Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mixed messages

In the time we've been doing this blog, Microsoft hasn't exactly been heavily on our radar, but they have had a couple of appearances thanks to ridiculous hyperbole and utter insanity. It's been more than two years since that last one, so we hoped that maybe they'd learned their lesson. Well... not entirely. Take a look at these two ads and tell me what Microsoft is actually trying to sell.

First things first: on its face, I actually like this ad a lot. It's funny (because it's true!), it's visually appealing, the music cue works perfectly. The message, however, is confusing if not entirely self-defeating. I'll turn things over for a minute to our own Knitwear M. Groundhog:

"It's based on a flawed premise. They're saying that the reason people waste time on their phones is because it takes too long to do things. In fact, people waste time on their phones because they enjoy doing things on their phone, so if you make it so that you can do that stuff faster, they're actually going to do MORE of it."

Indeed. As well-put-together as this commercial is, it can't hide the fact that its central conceit really does not make a lick of sense. The people shown in the commercial appear to be engrossed in their phones, not because they have slow download speeds or something but because they like going on Facebook, sending texts, playing games, whatever. "Saving people from their phones" hardly seems like a good marketing strategy when it's not clear that anyone is crying out to be saved from their phones. (Also, the guy on the phone while his wife - I assume - stands there in lingerie? That would never happen, ever.)

But wait! Does Microsoft want to get you off the phone and back to life? Or... don't they?

The basic concept of this ad is just idiotic. My girlfriend can't tell I'm playing X-Box Live? Uh, you're sitting there, staring at your phone, and moving it back and forth. She can tell you're playing X-Box Live. And even if she couldn't, she could certainly tell that you are doing nothing but staring at your phone. I'm going to ignore the whole avatar/"sexy dance" segment of this ad because it's stupid and also besides the point.

The point being this: which is it, Microsoft? Are your phones supposed to "get us in and out and back to life?" Or are they supposed to enable us to play video games literally anywhere, a development which the first ad certainly seemed to be raging against? One possibility, I suppose, is that Microsoft ran all those "Really?" ads and then people pointed out to them that the central idea of the ads was stupid and unproductive, so they decided to shift to "Uh, wait! So you want to stare at your phone incessantly no matter what we say? Well, then stare at our phones incessantly! We've got X-Box..."

Of course, once you've already suggested that everyone in the world is a phone zombie who should buy your phone so they won't be staring at it all the time, it's kind of hard to turn around and tout the features that will make them want to stare at it all the time. Would you ever see a car ad that made a big deal about how the car will get you from point A to point B quickly so you can just go about your day? No, you wouldn't. Making a commercial implying that your product should be used as little as possible is pretty much the essence of counterproductivity. It's easy to see why Microsoft shifted gears; unfortunately for them, we'd all already seen the initial ads.


capewood said...

I've seen the first commercial and I agree, I couldn't figure out what MicroSoft was trying to tell me. But really, I don't care that MicroSoft has anything to say about phones.

I really hate the Windows 7 commercials that essentially say, hey, Microsoft, your product is so bad I had to take matters into my own hands and invent Windows 7.

Anonymous said...

This commercial is so gross: