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Sun 07
Sep
2008

The Ad About Nothing

What Max Reckons Microsoft has a new ad! And experts are divided over whether the quirky, banter-heavy, no-need-to-mention-a-product spot is 90 seconds of pure Seinfeldian genius, or a sad demonstration of what you get when you try to advertise something that has no selling points.

Well, when I say “divided:” Microsoft thinks it’s pretty neat, and everybody else seems underwhelmed. In the face of this howling gale of criticism, Microsoft has responded: That’s just what we wanted! The ad is just a “teaser,” they say, meant to “get the conversation going.”

The Associated Press picked up this idea, ending its article with:

Even if the reaction was mostly negative, Microsoft’s ad has clearly succeeded in getting people talking.

And it popped up in lots of other places, too:

“It was a very odd commercial but it has the effect that people are talking about it now… so didn’t they get their money’s worth?” wrote ‘Amanda.’

I wonder when we can kill the idea that even colossal marketing blunders are secretly brilliant, since they at least got people’s attention. Because it sounds like I’m being asked to believe Microsoft deliberately blew $300 million as a strategic move to get everybody talking about what a waste of money that was. That must have been some pitch meeting. “Here’s our idea: a series of pointless, meandering ad spots that don’t actually promote your product, but spark worldwide debate about what the hell you thought you were trying to accomplish. Everyone will be talking about it!”

Presumably this firm would go on to promote Presidential candidates by having them drown puppies on live TV. You can’t beat that kind of exposure.

Personally, I don’t mind this ad. It’s the introduction of a long campaign; they’re just warming up. I’m prepared to believe it will be effective and entertaining. But if it sucks, that won’t mean it’s genius in disguise. It’ll just mean it sucks.