Microsoft's Kin Ad Continues Its Tradition of Unsubtlety at All Costs

Last Updated Apr 13, 2010 5:25 PM EDT

The main difference between Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) from a branding point of view is that Apple creates trends (iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.) whereas Microsoft is driven by them. That seems to be nicely illustrated in Microsoft's new ad for its Kin phones, which are designed for teenagers with active social media lives.

The ad stars "Rosa" (pictured), who allegedly has 824 friends on Facebook and Twitter. Microsoft sends her on an "epic journey" to meet them all, and to answer this question:

All of these people live inside Rosa's social network but are they really her friends?
If the answer seems obvious, remember that Microsoft is a company where "obvious" has frequently been employed as the creative direction for its advertising. A recent example of that was the company's unintentionally hilarious ad for the Windows 7 launch, in which users were urged to throw a celebration for the new operating system and "party with Windows 7 as an honored guest." The ad was so corny that it was hard to tell if it was a parody or the real thing:

Operating systems seem to be Microsoft's weakness when it comes to badvertising. Check out this Windows 98 commercial. The creative brief must have said, "Find the most irritating music possible, and then pair that with headache-inducing graphics. Play loud!"

That ad clearly evolved from its Windows 95 ad, whose flashing squares were developed as some sort of weapon to cause migraines and seizures among its audience:

If you want to understand the font from which this inspiration springs, look no further than CEO Steve Ballmer, who made this 1986 mock commercial for Windows 1.0. He clearly seems to be enjoying himself as he hams it up ... if only his real spots had this much irony.