Gates-Seinfeld act 2: Beautiful minds?

The second installment of the Bill Gates-Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft advertising campaign shows great cleverness in giving Microsoft the possibility of looking like a somewhat cuddly underdog.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Having bumped into each other at Shoe Circus, the two protagonists decide to walk the tightrope and make a road movie.

Whisper it very softly, but they just might pull this trick off.

Take a look at the 4.5-minute version of Gates and Seinfeld's "Road to Somewhere 2." In the first installment, the Kafkasesque "Shoe Circus," Jerry Seinfeld looked as if he had really forgotten how not to act, but in this second installment, it's hard not to warm to his buddy act with a new thespian who is clearly holding his own, Bill Gates.

In this episode, Bill and Jerry decide that they will commune with normal human beings. A fine idea for many in the tech world, some might say. In the middle of some truly heartening and funny absurdity, the courage that went into the writing makes the eyes and ears commune with a strange sense of the unusual.

In answer to Bill's questioning why they're attempting to reconnect with real people, Jerry says, "Why, Bill? Because as we discussed, you and I are a little out of it. You're living on some kind of moon house hovering over Seattle like the Mother Ship, and I got so many cars, I get stuck in my own traffic."

How many companies have been honest enough to admit their faults? How many would publicly declare they lost touch with the customers? How many would reach for self-deprecation in doing so? And would anyone have ever suggested Microsoft might be one of those companies?

As I said in my last post on this subject, this campaign is not aimed at techies. It is not even designed to sell products today. It is solely there to help you find some positive disposition toward the Microsoft brand.

My Las Vegas 51's baseball cap goes off to the people at ad agency Crispin, Porter and Bogusky who persuaded Microsoft, in the person of Bill Gates himself, to admit to at least some of the company's lesser judgments.

It isn't just that they might not have created great products. They have lost sight of real, ordinary people--those who, like the family in this episode, have had slightly crotchety, loopy grannies wandering around their house for the last 12 years.

The greater constituent of good communication isn't information, but rather emotion. And the dominant emotional effect of this involving, funny, and distinctive piece of work is to give Microsoft the possibility of looking like a somewhat cuddly underdog.

The more Apple continues to patronize Bill Gates, albeit gently and cleverly, the more it risks appearing to embrace just a tinge of smugness. (And what brand does that remind you of?)

If Microsoft manages to create at least an aura of underdoggery, the company and its ad agency will be seen as some of the brightest communicators to have ever survived the Large Hadron Collider Experiment.

I still can't quite get out of my head that one 30-second version of the greatest Apple ad ever made--not the "1984" thing, but rather the utterly brilliant "Here's To The Crazy Ones"--actually ends with a shot of Jerry Seinfeld.

But you have to be a little crazy to attempt a radical repositioning of Microsoft's image. And no one at the company is sane enough to think the duckling will become swanlike overnight.

However, those involved in this singularly brave attempt just might achieve something many thought impossible. The success of a movie called Smart and Smarter.