However, clever marketing is a two-edged sword. Do it right, and you pull in customers. Do it wrong, and you can make a mockery of yourself. I think that is what Microsoft has managed in at least one of the ads that has already hit the Web. The production values are great, the visually-driven script is witty, and the end result effectively tells people to go buy an Apple (AAPL) iPhone.
Microsoft has always been the nerd that tries too hard to be cool. In its marketing, the company has too often been a show-off. In some cases it has worked, like when a series of Windows ads hit Mac brand perception. Other times, the results are strained. This time, the clever approach backfires.
Ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky has already released a number of ads on YouTube (GOOG) -- ironically using competitor Google as a marketing platform. My BNET colleague, advertising maven Jim Edwards, points out that there is a sense of massive compromise with layers of Microsoft management.
Microsoft plans to spend big, according to Todd Peters, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Marketing Group. The ad campaign focuses on what people miss when they use mobile devices too much:
First off, the smartphone marketplace is cluttered, so it was critical that we tie the campaign to what we think of as the unique value proposition of Windows Phone 7. Secondly, the campaign had to break through the clutter and be different from any kind of advertising in the smartphone category. Finally, it had to connect with people on an emotional level.With that in mind, the campaign is built on a consumer insight that we believe will really resonate with people: as a society we're spending more time heads-down with our phones than we are interacting with the people we're sitting right in front of. When people see the ads for the first time, it's amazing how much self-recognition there is -- that sense of "I have totally done that." One of the core principles that guided us was that we wanted to start a conversation about how we could all benefit from a change in behavior and a different kind of phone experience.The ad is funny. Very funny. And impressive, as humor is hard to do well. People go through their lives in a fog, staring at smartphones. Toward the end, people who are not so engrossed look at the electronically possessed and say, "Really." There's additional humor, as Jim points out, given that Windows Phone 7 ads from February featured a woman so engrossed in a Windows-based phone that she walked with her head down. Talk about embracing a concept only to thrust it away out of embarrassment.
Unfortunately, in its thrashing, Microsoft created a list of subliminal reasons that consumers and business partners should all pass on Windows Phone 7:
- The iPhone (No one thinks that the people are actually using Android phones, right?) is so captivating that people feel compelled to use it.
- Windows Phone 7 will keep you from having your head buried, because it will be so confusing that you'll give up.
- Of course, you'll only need to give up if it works. Here's the secret silver lining in the Microsoft practically trademarked blue screen of death.
- Since no one will be using the phones much, at least their bills should be low. So what if carriers make less money?
- If you hadn't felt the corporate love, Microsoft gives you an old-fashioned parental chiding. Yes, you know who you are.
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- Microsoft Hopes Mobile Success Will Be Fun and -- More Important -- Games
- Windows 8: Microsoft's Strategy Still Wears Blinders
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