Microsoft New Ads: As Long As You Have Windows, There Are No Walls.

Microsoft’s second phase of the new ad campaign began today, and Paul Thurrott is leg-humping it. Go here to see some screenshots of the TV and print spots.

Most importantly, read the “manifesto” (as Thurrott calls it) and it comes away as what Microsoft has been saying since the early 90s: If you want compatibility, you best stay with us. They also nod to an idea or two from Apple, but that’s par for the course.

The Microsoft “Manifesto”

So let’s take a look at some of this “manifesto”:

To start a dialog between hundreds of devices, billions of people, and a world of ideas.

Um, that would primarily be the Internet and open standards. Microsoft was late to the first party and is still primarily a no-show at the second. Using IE 8 beta 2 and seeing how many sites break when it runs in “compatible” mode is all you need do to satisfy yourself on that score.

To go on doing the little stuff, the big stuff, the crazy stuff…

Here’s to the crazy ones, eh? That sounds familiar

It’s an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way… of life.

Geez, Redmond, hyperbole much?

When the ad writer’s drama is turned down a notch, however, maybe what they’re saying is that they’re enabling the PC to help be the center of your life. Your digital life. A “digital hub”, if you will. Hmmm, this, too, rings a bell

Today, more than one billion people have Windows.

Heh. I love this one.

Notice they don’t say “use Windows”, but rely on the meaningless “have Windows”. Naturally, this includes the machine with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in your grandmother’s attic, which she got to store recipes on. She’s forgotten it’s even there, but Microsoft hasn’t.

There was no way Microsoft’s new ad campaign could avoid Redmond’s classic “big numbers” defense. It’s seemingly all they have, so I’m not surprised.

Which is just another way of saying we have each other.

Which is just another way of saying that since we have to be dragged kicking and screaming into anything resembling market competition and open standards, we’re telling you that if you “have Windows” you’ve got a shot at getting along with those who also “have Windows”. Otherwise, not so much.

Paul Thurrott’s Conclusion

So what does Mr. Thurrott make of all this? It’s as predictable as a sunrise:

Good stuff. And a sharp contrast to the what the other guy is doing. Humanity vs. smugness. Which side are you going to choose?

First and foremost, it’s a sad day when ad copy passes for “humanity” in Paul’s world.

Second, the Get a Mac campaign has never been smug. In the ads, “Mac” shows compassion and concern for “PC”, and we see the opposite as well. That, and the fact that they’re based on a kernel of truth, is why they’re so popular, work so well, and have required Microsoft to address them.

Finally, the “other guy”? Paul can’t even say “Apple”? Of course not. To say so in the above sentence would damage his continual cry about being unbiased. As if.

My Conclusion

While I realize that tearing up ad copy would normally be a bit pointless, Thurrott has been on a mission the last year or so of nitpicking the Get a Mac campaign to death, so it seems fair game to look more critically at Microsoft’s new campaign.

What I see is a paragraph of what Thurrott considers “humanity”, mixed in with concepts from Apple’s older ad campaigns, Microsoft’s big numbers, touchy-feely wording, and an admonition to stick with Windows if you want stuff to work together. That’s a weak manifesto, yet strangely enough it defines Microsoft perfectly. Perhaps there’s truth in advertising after all.

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11 thoughts on “Microsoft New Ads: As Long As You Have Windows, There Are No Walls.

  1. A big reason these ads fail is because they confirm that windows/ “pc’s” are generic and apple mac is the true brand. If preferring a brand over a generic thing is smug, then I’m sorry for being human. “Not a human doing, but a human being”.

  2. It’s hard to believe Microsoft is trying to act like a rebel or something. They are the very definition of the oppressive establishment. This is like when a super-rich celebrity goes on a talk show and tries to tell you how they’re a “normal person just like you.”

  3. RE: “One billion people have Windows.”

    I noticed MS using this in the video ads lately too, like where the lady in charge of what looks like an African school, says she is connected to a billion people.

    It’s more damning than simply “have” versus “use” though as I think this figure most likely comes from applying the Microsoft market share figures to the total number of Internet users. It would come out to almost exactly a billion.

    Needless to say this is even more misleading as it really means something like “approximately a billion of the world’s computers have a purchased copy of Windows associated with them.” Those are not necessarily even a billion computers running Windows, (probably far less), let alone a billion users.

  4. @Tom,
    Exactly! When did the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ads infer that Mac was smug? Never! He always feels sorry for PC and tries to calm him down or help him out. Mac is never SMUG. I just don’t understand where people get that idea. Rather, I think the Windows IT crowd is still hung up about Macs showing up on their networks and all they remember is that Macs=computers for designers. In fact, I just heard someone say that exact thing yesterday. I’ll bet they couldn’t even tell you that Mac OS X is a UNIX OS. They still think Windows is the only real OS while the common man has moved on at home to a better experience.

    Apple will continue to sell record numbers of Macs, nonetheless. They will continue to erode market share from MSFT. Apple has stores with friendly helpful Genuises; MSFT does not. Macs are virus-free; PCs are lucky if they are. Apple is redefining the digital age (iPods, iPhone); MSFT always has to wait to see what Apple is doing and come up with a poor clone.

    MSFT: it’s not the ’90s anymore.

  5. Windows without walls? Wait, if you have no walls in your house, then frankly… why-in-hell do you need windows for anything?

  6. The ad agency behind “Windows. Life Without Walls” is Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Their principal tactic in a number of recent ad campaigns has been the notion of perception reversing.
    […]
    Therein lies Microsoft’s problem. Perception reversing by appropriating your enemy’s words can work only if your insurgency has an identifiable goal. Witness Apple which effectively used its insurgent status to barge into the consumer desktop, digital music and cellphone businesses and changed them in alignment with users’ shared aspirations.

    Microsoft, one of the most lucrative monopolies ever, however, is no insurgent. Its enemy is smaller, cooler, better liked, more nimble, more creative and more aligned with users. So Microsoft has to not only show “it’s OK to use Windows” but tell us why it’s better and show us a goal that we can all identify with that the enemy cannot provide.

    Microsoft “I’m a PC” ads are channeling Apple’s “Crazy Ones”
    http://counternotions.com/2008/09/19/crazy-ones/

  7. ‘It’s an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way… of life.’

    Its nice to know that Microsoft is committed to not killing us all. But engineering the absence of an impediment is easy, do nothing. ‘We promise not to do anything to stand in your way.’ I should _pay_ for that? Engineering is only necessary to overcome obstacles and promote life. Promising not to destroy life is nice but its not really a benefit anyone should be expected to pay for.

  8. Windows vs walls, huh?… Gee, after all the barriers to entry Microsoft erected and all businesses they oppressed, I’d say that Microsoft just left a big, loose, steaming pile of hypocrisy on everyone’s front lawn. And there’s Thurrott, as usual, acting like it’s a box of chocolates from his favorite valentine.

  9. Microsoft New Ads: As Long As You Have Windows, There Are No Walls. There are also no doors, and the plumbing backs up.

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