Trying to be like the Cool Kids: Give Microsoft an E for Effort…

pleatherbillRemember just over a year ago, when Microsoft’s attempt at being cool involved running ads that featured Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates shopping at a discount shoe store? The word pleather sticks in my mind… and I guess that’s appropriate since that word describes fake leather (actually it is a slang term for synthetic leather made of plastic).  People were talking, but mostly about how weird those ads were

So this month with the unveiling of Windows 7, one of Microsoft’s mind-boggling attempts at being cool had to do with a sponsorship of an entire Family Guy episode slated for November 8 (when Fox resumes normal programming after the World Series).  Apparently, with the help of their agencies Universal McCann and Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, “clever” references to Windows would be woven into the script.

familyguy_billgatesBeing familiar with Family Guy, and especially the one episode where Peter Griffin’s father-in-law asks Bill Gates to help him program his Zune and then taunts him by remarking how he owns an Apple iPod “like the rest of the world.” Yeah, Family Guy humor is harsh… but that’s why it is so popular.

When the story first broke about the Family Guy sponsorship, I wasn’t the only one to react negatively. All Things Digital columnist (Digital Daily), John Paczkowski did a post as did others. Preston Gralla, who blogs at ComputerWorld, saw a short preview and wrote that it committed the worst cardinal sin of comedy: “It’s just not funny.”

And speaking of “just not funny,” leading up to the launch of Windows 7, there was the whole house party thing. Dan Hosowitz of Gizmodo  called it “one of the most head-scratching promotions we’ve seen.”


“They want you to throw a party for the Windows 7 launch. We love Windows 7 and all, but Microsoft might be overestimating its party potential.”

The YouTube videos were annoying and unwatchable (trust me on that). But I guess they got people talking, just like Seinfeld did and just like the Family Guy announcement did. If you Google “Window 7 House Party,” you will come up with some remixes that have been done.

But there’s more…

With Crispin Porter+Bogusky as the agency of record, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a tie in with Burger King was on the plate, so to speak.


Introducing the Windows 7 Whopper!  This one really sent ComputerWorld’s Preston Gralla sideways. “…this could be one of its worst promotional ideas ever,” he wrote.

You guessed it, there are 7 patties to this ginormous 5-inch thick Whopper.

And in the “Believe it or Not!” category, people did try to eat the thing. Here’s video proof.

Never mind… Microsoft Backs Out of Family Guy Promo

Merely a week after the launch of Windows 7, the breaking news was that Microsoft decided to pull out of doing the Family Guy promo. Supposedly this occurred after viewing a rough clip of the Windows 7 special which contained jokes about deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest,” ABC said. “In other words, it was just like a regular “Family Guy” episode.”

Yeah, it’s tough trying to be one of the cool kids.

Step aside.  This is how its done.

And Apple, not missing a beat, had a Windows 7 version of its “I’m a Mac” campaign ready to go.


This one, “Broken Promises,” is hilarious.

Even the new Windows 7 “My idea” ads fall short because you (as in the viewer) find yourself saying, “yeah right… sure you did…”

What I am talking about is explained in this AdWeek piece.

“In similar style to the “I’m a PC” salvo, the commercial presents a quick-cut montage of people from around the world sharing what they want from their computers as Microsoft engineers responded with the line, “I’m listening.” The users take ownership of the new system, claiming the OS as “my idea.” The spot ends with two engineers bowing in gratitude and the line “A billion ideas=7.”

Cool right?

And there’s still more…

Did you know that Microsoft opened their version of a “Apple Store-like” retail outlet in Scottsdale last week?   Kara Swisher of All Things Digital had a good take on it, making a Patty Duke reference (“two of a kind”).  Her post compares a video from the opening of the Microsoft Store to one showing the opening of the Apple Store in Boston.

For those of us who remember the failed Microsoft store in San Francisco (in the Metreon), the head scratching continues. The choice of Scottsdale and Mission Viejo, Calif. is interesting too.

Indeed, Microsoft has succeeded in getting people talking… but will they be buying? Apple executives have been quoted saying that Windows 7 presents a great opportunity for Apple:

“We think a lot of folks will look at that as the straw that broke the camel’s back…people are tired of the headaches with Windows and this is another great excuse for people to check out the Mac.”

What about the Xbox?

xboxThe thing is… for video game consoles, the Xbox 360 is considered a cool kid. Okay, not trendy cool like the Nintendo Wii, but cool enough because developers made the types of games for that platform that people wanted to play. Plus, there was that whole exclusive “streaming videos” relationship they had with Netflix.

This week, news broke that Netflix is also partnering with Sony.

Is there a place (a cool place) for Microsoft?

…Somehow, Some day, Somewhere!

Come to think of it, hey haven’t tapped musicals yet, right?


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  1. Hey! Just noticed that Seinfeld is back to using a Mac. Check out what CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk had to say:
    “So to now discover that Seinfeld has appeared on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” with a MacBook Pro craftily centered on his desk is to experience something akin to a kitchen knife being sharpened upon one’s spine by a recently fired busboy.”

    Doc, Dossie and I watched last night.

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