So Much Hate For Microsoft's Seinfeld/Gates Buddy Ad

from the what's-wrong-with-it? dept

I wasn’t going to comment on Microsoft’s new ad campaign featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates buddying around, but the response among the press and bloggers is almost universally negative — often in extreme ways, and I don’t get why there’s such a virulent negative reaction. Just a few examples:

And that’s just a quick sampling that I grabbed in a few seconds. It goes on and on from there. To be honest, I’m not sure I get this massive negative reaction. The ad itself is a little silly and barely mentions Microsoft at all, but isn’t that bad at all.

And, to be perfectly frank, you have to think that Microsoft is thrilled with the reaction. It’s gotten a ton more people talking about the campaign than any normal ad program, and it actually does a bit to humanize Bill Gates. And, it fits in with what we’ve been discussing about how advertising needs to be content first and advertising later.

Also, I’m a bit surprised that none of the commentators seem to be comparing this to the very similar efforts that American Express did four years ago also with Jerry Seinfeld. They created a series of “shorts” somewhat similar to the Seinfeld/Gates episode, and people enjoyed them. Is it just because it involves Microsoft that people react so negatively? Already Microsoft has been able to draw people into the storyline (even if negatively), and it can now use future episodes to continue to entertain and educate. That seems like a good thing, not something to be so widely trashed.

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Comments on “So Much Hate For Microsoft's Seinfeld/Gates Buddy Ad”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Aside from the commercial being completely stupid, why is Seinfeld in it? Nobody under 30 even knows who Seinfeld is. If you are 20 now, you were 10 when Seinfeld went off the air. If you are 30 now, you only knew sienfeld if you spent your *TEENAGE* years sitting around watchign Seinfeld (unlikely).

I guess this must be marketed toward the elderly.

dontknow says:

Re: Re:

I’m 23 and love Seinfeld – great show (one of my favs, been watching since I was a little kid) and Jerry himself rocks.

Like others have said…this ad has done exactly what it wanted – get people talking.

And as for Justin Long – he might be the biggest d-bag in Hollywood. His commercials suck worse than his acting, which is saying somethin.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

It's not supposed to be funny

This ad is not supposed to be funny. It’s intentionally absurd. That what gets people talking about it.

That’s exactly why Seinfeld became such a hit. The show initially tanked. No one watched it. However those fans that did talked about “what was that about last night on Seinfeld?” at work the next day.

People who were not used to the show initially thought, “What’s the big deal about Seinfeld, the show makes no sense? There’s no plot, there’s no action, there’s no character development, it’s just a bunch nothing, and then it ends.”

But after you watch it a while, you get hooked into it because it is about nothing. You don’t care if Elaine and Jerry get together. You don’t care if George finds true love or finds a real job. It’s not that type of show. It was a show about nothing. But it made millions of people tune in every Thursday to see more of nothing.

Now, back to the ad. Think about it, this ad received more free exposure than a normal ad ever could. For that I consider it a complete success.

Dieselmcfadden says:

keeps your attention

It works in a weird way.

It’s holds the attention for a full minute and a half. Three times longer than a regular commercial. It also has this subconscious effect where I really want to know what this is about. Even though it makes little sense, I feel like it should.

A $300 million campaign means a lot of advertising to come…
That’s more than the latest batman movie cost…

Charming Charlie says:

“Nobody under 30 even knows who Seinfeld is. If you are 20 now, you were 10 when Seinfeld went off the air.”

What the math? Apparently Seinfeld went off the air in 1998.

Here’s a thought, maybe they’re targetting a different demographic than 20-30 year olds. Here’s another thought: maybe people know who Seinfield is even if they didn’t watch Seinfeld. I never watched Friends but I sure know the name of the characters in such a popular sitcom.

tm says:

First Rule in Adv

The first question I always ask myself is “what do I want the viewer walking away with.” The viewer should think something specific, do something specific, etc. In the case of this ad, can you even make up something a consumer would think or act after seeing this?

That leaves me with two thoughts. First, maybe this is not an ad at all, but some cheesy concocted idea of some marketing teams just to get the public/blogosphere taking about Microsoft (all publicity, good or bad, is good) OR the marketing agency is completely out of their minds.

tm says:

Classic Seinfeld

okay… so many of you have said this is a ‘classic seinfeld’ sketch. I can totally see that, as well as appreciate it in my 28 youthful years. Well, Seinfeld never had to sell a product, get people to buy into a dying product, etc. Did he? All he did was make people laugh… for the purpose of laughing. There was no action to be taken afterward.

