Bridging Two Worlds

A conversation about online media and what it means to your organization

Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld & Advertising In A Wired World

Posted by B2W on September 15, 2008

DELLA Post

I watched the launch of Microsoft’s new ad campaign starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld earlier this week – with interest. The campaign is reported to cost $300 million with Seinfeld taking home $10 million. The Web isn’t just changing how communicators do business, it is also changing how advertisers do business. The Microsoft ad campaign has had lots of criticism, including The L.A. Times, Information Week and BusinessWeek. In an interesting approach, there is now an area on the Microsoft site explaining the commercial. On the Microsoft site in a news release — Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows consumer product marketing, said that the ad is a “teaser” meant to “engage customers in a conversation … to get the conversation going again about what Windows means in people’s everyday lives.”  Now, I am not sure the ad hits the mark, but I think it’s new and different and it needs some time. I do know that on YouTube – that ad has hit close to two million viewers and both mainstream media and bloggers are passionately talking about it. While most of the reviews are negative, there are certainly a lot of people talking. Some people have actually created another version with an alternate ending – the sound effects that would make it look like Bill Gates has gas and ends with a “Microsoft Stinks” message.

Crispin, Porter & Bogusky is the agency that created this campaign and, a few months ago, Fast Company ran a cover story with the headline: Can Hotshot Ad Guy Alex Bogusky Make Microsoft Cool? It opens the question of how advertising agencies are viewing the opportunities and challenges in a wired world.

As often happens, I had an opportunity to ask an industry pro about this topic. I was at a party recently and ended up chatting with a friend who works in advertising. He was very interested in the online world and how I see it. I, of course, was equally interested in how he sees it from an advertising point of view.

He was telling me that he thinks that many people in the ad business aren’t “getting it.” He had just been at a national advertising conference where they had a PR person talking about the online world. We talked quite a bit about how it is a changing paradigm that we are all facing and how that it might be an easier transition for those of us in communications. Ad types are used to defining a message and sending it out, while in PR and communications, we have always been focused on more of a conversation, although never like this!  In the words of guru Charles Leadbeater (check him out on TED – the Technology, Entertainment and Design site) it is about “with” now, not “at.”  You can download three chapters of his book We-think from the website.

Ad agencies have always wanted to understand what the demographic is thinking. Focus groups and in-depth consumer research have always been a big part of developing a campaign. However, as my friend pointed out, this was always done in a controlled environment. Now, it’s a free for all out there.

Microsoft, an organization with a huge advertising budget and a hot, out there agency took a risk, but how much of a risk was it really? How much social media is attached to this campaign besides blogger reviews and the videos on the Microsoft site and YouTube? How could advertisers be looking at what they do with a different lens, one that extends their community and opens the conversation rather than speaks at their target market? It’s an interesting discussion and one that I am sure we will be hearing lots more on.

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2 Responses to “Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld & Advertising In A Wired World”

  1. It turns out Microsoft dumped their Gates and Seinfeld campaign after airing only three ads. They’ve taken a more personal approach, one which seems to be successfully connecting with PC users. The most recent commercials show clips of different people all over the world all saying “I am a PC”.

    Better than just stirring conversations, this campaign seems to be building a sense of ownership and pride. It’s a simple concept that has been executed powerfully, throwing in an unexpected celebrity here and then to provide a bit of humour to the mix.

    There are some rumblings online, however, that these commercials themselves were in fact created on a MAC. I wonder how this will impact Microsoft’s credibility.

    It’s an interesting case study to note, and important lesson learned. Keep it simple, be real, and tell us your story.

    (Written on a PC)

  2. In case anyone was interested, here is the website to view the commercials and campaign: http://imapc.lifewithoutwalls.com/watch/.

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