Some marketing genius decided it would be a splendid idea to plaster the subway station I arrive at in the morning with posters promoting Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaign. So twice a day, five days a week, I'm face to face with one of the worst advertising spots in Madison Avenue's history.
Then when I get home and turn on the television, the same ads--this time in full motion color with sound--are all over the airwaves.
Get me an ice pick so I can drive it between my eyeballs and get it over with already.
I'm obviously late wading in here, but I wasn't swept up in the first round of harrumphing when the ads first hit in September. Even though I never thought the spots were very interesting, I figured Microsoft would improve upon them. Eventually. After all, this was part of a $300 million ad campaign that Microsoft planned, in part, to counter Apple's successful Mac versus PC series.
Silly me. I think Rory Carlyle's tongue-in-cheek summary says it all: "I'm a PC and my commercials are terrible."
No doubt there's someone high up in the Redmond bureaucracy who believes it's possible to corporately manufacture cool. But it just won't wash. When I was a kid, an advertisement for Bic pens ripped off a popular counterculture phrase of the era with the corny television refrain, "Write on." (Get it? Write on, not "right on." Ugh.)
As contrived as that was, it paled compared with this stinker from IBM for its now-defunct line of PS/2 computers...(How you gonna do it?...You're gonna PS/2 it") Vanilla Ice couldn't have done worse. A friend who worked in Big Blue's marketing department at the time candidly allowed that the jingle would have had better success as a WASP rap ditty.
The production quality of Microsoft's "I'm a PC" spots is higher, but technical excellence alone can't compensate for the core problem: conceptually, the ads fall flat. Maybe it's me but parading a bunch of goofs all declaring that they're "a PC" and I'm thinking it's "Stepford Wives" time. If the idea was to counter the impression fostered by Apple's series of lacerating Mac ads, Microsoft should rethink its original assumption. Now that Steve Ballmerhe's no longer thinking about Yahoo, he should devote a few brain cells to cleaning up this mess.
The ads simply grate. As John Gruber put it in a post a while ago:
"And so what makes Microsoft's new "I'm a PC" commercials so jaw-droppingly bad is that they're not countering Apple's message, but instead they're reinforcing it. That the spots themselves jump between dozens of different people who "are" PCs, that the spots make a point of emphasizing that there are a billion Windows-running PCs worldwide, this only emphasizes that "PC" is not a brand name but a generic."
"Microsoft's new ads emphasize the same message as Apple's: that the Mac is the one and only brand-name computer in the world."
Write on. Err, right on.