After getting mercilessly pummeled by those ubiquitous, annoying, often misleading, yet devastatingly effective "I'm a Mac" ad spots, Microsoft finally took the wraps off its long-awaited advertising campaign in defense of Windows Vista last night, with the first ad spot playing on many TV networks. While obviously the precursor to more ad spots to come, it may have left many viewers scratching their heads.
While many people got the fact that this clip was the first in a series, some didn't. In an email exchange I had with a Windows IT Pro contributing editor this morning, he indicated that several IT professionals in his company were scratching their heads over the ads themselves. Is confusing an audience that already has doubts about your product really a smart marketing strategy?
Watch the clip for yourself, courtesy of YouTube:
I also question the wisdom of having an ad campaign that has to be seen in sequence to be understood. Granted, Bill Gates has more comedic potential than most people think he does, and Microsoft should have used him in an ad campaign promoting Microsoft long ago.
I can hear Mac zealots savaging this new episodic ad campaign now. "Like Vista," they could say, "Microsoft's marketing campaigns also take longer to boot."
Seriously, the Apple ads (while filled with errors and outright falsehoods at times), can be viewed without having to inform the viewer that they're about to see an advertisement. They're self-contained comedic set pieces that reinforce what people have heard about Vista, whether true or not.
My take is that Microsoft waited too long to rebut the "I'm a Mac" ads, Vista DID have teething pains at the outset, and trying to repair all that damage now is throwing good money after bad. Why not save the cash and spend it on a product that doesn't have the negative PR baggage, like Windows 7 (aka Windows Vista R2)?
Given all the attention focused on the presidential election between now and November, are people really going to invest the effort to follow up on a fragmented ad campaign they have to watch in sequence to understand?. And given the current economic climate, is migrating from XP to Vista really top of mind right now for most consumers? And once they get to the store, which of the many versions of Windows Vista should they buy? Windows Vista Ultimate? Or Vista Home Premium? Or Vista Home Basic, perhaps? Let's not forget Vista Business. Thanks to Microsoft's inscrutable Vista product marketing strategy, maybe Redmond will need another expensive TV ad campaign featuring Gates with other aged celebrities (I'd vote for Martha Stewart, Mr. T, or A.L.F.) to help consumers understand the difference between all of them?
We all know that Vista is better now than it was when released, and that Microsoft has suffered from some unfairly critical press coverage at times. But an ad campaign alone won't solve the myriad of issues that have blemished Vista and left Microsoft with the unenviable task of telling people that Vista sucks less now than it used to.