Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hello, I'm Bill Gates. And I'm Jerry Seinfeld.

Our class discussion of the Burger King “have it your way” ads that showed a foreign fashion show, driving home the point of living life to its fullest and craziest, reminded me immediately of the new Microsoft commercials that have been running for the past week. The first ad shows a chance encounter between popular comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Microsoft founder Bill Gates at a discount shoe store. The ad, which runs a lengthy 92 seconds, makes no mention of Microsoft or Windows until its last few moments, when Seinfeld questions the future of Windows by comparing it to food (the words “the future” and “delicious” pop up on screen, followed by the Windows logo). The commercial drew mixed responses, with particular attention paid to the near-absence of any discussion of Microsoft or computers. The choice of Seinfeld as the new face of Microsoft seems especially peculiar. Compare that ad to the well-known Mac ads that have been running for a while (for analysis, here is a nice collection of 15 ads back-to-back). In those commercials, two men introduce themselves, one as a Mac, the other as a PC, and the Mac always politely details his strongest features, while a self-deprecating PC bemoans the latest virus to assail him. The commercials always end in a glowing image of the Macintosh computer.

Both ad campaigns seem to be trying to introduce a lifestyle message rather than showcase a product. The idea conveyed by the Mac ads is that you’ll always be happier and better off with your problem-free, reliable Apple computer. The Windows commercial tries desperately to combat that, by painting Gates and Microsoft as marvelous innovators. Recently, Microsoft premiered its second ad, which chronicles the adventures of Seinfeld and Gates as they stay with a “normal” family in an effort to get to know the common folk (a review here). The ad, which runs a ghastly four and a half minutes, still contains almost no mention of Microsoft until the very end, and the ad finishes the same way as the first, with Seinfeld wondering what’s next and receiving an amusing dance from Gates as a response. The closing credits show the words “perpetually connecting” and “PC” before fading to the Windows logo. Even more than advertising a lifestyle choice, which this ad does very transparently, it humanizes Windows. Showing well-known billionaire Bill Gates trying to fit it with us everyday folk gives an appeal to his product (look for Steve Jobs in a new Mac ad soon?). The Mac-PC debate becomes a question of living a carefree life with few problems (the Mac way) or living dangerously but with a comforting support system to catch you when you fall (PC). It’s no longer about the computers, but, then again, it’s advertising. I’m tempted to think that, in the same way that a fashion show wouldn’t encourage me to put whatever the hell I wanted on my burger, seeing Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld kick it with some peasants would hardly influence my computer choice.

1 comment:

M. Dery said...

A "ghastly four and a half minutes": funny. The choice of adjective is especially delicious. But, at the risk of being a buzzkill, what does this have to do with critiquing the newsmedia, the stated goal of this blog?