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May 13, 2005

Microsoft's New Ad Campaign

Microsoft has a new ad campaign going, titled "Start Something".

The campaign is a "brand" campaign, meaning its trying to sell Windows as a concept, as opposed to a particular version of Windows. The goal being that you get people happy about Windows now, and they will want to upgrade to Longhorn.

And it's not clear right now that people are happy with Windows, even though the vast vast majority use it on their computers. One huge advantage of Windows is that essentially all software runs on it, and essentially all hardware will work with it. It turns out, however, that people view it as more of a tollbooth ("I want to use all this hardware and software, so I'm forced to run Windows") as opposed to a gateway ("I love Windows because it lets me use all this hardware and sodtware"). The campaign is also trying to blur the fact that hardware really "runs on" a computer, not an operating system, by emphasizing that Windows has become in a sense the "native" operating system for the x86 platform--every piece of hardware that can connect to an x86 box will have a driver for Windows.

So the campaign is design not so much to convince Mac and Linux users to switch to Windows, as it is to make current Windows users appreciate what they have going for them. It's what marketers call "air cover", supporting future marketing of Windows, so the fact that it is Windows will be a benefit not a negative.

The first TV spot is called "Anthem", and it's one of those "lots of people of different races and ages speaking in their own language" jobbies that are all the rage right now. I find it completely uninspiring, and the tag line "Windows, it's your choice" could be used just as well in a Mac or Linux ad (the ad is saying that the software and hardware is yours to choose when you run Windows, but you might interpret it to mean that your operating system is yours to choose, as in "don't necessarily stick with that one that came bundled with your computer".

The more targeted TV ads are better. The idea is to pick various interests people have that Windows can help you with. So there's on about science, one about food, one about audio, etc. The science one ("Start Something Cosmic") has a guy talking about how his grandson is really into astronomy and with Windows he can connect his telescope to his PC. But it doesn't show any of this happening. No brief glimpse of him connecting the telescope to his computer, having the software install on the first try, triumphant look when it shows up on his screen...just the guy talking about how happy is son is.

The print ads are decent, because they explain a bit more about what is going on. But they don't really make the point--that Windows has the widest software and hardware support--unless you know ahead of time what the point is.

I think for this campaign the web ads are by far the best. You can see them from the windows.com site. For example click on the beatnik-looking hottie in the middle and you will see basically an expanded version of the "Start Something Sonic" print ad. But it's much clearer because it makes the direct connection: "Everything they used to do in a big recording studio--today I do on my PC". And best of all it has actual pictures of products, which you can click on to get more info. In fact I think if you just took the web ad and printed it, it would be a better print ad. More cluttered, yes, but also conveying its point much better.

And it's all coming soon to a touchpoint near you.

Posted by AdamBa at May 13, 2005 10:41 PM

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I clicked on your link to see the Windows ads... okay, it was to see the beatnik hottie. By the way I don't have a thing for beatnik hotties, I was just curious. Really.

Anyway, Firefox on Linux displays jack jack for that URL, so I couldn't watch the ad -- which is kind of ironic if you think about it.

Posted by: Uncle Wiggly at May 18, 2005 10:42 PM

Hmm. I use Firefox on Windows and it works.

It's actually a drawing of a beatnik hottie, then when you click on her, she turns into a real picture of a beatnik hottie. Put that in your superego!

- adam

P.S. Yes I know that the id would really be the part of the brain that had impure thoughts about animated beatnik hotties, but "Put that in your id!" didn't sound right.

Posted by: Adam Barr at May 19, 2005 09:58 AM