Good Read

Spoonfeedin WOrld

Mktg – Windows Debut: Almost 7th Heaven

Barbara Lippert

“Today I get to say not only that I’m Steve Ballmer and I’m a PC…but I’m Steve Ballmer, and I’m a Windows 7 PC, effective immediately!”

So said Microsoft’s big cheese on stage last week in New York while introducing Windows 7. He was obviously enjoying the build-up.

And there you have it, in all of its you-can’t-make-this-up clunkiness. “Windows 7 PC” sounds like some kind of penitentiary address. (I actually had a guy write to me from “Floor P/Lockbag C” once. He somehow found Adweek in prison and wanted to discuss his favorite TV commercials.)

But I digress. As spoken by Microsoft CEO Ballmer, “I’m a Windows 7 PC, effective immediately,” somehow doesn’t quite have the ring of radical simplicity that “I’m a Mac” carries.

And judging by the “How to Host a Windows 7 Launch Party” video (not created by any agency of record) that somehow became a viral smash, things were looking really bleak for a while in the launch arena. Not intended as a parody, the clip features a white male nerd, a muscular black guy, an older white woman and a younger white female…all having sex on a festively decorated suburban kitchen island (complete with lemons!). No, I kid. These actors try heroically to make a leaden script (about how to “flow” the party) sound spontaneous. It would have been a cliché in launching Windows 95. But it did make me want to buy a blender, or a couple compilation CDs.

Still, Windows 7 has been getting some resoundingly positive reviews, unlike the previous OS, Vista, which — like that other V word, Voldemort — was so evil it could not even be mentioned in ads. (One series actually featured hidden cameras and gave it a fake name.) So, just having that particular elephant removed from the room automatically gives the one-year-old “I’m a PC” campaign from Crispin Porter + Bogusky new life and credibility.

This extension, “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea,” builds nicely on its predecessor and is far more features specific. And if the system is indeed as good as some of the reviews claim it is, that’s all that the agency has to do — focus on the features.

Indeed, adopting the “I’m a PC” campaign to begin with, as a reaction to the Mac’s image dominance, forced Microsoft into a world of fake extremes, of black and white categories where it never truly fit in.

Apple is one brand of hardware and software revered by its users who, though far fewer in number, have a much more rabid attachment to the brand. By contrast, “PC” is a conglomeration of different brands that house Microsoft products. The Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth doesn’t even particularly want to be associated with some of these vendors. Nor does Windows as a brand necessarily want to get pigeonholed on the PC.

Previously, Crispin made some progress with its “Laptop hunters” campaign, which was a smart move against high-end Apple because it focused on price. And “I’m a PC,” while generic, at least got to show the global breadth and scope of product users (including the French guy who sells fish, or as he put it, “I’m a PC and I sell fees.”)

But the breakout star of the second iteration of the “I’m a PC” campaign was the adorable Kylie, who in her first appearance was four-and-a-half years old. She stole the show in demonstrating how easily she could paste a picture of her fish into an e-mail, correct the colors and send it to her parents.
Now a year older, she seems to have become a Microsoft mascot. At the press conference, she bossed Steve Ballmer around and received a pink laptop. (Eat your heart out, Balloon Boy.)
She’s a big star on the Windows 7 promo stage (two spots so far.) “Hi, my name is Kylie and I found these happy words all over my dad’s computer,” she says, pointing to a screen filled with 7s and favorable reviews. She then disingenuously creates a slide show, incorporating the laudatory words over photos of kittens, marshmallows and bunnies as “The Final Countdown” starts to play.

“Windows is snappy and repon-kiss-ive” she says.

Microsoft should definitely be publicizing the positive reviews, and I love Kylie. But I would stop her now, before she kills us with cuteness and, most annoyingly, technical over-achievement.

The line “I’m a PC and Windows 7 was my idea” appears in the anthem ad that broke last week. It features real people talking to the camera, just as they did in the “I’m a PC” iterations.

You might have noticed that numerous tech companies have hopped on the personalization bandwagon lately, using every variation of “you,” “me” or “my” in their ads. Yahoo, Microsoft’s sometime partner, recently unveiled “It’s Y!ou.” T-Mobile is promoting its Google MyTouch phone with the tagline “100% you.” And just yesterday, the mobile phone company HTC launched ads themed, “It’s all about YOU.”

Microsoft goes the “I” and “my” route, and the Kylie spot is definitely saved by its peppy editing. Otherwise, the content is mighty bland. If only giant corporations could get over the craving-mass-adulation aspect of announcing a new product in an ad. Most people (with the exception of Mac nuts) don’t live for these announcements. The goal is not to have folks for joy all over the world. Instead, the spots should be small and simple and just show us what the product does.

I like the sign off: “A billion ideas = Windows 7.”

And the rest of the ads are quite good, just what the company should be doing. The seven-second clips on You Tube and Windows.com — each highlighting a Windows 7 user demo-ing a specific feature of the operating system — are fun and clever. (Users are invited to send in their own seven-second videos.) There’s a tie-in special created by Family Guy creator Seth McFarland. On broadcasts of National Football League games, Windows 7 sponsors seven-word recaps of the action.

It seems that Windows 7 will take on a successful life of its own — if Microsoft can stay out of the marketing kitchen.

See also: “Microsoft Fetes Windows 7 ‘Creators'”

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October 27, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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