just dropped in the latest video card and boy does this scream...
JS: You can upgrade your video card?
BG: I can do anything I want. It's all about choice, right?
JS: Choice?
BG: Look, this is CRM. I started my own little company a while back and this let's me keep track of it, even after I retired...
JS: I've never seen a program like that before...
BG: You haven't? What have you been doing with your time?
JS: You know, making movies, burning DVDs, listening to music. It's all super easy...
BG: This easy? (rapid app demo, incl. Media Center).
JS: ...

Once again Microsoft, and a lot of others are missing the point here. Yes Apple's ads were clever but ads alone would not generate the kind of sales we've seen unless there was actually a decent product to back up the rhetoric (and a bad product to make an all-to-obvious comparison with). Whether the consumers out there find these new ads amusing or not does not alter the fact that Vista was/is a bad product. I live in a house with a large migratory population of teens that are rabidly loyal to the X-box because it delivers and to the Mac for the same reason. I really don't think that they along with many older consumers have the kind of brand loyalty that the ad-miesters would have us and the boys in Redmond believe. Build it Bill, and they will come.