What’s the deal with commercials starring people who have nothing to do with the product?
Windows latest attempt to win back the market from punky Apple comes in the form of a series of commercials starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld.
Apple’s ads have had success because they combine humor with a common message: Apples are easier to work with than PCs. The humor comes from the struggle between a nerdy, quirky PC guy and a hipper, more in-touch Apple guy.
The new Microsoft Ads starring Gates and Seinfeld fall flat.
What does Jerry Seinfeld have to do with computers? It’s like getting Paris Hilton to star in a commercial about an all-you-can-eat buffet. But I digress…
The plot of the ads goes something like this: Seinfeld and Gates move into a suburban home to live with a typical family; mom, dad, three kids, and of course, grandma. Don’t even bother trying to figure out who the family is, or why they’re bringing two of the richest people in the world into their home.
“Why are we doing this again?” Gates asks, and I can’t help but ask the very same question. Why? Seinfeld explains that this will help them connect with real people.
But these people are strange. They present common household issues, like family members sneaking bites of “that nice mustard with the white wine” and someone taking grandma’s teeth out of the freezer. Wait, scratch that. These aren’t common household issues. This is just a family being weird for the sake of weird. It doesn’t work.
“Yup, you’ve got a blown gasket,” the grandma says, emerging from underneath a car in a full mechanic’s uniform. It’s funny because grandma is too old and feeble to be doing car repairs! Get it?
In one scene, the grandma wields a high-powered leaf blower, as Gates and the family dad fill up a giant backyard pool with a garden hose. Is the situation itself supposed to be funny? Are we just supposed to laugh because Gates doesn’t usually engage in activities that we consider normal? I guess that’s the idea of the commercial; Windows is trying to get back in touch with people after being out of touch for so long.
But the spot just makes Windows feel more out of touch than they already are.
Seinfeld comes off as smug, and he seems to be mocking the typical American. Gates comes off as a tech junkie who doesn’t understand what regular people are all about.
As they leave, Seinfeld tells Gates that “I think we really connected with those people.” Maybe that’s the problem. Windows thinks they are connecting, but in reality, they’re just pushing themselves farther away.
A few side notes: Seinfeld, who has never been the same writer since his split from Larry David (who now stars on the hilarious Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO), tries to draw on one of the hallmarks of his hit show: situational humor.
The situations in Seinfeld were always strange, but still inherently believable; you could relate to the antics because many of the things discussed (close-talkers, taking gifts from relatives, bringing a cake to a dinner and then noticing it’s not served) were true to life. This ad lacks the Seinfeldian touch.
This ad campaign is costing Windows upwards of $300 million. Seinfeld himself got $10 million. Unfortunately for Gates and Co., you can’t buy laughs.