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.
#1. Windows 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.
#2. Windows 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.
#3. You Don't Have To Put On The Red Light For Microsoft Office
Now, which of you hasn't had to prostitute yourself in order to get access to Microsoft Word or Powerpoint in order to finish a school assignment? This 2003 New Zealand print ad nails that common problem.
"Of course!" you or I might say to ourselves. "I would gladly pay $199 to no longer have to sleep with stuck-up rich women so I can borrow their computers to do schoolwork."
That ad was pulled after only a short period of time, probably by old fogeys that don't understand what it's like to have to do uggo chicks every time you have a paper due.
#4. Microsoft Songsmith
The Microsoft Songsmith ad was created entirely by the developers that actually wrote the software, so you already know you'll be in for a treat. I can think of no ad where the amount of genuine love expressed for the product has been greater, nor the actual effectiveness of the ad been lower.
Songsmith is allegedly a software that can automatically create flawless background music to go along with a tune you sing into the microphone. The ad starts with a dad (Dan Morris, one of Songsmith's creators) playing an adman who needs to come up with a jingle for, I kid you not, glow in the dark towels.
He's not even singing here. This is how wide his mouth opens when he talks. No joke.
Looking at this character, you'll probably assume that the ad agency came up with this imaginary project to create an excuse to fire him. "Dan, if you can't convincingly sell these, uh, glow-in-the-dark towels by um, tomorrow morning, you're gone." But no, everyone in this universe is apparently equally annoying, starting with his daughter Lisa...
...who is Songsmithing away while he mopes about his glowing towel problem. She introduces him to Songsmith--the "cool new thing" as she puts it--and he realizes this could be the key to his stupid towel jingle.
So of course he steals his daughter's laptop.
Which, as some people have pointed out, seems to be a Mac with a sticker strategically placed over the Apple logo. In order to work on his song privately, he leaves a home that seems to house three people, and goes to a busy Starbucks.
Where he meets Sumit. The character has no name, but he is played by Sumit Basu, the other co-creator of Songsmith. Dan and Sumit act amazed at what Songsmith can do, which is about as convincing as you would expect.
After Sumit uses the laptop to write a love song so terrible it would make the most hardcore music snob long for Justin Bieber (it's actually written to Songsmith), Dan finishes his jingle and presents it at work. As he sings, his co-worker reacts with probably the most realism of any character in this ad:
But their boss is just as insane as every other character.
And Dan gets the account. That's it, you think. He gets no punishment for everything he's done to us, the viewers? Well, the ad isn't over yet. Divine retribution has its way soon enough.
When he returns home, he and his wife find they have been cursed to conduct all communication in Songsmith-backed tunes for the rest of their lives. The commercial fades to black before you actually see them commit suicide but it's obviously implied.
Songsmith's marketing and release was left wholly up to its creators, with Microsoft product development and marketing inexplicably washing their hands of it. Once it was out in the wild, it was ripped to shreds by merciless YouTube video-makers showing exactly how badly the software worked with well-known songs, like Queen's "We Will Rock You":
Also enjoy some Van Halen: