Nadella speeches get Common touch in Microsoft's Super Bowl ads

Technically Incorrect: Two Microsoft ads running during the Super Bowl offer warm feelings and an original voiceover from a famous rapper, voicing the speeches of Microsoft's CEO.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

A scene from "Estella's Brilliant Bus," Vocal music by Common. Words by Satya Nadella. Microsoft/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

There's a fascination with speeches that's sometimes overblown.

It's all very well to offer grand intentions, but it's what you do that ultimately matters. (Not that politicians have ever noticed.)

There aren't too many CEOs, though, whose speeches are memorable. For the Super Bowl, Microsoft would like to disagree.

It's taken parts of Satya Nadella's oratory and made them the voiceovers for two ads it's running during the big overhyped game.

I didn't detect the word "karma" in either. They do contain, though, the fascinating touch of Nadella's words being voiced by Common. The rapper, hiphop artist and actor revealed his latest role today on Twitter.

Both ads begin with a very pertinent question for Microsoft: "What is it we can do that it unique, that is impactful?" In one, what follows is a warm, involving story about Estella Pyfrom. She has a bus that brings technology to kids who might not otherwise have the chance to encounter it.

The second ad features Braylon O'Neil. He's a little boy who, from birth, has had no tibia and fibula. Now, with the help of technology developed by Microsoft, he's playing baseball.

There's a melancholy irony in seeing the warm feelings these ads generate -- especially in the first ad where the notion of dreaming big is aired.

Microsoft ran a campaign with the very same spirit in 1994. It was called "Where Do You Want To Go Today?" It was moving, emotional, quite brilliant. (video below)

But the company, under Bill Gates at the time, decided to eschew all these irrational emotions for, well, what? For something big, domineering and, ultimately a little cold.

How different things might have been if someone had said: "Wait a minute. Our customers are people. People like feeling things."