Shortly after releasing its second nonsensical ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates last week, Microsoft said it was about to unfold a second round of ads that would focus more on Windows. A few days before, a Microsoft marketing executive had told CNet that the first part of the campaign was just a "teaser," and that it "would have been a mistake, after being silent for so long, for Microsoft to have just come out swinging with a bunch of shop talk."
According to an article by the New York Times, phase two of the campaign may be very different indeed from the sitcom-esque Gates/Seinfeld clips. Later today, Microsoft will release a new ad based around the theme, "Windows. Life without walls." The star? A John Hodgman lookalike who'll mimic Apple's famous "Get a Mac" campaign:
What follows is an audacious embrace of the disdainful label that Apple, Microsoft’s rival, has gleefully — and successfully — affixed onto users of Microsoft products: "I'm a PC."
One new Microsoft commercial even begins with a company engineer who resembles John Hodgman, the comedian portraying the loser PC character in the Apple campaign. "Hello, I'm a PC," the engineer says, echoing Mr. Hodgman's recurring line, "and I've been made into a stereotype."
The Times says Microsoft's ad firm, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, is no stranger to the concept of spinning criticism into a positive ad campaign. In ads for Burger King, the firm reportedly portrayed the consumption of an unhealthy, caloric menu as a "rebellious personal choice."
As the second phase of Microsoft's campaign unfolds, Bill Gates and celebrities like Eva Longoria, Pharrell Williams, and Deepak Chopra will join "everyday PC users, from scientists and fashion designers to shark hunters and teachers, all of whom affirm, in fast-paced, upbeat vignettes, their pride in using the computers that run on Microsoft operating systems and software." The Times goes on to mention that Jerry Seinfeld will be AWOL "for now."
A raft of blogs, like Valleywag, see the shift in focus as an admission that the original Gates/Seinfeld ads fared too poorly among viewers and assert that the change was unplanned. However, the same blog quotes a Microsoft PR representative as saying the move was planned all along, and "there is the 'potential to do other things' with Seinfeld." The rep also pointed out, "People would have been happier if everyone loved the ads, but this was not unexpected." Or was it?