Sometimes big companies have a bad ad campaign or two, but Microsoft has pretty much been covering TV screens with advertising excrement since the beginning. My theory is that they've been so confident about their market dominance that they use ads solely to rub it in our faces, basically saying, "We could make an ad that shows Windows will turn your computer to liquid, and you people will still have to buy it."
Look at these and tell me I'm wrong.
1Windows 95 and The Man Of 1 Voices
"How can we best represent the versatility and variety of Windows Home products?" one executive asked.
"I know!" said another. "Let's hire an actor who can't do impressions and have him do a whole shit ton of impressions."
And so this ad was born.
The video is a series of terrible impressions and even worse jokes tenuously related to Microsoft Home products. It begins with Indiana Jones and his well-known catch phrase.
Actor: Whip it on me!
"Whip it on me"? Wait, that's not a line from Indiana Jones or anywhere else really. What the...
Fortunately you don't have time to finish that thought because now he's an optometrist who, judging from his facial expression, has just been conked on the head in the Looney Toons universe.
Actor: You want to see other people?
Hey, that's almost a pun! Almost. How do you fail at puns? Who is this guy?
Actor: My head's on board, but, uh, what can I do? My hands are tied.
OK, now that's a pun. A really, frustratingly bad pun.
"Uncomfortable keyboard? I kin fix thayat."
Rage... rising. Must... control... urge to kill...
Narrator: You can really kick some...
Actor: BUT first, a little class. I've got just about as little as anyone.
Oooohhhh! Now it makes sense: Comedy murdered this man's family some time ago and he's dedicated his life to returning the favor.
And here he is playing up the common stereotype of Roman Catholic priests having ...
... really small heads? No, there's really just no explanation, is there?
So the versatility of this actor sends a clear message: Whatever you wanted to do on your computer, there was a Microsoft product that could make you want to strangle a man to death. You can imagine how confused Bill Gates was when the "my hands are tied" bit didn't land. That one had just killed when he used it in his PowerPoint at that month's board meeting.
2Windows 98 Causes Seizures
Did Windows 98 actually cause seizures? I don't know. But that's what Microsoft promised in this ad (WARNING: May cause seizures):
The point was supposedly to show you all the things Windows 98 could do, and did it by flashing them all really rapidly at you, without any explanation, just a cheesy keyboard soundtrack. Here's some more of the split-second brightly-colored images thrown at you in the ad:
I think the hiding place of the Holy Grail can be deduced from studying these carefully.
You might be going, "Ha ha, the old flashing lights/seizures joke, how original," but keep in mind this was 1998. Just six months before that, 600+ Japanese kids had really been stricken with seizures from watching an episode of Pokemon, the first time such a thing had happened. It was a pretty big deal at the time.
The marketing team could not possibly have been unaware of it unless they had been living in an airtight vault, although looking at some of the other ads we've got here, I guess that's actually quite plausible.
Anyway, my point is that I purchased Windows 98 and didn't get any seizures, and I still haven't gotten my money back.