Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An ad campaign about nothing: Microsoft spends $300 million on "jokes"

So Microsoft wants to be cool. Call it "Apple envy." We've seen it before -- companies trying to make hip commericals that look like they were produced by Apple's longtime agency, Chiat/Day. But where does a giant like Microsoft find their creative inspiration? They open up their pocketbooks, grab a $300 million wad, and go begging to the advertising agency most responsible for the existence of this site, Crispin Porter + Bo-fucking-gusky. Ahh, Crispin. Creator of the BK "King," panderer of lazy humor, mover of offices from Miami to Boulder (I guess -- needed to spend all that money?)

But wow, $300 million dollar account.... access to the world's second richest man.... seemingly limitless marketing opportunities. What would Crispin Porter do with all that? Oh, of course! Take ten of that three hundred million and hire a comedian a decade past his prime! Then put him in ads next to laugh-a-minute comedy master Bill Gates! So, hey, how'd that turn out?

Seinfeld: "Shoe Circus. Quality shoes at discount prices. Why pay more?" Bill Gates?

My thoughts exactly. If you're thinking "what the hell am I watching," like I am, you're probably hoping there's a big, tidy pay-off at the end that makes some sense of this situation. Spoiler alert!! There isn't.

Gates: Jerry Seinfeld?

Seinfeld: Churro?

Hmm. Almost a joke. So close here, Jerry. What is it about Jerry Seinfeld in commercials that just drains the humor out of him?

With $10 million spent on Seinfeld alone, I wonder what the cost of this campaign is per joke. Let's keep a tally. This is joke #1.

Seinfeld (helping Gates try on shoes): Is that your toe?

Gates: No.

Seinfeld: What is it?

Gates: Leather.

Joke Count: 2. Granted, Jerry plays straight man here, but we'll give it to him. Also, this is probably the funniest part of the commercial right here.

Seinfeld: You know what I do? I wear (the Conquistador shoes) in the shower. You ever wear clothes in the shower, Bill?

Gates: No.

Seinfeld: You're dressed, and you're clean. Open the door, go about your business.

Joke Count: 4. I'm counting the word "Conquistador" as a kind of throwback "Seinfeld" word joke. I guess kind of like "Festivus" or something. I dunno. Also I'm counting the showering in your clothes bit as a joke. Although, isn't that really odd? Did Seinfeld write this, or a crack-addled Crispin Porter copywriter?

Seinfeld: Guess what Bill, you're a ten (referring to his shoe size).

And we're up to 5 now, with a pun. Yay. If the commercial stopped now (if only!), it'd be just $2 million per joke. And sure, that may seem excessive, but think about this: Don Rickles used to charge $50,000 per insult at the old Friar's Club Roasts. And if it got a big laugh? That was extra. And that's before inflation, folks. (Note: I'm almost certain this is true.) Comedy ain't cheap.

Seinfeld: What do you get with that card (the Clown Club membership card)?

Gates: Big Top points.

Seinfeld sets the pick, and Gates drains the three! We're at 6. Six funny, funny jokes. Oh, and we've learned a lot about Microsoft. Like about the brand, what their products do, Vista. All that important selling stuff -- it's all covered.

Also, I'm not counting the fact that Bill Gates, a bazillionaire, is shopping at a discount shoe shop as a joke. You have to try harder than that to be funny.

Seinfeld: You know, I imagine over the years you've mind-melded your magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft.

That's negative one. That is so forced and awkward that, if there's a joke somewhere in there (Jerry's a zombie and wants to eat Bill's delicious brain?), I can't find it in that turgid, tortured sentence. Just abominable. We're back to 5.

Seinfeld: Just wondering, are they ever gonna come out with something that will make our computers moist and chewy like cake so we can just eat 'em while we're working.

"Jerry Seinfeld on Salvia," ladies and gentlemen! Listen as he riffs on tasting colors in airplane food... identify with him as he discusses the annoying coworker who always flies inside the refrigerator just as you were going to hear it bleed purple! This Thursday through Saturday at the Orpheum. Tickets going fast!

Joke Count: 6. Just because I kind of pity him now.

Seinfeld: If it's yes, give me a signal -- adjust your shorts.

Gates: (moves ass uncomfortably)

Joke Count: 100,000,000,000,000. I take it all back -- that bit alone is like a hundred trillion jokes. Jerry Seinfeld was worth every penny! I actually just came to after passing out from over-laughing. I'm typing this from an ambulance where I'm being treated for a fractured rib cage -- from laughing way too hard at the inherent comedy in blending observational Jewish humor with PC-based operating system marketing! Wooooooo!

The Future. Delicious. (Windows logo)

So, to recap, here's what I take away from this ad:

1. Microsoft is a shoe company.
2. Even rich people like discounts.
3. Jerry Seinfeld stopped being funny, somehow.
4. Hey, those Mac vs. PC ads are pretty funny, huh?
5. Oh, guess I was wrong on point #1 - Microsoft has something to do with computers, not shoes.
6. The future is delicious.
7. Okay, figured it out -- Microsoft sells churros.
8. I am going to buy a Mac immediately.

One would have to think that Crispin Porter + Bogusky's reign atop the advertising world is coming to an end very soon.


Windier E. Megatons said...

No, you've got it all wrong - Microsoft is a bakery that makes custom cakes shaped like computers. I think that "Ace of Cakes" show is set in Redmond.

I can't decide whether Seinfeld himself has become impossibly unfunny over the last ten years (too busy counting his money and slandering women who accuse his wife of plagiarism to write jokes, I guess) or whether it was the brilliant, brilliant minds at CPB who wrote the awful Seinfeld-style ersatz comedy in this ad that makes him sound like a terrible parody version of himself.

Also, why is this ad 90 seconds long, and is there any hope that it would make more sense at 30?

Joe Nathan said...

Wow, that ad is so surreal as to be almost incomprehensible! Bill Gates shopping for shoes! Jerry Seinfeld talking about edible computers! What product is Microsoft selling again? And why am I suddenly hungry for a Churro?

And what's the deal with the family of Hispanics/Latinos outside the shoe store window? Since the conquistadors were the Spanish soldiers who plundered through much of Central and South America, victimizing native populations wherever they went, I wouldn't think it would be a great name for a product of any kind.

The Apple ads are so well done, and so funny, I'm really surprised it's taken Microsoft so long to actually produce any kind of ad that might be a response. I was interested to see what they would come up with. But if this is the first one, hoo boy, it can only go downhill from here. I'd say Crispin is taking Bill Gates for a ride. Maybe the next ad will be Bill Gates dressed up as the BK King?

Quivering P. Landmass said...

I totally want to see Bill Gates dressed up as the BK King. That would just be a logical next step in this campaign.

Quivering P. Landmass said...

I'm sure everyone's noticed by now that the Seinfeld ads have stopped. Crispin insists that it was always the plan, "Look, they were supposed to suck, ok? It was $10 million well spent!"

Here's an interesting take on the campaign: