Posts Tagged 'Crispin Porter'

Microsoft “I’m a loony” ad

“I’m a PC and I like the slimming effect in a purple stripped shirt”. This is how the new Microsoft ad starts. It doesn’t get much better as it advances.

This esoteric tagline is followed by others, equally disturbing ones, like “I love zebra chasing” or “I’m stuck in the 80’s”. But when it gets really frightening is when we watch an elderly man growl “I’m a machine” with his eyes closed. I guess someone took the “I’m a PC” tagline too much at heart. I just hope he doesn’t get a bug.

The ad is a compilation of user-made videos uploaded to the campaign’s micro-site, following a call from Microsoft for users to get involved and show “what kind of PC” they are.

In line with the latest trends in CGM (Consumer Generated Media), Microsoft wanted to involve consumers in a “conversation” with the brand, thus contributing to advance it’s grade of intimacy with users.

Using this kind of strategy seems shrewd, since it has great potential with only marginal cost. So, there’s nothing for me to criticize about the micro-site and the consumer involvement strategy it represents.

There is, however, plenty to criticize in the ad that resulted from this. The video should be a snippet of the conversation that users were having with the brand, presenting the distilled essence of thousands of individual insights. The problem is that it isn’t any such thing.

Instead of presenting a coherent narrative to counter the successful Apple’s depiction of PCs as “uncool” and “second rate”, Microsoft chose to present a collage of disparate things, seemingly glued together in “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” mode.

Actually, this isn’t exactly true. Because what stands out from this video (besides perplexity), as from the overall “I’m a PC” campaign,  is the quest to assert “difference”. If you remember the first “I’m a PC” ad, it starts with the “PC” character (“borrowed” from Apple ads) saying “I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype”.

Well, Microsoft is managing to break that stereotype. The thing is that the narrative it’s implementing isn’t exactly much more appealing than the one represented by that guy with serious fashion issues. Having someone saying “I’m a PC and I like the slimming effect in a purple stripped shirt” isn’t “different” nor “eccentric”. It’s just plain crazy.

Instead of obsessing about countering Apple’s narrative, Microsoft should instead pay more attention to the narrative it is actively building for itself. Because it may well stop being the “square” brand to become the “loony” brand.

Or maybe that’s actually it. Maybe someone at Crispin Porter & Bogusky just watched “Crazy People” and decided to give a shot at that unconventional creative process.

In case you haven’t watched it, “Crazy People” is a movie about an ad executive that, after a burnout, starts working with the people of the mental institution to which he was admitted. The ads that come out of this peculiar partnership work well in the beginning, but then things start going awry, as you can see in this memorable sequence:


Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s more than a casual coincidence between the guy in the white suit tagline – “Frnxt Ghrt Sony Gurm” and “I like the slimming effect in a purple stripped shirt”. Although we can in fact understand the words in the last sentence, it’s meaning is similarly cryptic.

The fact, however, that the last sentence is for real and was actually approved for public viewing makes its significance to Microsoft’s narrative much more disturbing. A case of reality surpassing fiction.

Microsoft, Beaten To A Pulp, Takes Some More Abuse

If Microsoft thought it could preempt Apple’s continuous abuse with the campaign it launched last month, then it was sadly mistaken. One can see Microsoft’s point: after those Bill&Jerry ads, making fun of Microsoft has turned into a futile exercise on repetition. Would you punch someone who was already frantically punching himself?

Apparently, yes. Apple just couldn’t resist pilling some more abuse on Microsoft, so it released this new “I’m a Mac” ad. The ad takes on the huge price tag attached to the marvelous Crispin Porter + Bogusky campaign, contrasting it with the comparably small amount of money allocated to solving Vistas’s much-talked problems.

Seeing what Microsoft got for the $300 million it gave Crispin Porter, it does seem like a bit of the ungentlemanly thing to do. Abusing Microsoft is now roughly on the same level as making fun of the office dork. But hey, Apple’s is hip, not gentlemanly.

For now, Microsoft can do little but watch in horror as the brand takes yet another round of abuse. But the more sportsmanlike among you need not worry, for this passivity won’t last long. Pretty soon they’ll be launching another one of those great “I’m a PC” ads (the Bill&Jerries have, sadly, already been discontinued). And then what? What will Apple do when everybody’s laughing their heads off at the newest Crispin Porter insanity? Launching still better products? Poor suckers…

Things have come to the point when there are already some voices out there claiming that Apple’s strategy could even backfire, because people will start feeling sorry for Microsoft. The thinking is that Microsoft will start cashing on the sympathy quota reserved for the underdogs, with Apple being seen as the bully that just can’t stop shaking the poor nerd for his lunch money.

Although innovative, this line of thought seems to elude one tiny detail: that Microsoft is by no means a frail nerd, but the true behemoth on the market. The fact that it keeps tripping on its feet when it runs to get other, more nimble, players doesn’t make it the underdog. It just makes it inept.

In the end, that is Microsoft’s true problem, in communications as in anything else. In trying to “take back the narrative”, Microsoft’s latest campaign did nothing of the sort. In fact, the only thing it managed to do was to corner the brand in the “uncool” spot into which Apple had been pushing it.

On top of it, they still had to pay $300 million for the joy of being ridiculed. And they can’t even count on pity. Poor things.

Crispin Porter Master Plan: Microsoft As The Less Dorky Brand

Adding insult to injury, it has recently emerged that the atrocious “I’m a PC” ads were actually made… on Macs!

The blogosphere is bursting with laughter over this one. But maybe we’re all wrong, and this is just part of a big plan concocted by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the $300 million Masters of Communication that crafted this beautiful Microsoft campaign.

Contrary to popular perception, the agency is adamant in maintaining that the Bill&Jerry ads were designed from the start as a teaser – a kind of $10 million plus amuse bouche, just to get the conversation started before the main course.

It then seems that its short half-life (just two weeks) had nothing to do with You Tubers threatening to immolate themselves in a desperate effort to stop the horrific campaign. It’s just that Bill&Jerry had already served their purpose, so it was time to let them go.

In comments to the NYTimes, Rob Reilly, partner and co-executive creative director at Crispin Porter, said that the campaign “ did what it needed to do”, and the “people who got it, got it”.

So, now that the ads had flawlessly achieved its goal of having us all mock Microsoft – I think it’s safe to say that we all got that part – , it was time to move on to phase two.

So out came the “I’m a PC” ads, whose apparent goal was to further reinvigorate the mocking. And then, just when it seemed that things couldn’t get much worse for Microsoft, it emerged that the ads were designed on Macs.

Your ad is all about having people from all walks of life – from students to fishmongers to NASA staff – proudly stating that they are PC users. Yet you can’t even get your own ad agency to use PCs to make the lousy ad! How’s that for a brand statement?

Pretty much pathetic, no? But here’s where we’ve all been fooled, and the genius of Crispin Porter + Bogusky reveals itself.

You see, this was their plan all along – to build a negative appeal in the audience, and then, at the very last moment, transfer all that negative charge towards Apple.

On phase 3 of the campaign, we can then expect to see something like – “I’m a Mac, and I can’t come up with anything better than this ads”.

At this moment, all the previous mocking directed at Microsoft would then get, by some mysterious psychological process, glued to Apple, in such a powerful way that it would take it years to recover. With some luck, consumers would even start recalling Steve Jobs buying discount shoes and doing the “robot dance”.

Microsoft would then have no problem positioning itself as the less dorky brand, as Steve Jobs struggled to shake loose of the campaign’s deathly embrace.

Seems logical, no? I mean, how else could we explain all this?


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