Microsoft is in a heap of trouble in my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Classic Seinfeld

Its the first commercial. Give it a chance. I know I have a desire now to see the second commercial to see whats going to happen. It’s as if they actually created a television show and you gotta wait til the next episode. These commercials are not selling any products. They’re selling the brand. They’re just trying to get you to like Microsoft again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Classic Seinfeld

He’s done quite a few ad campaigns… one of the larger being American Express.

Why does Microsoft have to be in a heap of trouble to do advertising? They do advertising every so often and yes Vista hasn’t been a success and I’d assume they want to work on public image. But to think they’re in a “heap” of trouble is ridiculous.

Whirler says:

Good Ad vs. Bad Ad

In either case, they’ve gotten you to pay attention. That’s the whole point behind it. Whether it is seen as a good or bad commercial is of no consequence. It did what it was supposed to do, generate interest & attention. For those who haven’t seen it yet, sure makes you want to see what ‘everyone’ is talking about huh? Dear God, you made people too much like sheep can you please help us for the sake of humanity?

Ivan says:

Re: Re: I absolutley Got It

Is there anything Apple can do to lose your trust? Because last month they had horrible availability on their online services, security bugs galore, unbelievable delays with their fixes and many of their “upgrades” locked iPhones or prevented iTunes from working properly. Go on google news, type Apple and check it out.
BTW, they run the company as a stalinist dictatorship: secrecy and top down orders. Techies with a brain should hate that.

Jim Chang says:

Re: Re: Re: I absolutley Got It

Thank you!
Seems all the Apple fanboys can’t see the light. Apple does horrible things much like any big corp does, yet the fan boys let it go and eat it up and come back for more.

ex. Sony used to require proprietary software to run their PMP’s, gee…what’s iTunes? yet no one complains?
ex. Apples and their warranty on ipods/touches/etc… send it away and get a refurb?? how many were returned? any other product, the customer would flip out at that type of product warranty. But Apple does it, mmmm yum! give me some more!

Harry says:

This is not trying to sell something yet

This ad in particular isn’t meant to sell anything, so not sure how you can say they are in trouble for using Seinfeld. It’s part of a campaign. The ad is hoping to get you to think differently of Microsoft. Their image has been pummeled by Vista and the Apple ads along with it. They are trying to change perception at this stage, and not sell anything. I’m sure there are “harder” sell ads coming, probably without Seinfeld in them, but that will dovetail with the whole campaign.

They’ve already got the buzz with this initial ad. Probably the most buzz Microsoft has had in years. Now, the follow-up ads are important to wipe out the negative feeling right now.

bigpicture says:

Walk the Talk

It is about what you say aligning up with what you do. The add is trying to say “hey we’re nice guys” and everything that they do says that they are not. US and EU anti-trust convictions, Poland, China and India threatening anti-trust suits. 6 countries threatening to stop participation in ISO because of MS influence irregularities about document format standards. Now their government lobbyist Abramoff is going to jail. These are not the typical activities of a squeaky clean company.

Zoomzit says:

The Point

Is it just because it involves Microsoft that people react so negatively is exactly why this ad was created. Microsoft can’t win even when they actually create decent product because there is such a negative perception of Microsoft and Bill Gates. This commercial makes both far more relaxed, personable and likable.

Microsoft took themselves way to seriously in their advertising in the past, this is a total 180 on their part, and that is a very good thing. Spending their ad money on this is far more meaningful than “the wow starts now” crap they did in the past. People buy apple and google wholesale. To compete people have to want Microsoft before they can change their downward slide.

Terry G. says:

There are buzzes, and then there are buzzes.

Microsoft wants to get some buzz going about themselves (like Apple has all the time) in the worst way. And their first TV ad seems to have stirred it up pretty good. But here’s the difference between the Microsoft buzz and the Apple buzz. Apple’s buzz is almost all about innovative new products and features they might have in future products. Microsoft’s buzz is about an inane, cryptic TV commercial featuring two aging, obscenely-rich boomers. Is this really the kind of buzz they need to sell their products? Isn’t that ultimately the purpose of spending the $300M?

Ben says:

The problem I have with this commercial is the utter lack of any sense or theme. Yes, Seinfeld was a show about nothing, but it was not a show where everything was random and nothing made sense.

This commercial goes from slow to bizzare to vapid in a minute and a half. Shoe shopping? Moist? Delicious? Middle Age Fanny Waggling? Spanish speakers peering through the storefront window? WTF? For the human brain, which craves patterns and themes and wants desperately to grasp onto something of substance, this commercial doesn’t even leave us with questions. It is random in the most absurd and unfunny way possible, and leaves us wondering whether we just emerged from a dream in existential crisis brought on by too much pizza before bedtime.

Maybe Microsoft’s advertising jockeys have a plan to build a framework of… something… around this weirdness in future commercials. I hope they do. If they release anything short of genius after this the public is going to just ignore them and the geeks will skewer them.

