Microsoft dumps Seinfeld for Hodgman-lookielikie

In Thursday's IT Blogwatch, we wonder what's the deal with Microsoft getting rid of Seinfeld? Not to mention a freestyle rap battle gone bad (and translated)...

A breathless Owen Thomas reports:

I'm a PC
Remember those awful Microsoft ads with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates? Well, now you can forget them. Microsoft flacks are desperately dialing reporters to spin them about "phase two" of the ad campaign.


Microsoft's version of the story: Redmond had always planned to drop Seinfeld. The awkward reality: The ads only reminded us how out of touch with consumers Microsoft is.


In a phone call, Waggener Edstrom flack Frank Shaw ... echoes his underlings' spin that the move was planned. There is the "potential to do other things" with Seinfeld, which Shaw says is still "possible." He adds: "People would have been happier if everyone loved the ads, but this was not unexpected."

Preston Gralla says it's not a moment too soon:

If you don't get the point of these ads, you're not alone. And Microsoft's explanation of their purpose makes me think that they don't understand the purpose of their own ads, either ... I see ping-pong being played, cuticles being cut, and a grandmother heading the wrong way under a car to fix it. But I don't see anything at all about Windows.


When you're ... one of the largest corporations in the world with a near monopoly trying to fend off surging competitors ... with a ubiquitous market presence, you need a message. You're already being noticed. You want to be noticed for the right reasons.

Mike Masnick doesn't buy the spin:

Microsoft is trying to claim that this is all according to plan, but that seems difficult to believe -- especially since the "narrative" of the ads had only just begun.

It looks like Microsoft basically caved to all the online critics, which makes no sense to me. Even if some people didn't get the ads, people were talking about them. Caving, rather than going through with the rest of the planned ads and laying out the message that they had planned to lay out, just makes the company look foolish. The first two ad segments clearly set the framework for numerous commercials that Microsoft could use to both humanize itself and inform people about what Microsoft was doing -- and now it's basically a dead end.

But Microsoft's Chris Flores toes the party line:

So there seems to be the rumor running around that we're supposedly cancelling our Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld ads tomorrow. I wouldn't count on anything being "cancelled". It was always the plan to have Jerry Seinfeld in the first phase of the campaign and not a part of every ad. Instead, our Windows Consumer Campaign is moving into the next phase and we did mention previously that you should expect the campaign to evolve.

Eric Lai got the call from MSFT-PR:

The long, oft-baffling "teaser" ads" by Microsoft Corp. featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates that kicked off two weeks ago are abruptly ending, the company said late Wednesday, as Part 2 of its $300 million Windows marketing rehab campaign begins.

Carrying the theme "Windows. Life without walls," the new ads will show Microsoft "audaciously embracing" the phrase "I'm a PC" -- which has been so successfully tarnished by Apple Inc.'s ads during the past two years -- in order to rehabilitate it.


One of the new commercials will even show a real Microsoft engineer who is a ringer for John Hodgman, the actor who plays the abused PC character in the Apple ads.

MG Seigler mutters:

“Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype,” a man in a brown suit who looks an awfully lot like actor John Hodgman from Apple’s “PC vs. Mac” commercials, says into the camera. This is the next phase of Microsoft’s $300 million advertising campaign.


Coming head-on at Apple’s ads which have spent the past few years belittling Windows is a good approach, I think. Certainly, it’s more interesting than ads about nothing featuring Seinfeld. But Microsoft has to be careful not to over-do them. The company finds itself in an underdog position of sorts for the first time in a long while, but public sentiment could swiftly shift to seem like they are bullying Apple if they push the ads too far.

Angela "felice" Natividad knows her onions:

Well, everyone got what they wanted. Those zany Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld ads ... are out of the picture and now we'll never see what they were building up to. That upsets me. Then again, I didn't whip out the $10 million for Seinfeld.

In their stead, Crispin's hired a dead-ringer for John Hodgman ... One even starts out with the John Hodgman lookalike saying, "Hello, I'm a PC, and I've been made into a stereotype."


Either Microsoft is too proud to admit it bowed to public backlash, or it's trickier than we thought. We'll find out soon.

Microsoft contractor Sarah Perez smugs it up:

I would just like to point out that I thought the first set of ads were funny and I wasn’t afraid to say so. But you guys were absolutely off your rockers if you thought that was how they spent the $300 million. Seriously.

And finally...

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 22 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email:

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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