Microsoft attacks Slack by trying to be really, really boring

The NFL playoffs saw the release of a new ad for Microsoft Teams. I wonder how many people put this thing together.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

I was sitting there wondering whether Ivanka Trump would be a good replacement for Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook when Microsoft attempted to infiltrate.

Well, what do you think about during the ad breaks of NFL playoff games? 


Can she be saved by Teams?

Screenshot by ZDNet

This particular ad break last Sunday was adorned with an ad for Microsoft. Specifically, for Microsoft Teams. This is Redmond's attempt to get the world's employees to work better together. Or, in short, Microsoft's Slack.

Slack has become something of a default term that embraces reactions such as annoyance, irritation and peculiar skin rashes. My impression is that many employees -- and I have had the desperate privilege of using Slack myself -- find it an all-enveloping time-sink that can sometimes be as productive as shaving your eyebrows with a lawnmower.

I concede, of course, that most methods of forced collaboration are deeply imperfect at best.

However, if I was trying to get you excited about Teams, I'm not sure I'd follow the path taken by Microsoft. You see, here is an ad that's duller than your eyes after watching a four-hour documentary on the manufacture of camel-colored socks.

Microsoft wants to remind you that meetings are difficult. "We've all been here before," says the voiceover.

Well, why are we here again?

We're rather aware that meetings are painful and many humans have already been subjected to Slack for some time. Moreover, if your company uses all the glories of Office 365, it's quite likely they'll shove you onto Teams whether you like it or not. Indeed, Microsoft already claims to have more users than Slack.

Wouldn't it have been a little more, well, productive to give Teams some sort of charm? A touch of character? An emotional attachment?

The most Microsoft seems to muster here is, oh, a "Happy Little Fruit Guy." Yes, another Emoji thing -- just what your work life has always needed.

My thought-processes glazed over like the Green Bay Packers run defense when I heard Microsoft's glorious summation: "When you're ready to unleash the power of your team, open Teams."

Please forgive me, but this is teeming with clichés and devoid of "oh, I'd like to see that ad again." Which is unfortunate, given that Slack has already accused Microsoft of copying its ads. With some justification.

Too often, advertisers think a business-to-business product should be advertised in a boring manner. This is a touch short-sighted.

The most fascinating element here, to my eyes, is that you can blur the background in Teams, which allows you to attend meetings when you're somewhere very private. Such as the Bahamas. Or the restroom.

Microsoft has made many positive strides with its brand since its days of abject woodenness and troubling lack of taste. And then there were the days of complete and total embarrassment.

I fear, though, this latest ad is a regression to pained times.

Should I be tempted to blame a lack of teamwork?

A brief history of Microsoft's Surface: Missteps and successes

Related coverage

Editorial standards