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What's Up With the Ad About Nothing That Has Everyone Talking?

What's Up With the Ad About Nothing That Has Everyone Talking?

Microsoft's first commercial featuring Jerry Seinfeld hit the airwaves for the first time Thursday night during the opening game of the NFL season. Shortly afterward, the critiques began to roll in, many of them negative. Marketing experts, however, say it's a good first step for a massive campaign.

By JR Raphael
09/05/08 11:28 AM PT

It's only fitting that Jerry Seinfeld's first Microsoft ad is -- well, about nothing.

The 90-second spot, which debuted during Thursday night's NFL game, shows Seinfeld and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates meeting in a shopping mall shoe store. Seinfeld casually saunters in, munching on a churro, and gets into a conversation with Gates about shoe size and finding the proper fit. Oh yeah, and also about the advantages of showering with your clothes on.

Brainless or Brilliant?

The blogosphere's already buzzing with criticism and calls of failure for the heavily hyped ad. Those with expertise in marketing, however, see things a bit differently.

"It's just to kick off a campaign, create a little interest, and get people ready for what's going to follow," Kevin Lane Keller, professor of marketing at Dartmouth College, told the E-Commerce Times. "To launch a big new campaign, you often might do something like this," he said.

The minds at Microsoft concur. An internal memo leaked to various media outlets indicates this is only phase one of the campaign and is "designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows." That conversation, the memo says, "will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity."

The strategy Visit the VMware Tech Center may just be dead-on.

"What it does is it definitely uses the Jerry Seinfeld persona -- and it does so in a very effective way," Keller commented.

The Next Step

Phase two, then, will have to delve deeper into the product and build on this first block. Indeed, Microsoft indicates future ads will show the advantages of using Windows -- not just Vista, but also Windows Mobile and Windows Live.

"There'll be a lot more, in one way or another, about the product," Keller explained. "It has to be something about ... the advantages of what they have over Apple and [other] competitors," he noted.

"Even if they're going to keep it at a fairly broad image level, I think [they'd] still want to get into some more detail," he added.

More Media

Expect to see Jerry's smiling mug on more than just your monitor, too: The commercials will likely pop up in some form in print, online, and other new media before long, Keller predicts. That same everyday -- and, at times, awkward -- banter between two polar opposite personalities will likely continue to fuel the concept.

"It'll be interesting to see how the chemistry works and the dynamic works with Gates and Seinfeld. They're iconic figures in American culture in their own ways -- but obviously in very, very different ways. It'll be interesting to see how they mesh together," Keller laughed.

We can only hope there'll be no hugging and no learning involved.


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