It appears that the reactions to the first two commercials are just what Microsoft expected - and possibly even hoped for. Chris Flores posted an entry titled, "What's up with those ads?" in the official Windows Vista Blog and he presents a good, well thought-out counterpoint that I think offers some valid points, including:
When you set out to create advertising, the thing that keeps you up at night is not "Will some people not get it or like it?" Rather its "Will anyone pay any attention and notice"? I think we can safely check that box. Oscar Wilde's quote on the subject may be overused, but it's good to keep in mind when thinking about marketing products that can get taken for granted in today's crowded media landscape: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."
Very true. Point Microsoft. We are definitely talking. We're also watching and sharing. Also good things. But it's another point that he makes in the entry that I think is deserving of discussion. He writes:
You might have seen that in some interviews last week we called these initial TV spots "icebreakers" designed to start a new kind of conversation. That's exactly what they are. Icebreakers. Not the whole campaign. Not even the main part of the campaign. Just the beginning of the campaign. Just as somebody might tell a joke to lighten up a room or get somebody's attention before changing gears, these first ads were designed to tap people on the shoulder and say "Excuse me. We're back and we'd love a few moments of your time".
Sure, you can have few moments of my time. You had my attention last week but, go ahead, I'm still listening. (foot-tap, foot-tap. Blackberry buzzing.) Yeah, yeah. Uh-huh. (foot-tap. watch-glance. foot-tap.) Hey, I'm sorry to interrupt but, is there a point to be made here anytime soon? I'm apologize if that's rude or something but, ya know, the game will be back on as soon as you're done here and my wife wants me to come and throw the trash and (buzz), well, there goes my Blackberry again, so... I'm sorry. You were saying? (Adrian Kingsley-Hughes backs my point on this one.)
Here's the thing: Microsoft wants to tell a story and that's fine - if you have the attention span for it. But these days - in-person or online - we're easily distracted by things like e-mail, cell phone and IMs. Plus, we already know Microsoft. No introduction necessary. It might have been OK to just say hello and start telling us how you're re-inventing yourselves and what you'll be offering us soon - and do it in a quick, entertaining and frequent way. Instead, we're getting one new long segment every week.
Here's why the Apple ads worked: They were simple. Microsoft guy looks silly, Mac guy talks about Mac stuff in a "real person" kind of way and, in less than a minute, I understand what was just said to me. And I saw not only the logo but also a product at the end. And then the game came back on.
I do love a good story. I'm a journalist, after all. But I also love a good ending. This to-be-continued approach has potential to irritate more than entertain. But I'll definitely keep watching. I just can't promise that I'll keep paying attention.