“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.