7 Ad Campaigns That Prove Microsoft Was Never Good at This
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Windows 7 Was My Weird Ass Idea
This campaign started out with some ads that, while I would not use the word "good," at least made sense. Actors pretending to be regular users would talk about some feature they'd like in an operating system; there would be a story about how Microsoft put in that feature for them; and the actor would say, "I'm a PC, and Windows 7 was my idea."
You, the viewer, would learn that Windows 7 had that feature, and Microsoft was claiming this is something ordinary joes like you probably want.
"I'm a PC, and Windows 7 zzzzZZZZZZzzzzz..."
Boring, but it made sense.
Both of those qualities were unacceptable to Microsoft, however, and they decided to spice up the ads and disembowel them of their logic.
Windows 7 can be used, for example, to take over the TV from a FPS zombie-killing game your friends are enjoying:
So you can force them to watch a streamed Jacques Cousteau parody video about how zombies are misunderstood.
Because a guy who interrupts your game of Left 4 Dead to make you watch a cutesy concept video is the kind of guy everyone loves and will take product advice from.
"Kids like sharks. Kids like zombies. Let's just put them randomly together in an ad!"
At least the main character, the stand-in for the viewer, is "zany" and "unconventional," and some people like to think of themselves that way. But nobody likes to think of themselves as a sexless loser, which is what this ad calls you:
The average joe Windows 7 user representing you and your needs in this commercial is a guy who is exiled to his dorm's hallway for the entire night because his roommate is getting it on. Maybe he really doesn't care, you think. Hell, maybe he's gay. I don't think so, considering this is his fantasy:
Which really makes it even sadder. Why not just go all the way, Microsoft, and show his roommate walking out, buff and muscular, with a scantily clad woman on each arm carrying his Apple products for him?
The Microsoft Kin Causes Bad Experiences
There has been a lot of stupid controversy over some Microsoft Kin ads, like an ad where people claimed a boy was taking an upshirt photo of a teen girl and started screaming "SEXTING!" which always gets the media excited (and aroused).
Then there was the series where Microsoft sponsored a teen named Rosa to travel across the country visiting members of her "social network" she keeps in touch with on her Kin phone, causing people to wonder if it was safe and a good idea. If they didn't wonder that, Microsoft actually prompted them to by constantly raising doubts in the narration, asking questions like, "But are they really her friends?"
"Should you REALLY be using our phone?"
But fine, those are goofs, and this is Microsoft, and what can you expect. But then Microsoft made some actual scripted videos where you think they'd have full control over the narrative and could avoid accidental flashing and meet-ups gone wrong.
They took that opportunity to make an ad where a girl uses her Kin to meet up with her sexy young surfer friend...
...and is disappointed to find out he is 40.
And then humiliates him to her Facebook friends.
And an ad where a guy uses his Kin to meet up with an ex-girlfriend only to have an awkward and depressing time together that reminds him of why they broke up.
Yes, the ad really ends on this shot.
The Kin: guaranteed to cause awkward and disappointing encounters! It's simply inexplicable why this phone was pulled after only 48 days on the market.
The Windows 386 Sexless Mission Impossible Themed Porno With Rapping Cyndi Lauper Wannabe
Complex, yes, but I dare you to think of a better descriptive title after watching this promotional video from 1988 (distributed to lucky Windows retailers).
Although there's no sex in the video, it has a distinctive porno vibe due to the cheesy acting, weird background music and a story nobody cares about that's obviously just there as an excuse for the real point of the video: listing the benefits of Windows 386. Which is almost as good as sex.
Linda, the heroine, starts out by checking in with her secretary, whose exaggerated Southern accent inexplicably changes to that of a 1920s New York gangster moll ("boys and goils").
"No messages, Mista J."
Then she gets a mission assignment on a cassette tape, which self-destructs.
And if you didn't catch the reference, the Mission: Impossible theme song starts playing. Her mission is to stop a wealthy businessman named T-Bone Perkins (probably a reference to T. Boone Pickens, but "T-Bone," really?) from taking over some business or something, and she goes about this by doing some boring office stuff.
Talk, talk, talk. It comes across as a softcore porno that is taking way too long to get to the porno part. But what's this?
Rubbing her hands together deviously? Aha, now that she's alone, she can finally get to...
...rapping. Sample: "W-w-w-windows, w-w-windows three-eighty-six. We'll pull these parts together and do it mighty quick!"
Mind you this was 1988, so it wasn't like rap was some new thing people didn't know how to work yet ("So it's like a song, but you just talk?"). Public Enemy was playing on mainstream radio while this monument to inanity was taping.
As each shot zooms in further and further on her teeth, you can tell she is rapping harder. Soon she raps so hard that...
...her clothes come off. Yay! Nudity! But no. She puts some other clothes on before the camera gets back to her, such as these hot little numbers:
Rrrrowwwr. Finally, her co-worker bursts into the office to find
Would this outfit ever have passed muster in the 80s? I may have been a fashion retard but I feel safe saying, not in '88. You could not have walked down the street wearing that in '88 without being pointed to a soup kitchen or shelter.
This guy digs it though.
He really digs it.
Believe it or not, there is absolutely no sex or anything slightly sexual going on in these shots, other than the look on the guy's face.
Anyway, it's pretty boring from here on out. She puts her office clothes back on, completes her report or whatever, and then gets a standing ovation.
I don't know what for, since none of them read the report or watched her transform into Microsoft's idea of an 80s sex symbol. Maybe it's just a really positive workplace. Or maybe they're just insane, like everyone else in every Microsoft ad.
For more from Christina, check out 6 Reasons It's Time For Matthew McConaughey To Go Away and The 6 Biggest Badasses Who Lived As The Opposite Sex.