Gates outacts Seinfeld in 'Back to the Future'

The new Microsoft campaign is the work of brave people who may not have been aware of just how much Jerry Seinfeld has slipped over the years

Some people love it. Some people hate it.

Which is why Crispin Porter and Bogusky, the agency responsible for the otherworldly new Microsoft TV spot featuring the clowning Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, is already happy.

The first aim of any Crispin campaign is to get people talking about the ad. So it seems to be a success. The only real question is whether people outside of the tech world will be talking about it.

Naturally, those in the techie bubble think the work is aimed at them. However, it is really aimed at everyone out there whose warm feelings about Microsoft are only challenged by their warm feelings towards holding their breath till they suffocate.

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Microsoft wants to believe that power can have a heart. Which is touching for the company, as that is a concept another agency, Wieden and Kennedy, gave Microsoft with its "Where do you want to go today?" campaign.

There is a certain irony for some that the same rational beings who ultimately crushed that campaign underfoot like a paper coffee cup in 1996, are now actually appearing in the new Microsoft ad wiggling their bottom like a tipsy Chief Executive at a Christmas Party.

One can only imagine where Apple might be going today if Microsoft had persevered in creating strong emotional links with its consumers. Where might this new Microsoft work go tomorrow? Crispin has a glorious track record of hitting and missing with its work.

It somehow turned the Burger King regal icon into the most fabulously eerie presence since that greasy-haired man in a beige overcoat who stood on your street corner every day when you were little. On the other hand, it did not succeed with its Man Laws for Miller Lite, nor have its campaigns managed to regain credibility for Volkswagen.

The agency is well known, and it is unclear whether Karl Rove pointed them in this direction, for taking the apparent weakness of a brand and turning it into its strength. So you take the supposedly cold, heartless bloke in the glasses from the Apple spots and you make him a bottom-wiggling Hardy to Jerry Seinfeld's Laurel.

I blundered upon this spot while catching a glimpse of the NFL game on Thursday night and what struck me was not that Bill Gates was a ham-fisted Hamlet, but that Jerry Seinfeld has lost much of the absurd energy that endeared him to so many.

It was as if Mr. Gates relished the thought of rectifying some of his own miscalculations of the past, while Mr. Seinfeld simply sleepwalked a little like John Cleese through the post-Fish Called Wanda part of his career.

The next spot features Bill and Jerry trying to buy Apple Puree from the Soup Nazi. Although, at the time of writing, I am not sure to what extent Mr. Seinfeld and Mr. Gates will be expressing their affection for each other as they wait in line.

 

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