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So long, and thanks for all the churros. Yes, after a 90-second TV spot and a 4-and-a-half-minute opus of zuh???, it seems that Microsoft is done making commercials with Jerry Seinfeld, at least for the time being.
Now, instead of the Bill-and-Jerry's-Nonsensical-Blathering style of WTF commercials, we'll see the Redmond Giant attempt to take back the phrase "I'm a PC," spoken so many times by John Hodgman in Apple's "Get a Mac" ad campaign. In fact, the first spot, which will debut tonight during the season premiere of "The Office," will even have a Hodgman lookalike saying, "Hello, I'm a PC, and I've been made into a stereotype."
The new ads will also feature celebrities like Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, and Pharrell Williams, along with everyday PC users and 60-odd Microsoft employees. (Maybe some familiar faces from this video? We can only pray.)
If you think this sounds like a rehash of the "Get a Mac" commercials, you're exactly right. Microsoft's general manager for brand marketing, David Webster, says of Apple's campaign, "They've made a caricature out of the PC. You always want to tell you own story." This new approach is designed to let Microsoft "take back that narrative."
Um, hello? Where have they been for the last two years? Those "Get a Mac" ads started airing in the U.S. in May 2006. And while it wouldn't be fair to expect Microsoft to immediately respond to barbs from a competitor whose market share is handily dwarfed by its own, this late follow-up seems odd too. A lookalike version of something Apple has done successfully for years? It's the advertising equivalent of the Zune! Or Vista itself!
Also, Microsoft's approach of pointing out that millions and millions of people use Windows PCs for a lot of different and cool things sounds suspiciously like HP's "The Computer Is Personal Again" campaign, which featured waist-to-shoulders shots of celebrities describing what they do with their HP machines -- they had Shaun White, Serena Williams, Pharrell, even Jay-Z.
Microsoft's ads are the brainchild of ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, veteran of both successful and cringe-worthy ads that attempt to build pop-culture buzz -- they did that Subservient Chicken site for Burger King, for example.
Today, Microsoft claims that it was the plan ALL ALONG to only have Jerry in the first couple of commercials, even though he was reportedly paid $10 million (which MS won't confirm, naturally).
If their aim was really to get people buzzing about Microsoft, mission accomplished, although the buzz wasn't all positive, to put it mildly. "Microsoft provided the same quality user experience in the commercials that they did in Vista," joked ITworld's James Gaskin. "The campaign is not aimed at real techies," Chris Matyszczyk from CNET explained. "It's solely there to help you find some positive disposition toward the Microsoft brand."
"They're asking us to be patient," theorized LA Times writer Maria Russo, "to laugh with them at their rustiness and general failure to be with it." (Ha...ha?) Seems like sort of a negative premise to begin a $300 million ad campaign, but one thing's for sure: After changing tack from the "ads about nothing," these new commercials are going to have all kinds of attention paid to them, positive or negative. And isn't that largely the point?
Anyway, if the lack of new Seinfeld-ian computer commercials leaves an empty place inside your heart, don't forget that Apple had him first.