Microsoft’s first Seinfeld ad: Overloaded, like Vista

  • Opinion – How would shopping for shoes compare to using a Mac. Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates try to play such a scenario in a first episode of a series of commercials to ridicule the tight grip Apple has on its users.     

    Close to midnight yesterday, I was already dozing away, my wife smacked me on the shoulder and said “Bill Gates in a commercial!” I was awake in a snap to get a first impressions of what will be a round of new commercials targeted at those mean Apple commercials poking fun at Windows, Microsoft and its lost and forgotten users. I am pretty sure this commercial not only caught my attention. What did you think about it? (If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here.)

    I don’t make commercials for a living, so I am certainly no expert on how effective this ad will be. But honestly, from a consumer point of view, I am not so sure if Microsoft will see any benefits.   

    Here’s the plot: Bill Gates buys shoes at the “Shoe Circus” (get the image?) with little help from the store owner, but assistance form Jerry Seinfeld who sees Gates by accident. The shoe doesn’t fit and has to be bent and stretched under water to eventually fit Gates’ feet. Gates pays with his Platinum Shoe Circus card and walks home while Seinfeld asks Gates to “adjust” his shorts if there are already easy to use computers out there. And yes, Gates adjusts his underpants.   

    So, what is the message?

    It may be a bit difficult to remember all the messages of the ad, but let’s give it a try.

    - Shopping for a PC is like shopping for any other commodity
    - You have to shop for a Mac in a colorful, ridiculous shop in which you can be a celebrity
    - You may not get help from the store while shopping for a Mac
    - A Mac will not fit your needs that easily: You will have to bend it and adjust your life around it
    - You are a proud member of that ridiculous store club, proud enough to flaunt your membership to others
    - In reality, you already have found the less flashy PC that has been with you all the time

    I may be wrong with some messages here and I may have overlooked additional messages. But exactly that may be the problem with this commercial: It is overloaded and complicated, a story too complicated for the time that is available. A bit like Vista, if you will. If we compare it to Apple’s Windows commercials, they are simple, clean shots (well, they are really cheap as well) that are very easy to comprehend. A bit like a Mac?

    Perhaps my wife (not really a geek, but an average Windows user who happens to like Apple a lot more recently) summed the commercial up the best: “You know what,” she said, “had Bill Gates not been in the commercial, I would have had no idea what this thing was about. It was something about Microsoft, right?”

    Somehow I feel this ad is missing its mark. I remember other great commercial's such as the Windows 95 introduction ad or the Drivers wanted campaign with Steve Ballmer, but this one just does not work.