Merry Prankster says:

Re: Explanation Please

Microsoft ads have never attacked, or smeared any other Operating System … The Gates/Seinfeld ad is an interesting one and even pokes fun at itself.

If you don’t like Microsoft, don’t use Microsoft products. I liked reading that 20 year olds wouldn’t know who Seinfeld was … Would that also mean they wouldn’t remember what a charmer Windows Millennium was to use? (ROFL!) … I used to have a subscription to PCWorld magazine, which I cancelled for much the same reason I have cancelled my membership with most of the IT sites I was affiliated with … Non-constructive hype and criticism. They ignore, or forget ‘why?’ Windows works.

It doesn’t require a ‘genius’ to operate it and that’s what I take away from the Gates/Seinfeld ad … It’s a comfortable fit, though sometimes it might take a little work to get it to thet ‘just right’ state of comfort.

His Shadow says:

I'm Sorry, but this is Crap

Who gives a flying fvck about humanizing Bill Gates? HE DOESN’T EVEN RUN THE COMPANY! What POSSIBLE difference will these ads make by portraying Gates as a likable guy? It’s irrelevant! He a multi billionaire whose former company is guilty of and continues to abuse it’s monopoly. To counter this we get shoes in the shower, and the web is full of twits that think this matters? What is going on out there?

Luci says:

Re: I'm Sorry, but this is Crap

You miss the point entirely, then. Bill Gates may not run the company, but in the minds of the world he is still the Face of Microsoft. Every megacorporation has some skeletons, either in the closet or dangling in the breeze. Campaigns such as this are to help redirect, misdirect, or rebuild the image of the company. Nothing more.

Now, I despise Seinfeld, and Bill Gates is a marketing genius, not a technical wizard. It’s been marketing the lifting M$ up so high, and the same thing that has brought it crashing down. Whups. Looks like he can make mistakes! Gates is not a Vaudville villain. He’s a man who made mistakes. Big whup.

John S says:

I feel the same way

I really don’t know why blogger’s feel the need to be so negative. It’s almost like all bloggers are just pissed off people who have found a way to vent. I am not saying everyone should like Microsoft or its products. Their are some products I don’t like too. But I would not spend my time blogging about how much I hate them. If anything I found the Microsoft ad disconnected with its products but I think it was trying to connect us with Bill Gates. He is still Microsoft to most of us who started with Windows 3.1 or in my case DOS. If anything I admire the man for being involved with his foundation and trying to make a difference. Its more then I can say for Steve Jobs. I don’t want Microsoft to become a Apple and work to produce Microsoft fans. We don’t need more of that. What Microsoft does need is too impress upon people that Microsoft is a human company and has just as many people dedicated to the user as Apple has.

Jon Henshaw (user link) says:

Sucks In Its Own Void

I think it’s more than obvious that this ad campaign is going to tell a story. The lack of information and the length of the ad is supposed to get you saying, “huh?” But like you said in your article, it has everyone talking about it – something they probably would have had anyways.

I don’t think the actual campaign can be judged until it actually plays out. Who knows, there may be something brilliant hidden inside this campaign and the first ad – the one we’re talking about now – could end up being absolutely brilliant in retrospect. It’s just too early to tell right now, and it isn’t fair to judge it standalone, assuming it’s part of a greater picture and larger story.

Wake Up says:

Bill Gates = McCain ; Steve Jobs = Barack Obama

Apple is the “change we can believe in”

I really wonder why Microsoft still thinks with its undies on, I mean seriously — do we need an ad to tell grown ups and smart people how to choose a PC Vs Mac? Seriously, what are we?

This is not Politics. Its brains. And people, especially who are going to use a computer at home & work , have a lot of it.

Wait for a decade, MSFT is gonna sink like Titanic.

Mike Peter Reed (user link) says:

Good advertising

Nothing kills a bad product like good advertising.

Of course people will talk about any turd/diamond to come out of Microsoft, people talked a lot about Vista and it’s still a turd (so I’ve heard – I use a Mac, just like Microsoft’s advertising agency)

I don’t think the ad is awful, I just think it’s a bit like any other celebrity endorsed ad. The sheeple will love it.

Mark Ashton says:

Cluelessness abounds

Folks – Duh…it’s a play on Seinfeld being an ad about nothing. It’s one ad in a larger campaign. They’re doing something very strategic; first, make Microsoft more human and less about bits and bytes; second, present a non-elitist idea that’s markedly different than Apple’s me-me-me-cool-cool-cool approach. I think it works well.

david says:

An Ad About Nothing

Why should we be surprised that this first ad is all about a couple characters and otherwise about nothing at all? Isn’t that the whole premise that made Seinfeld a household name? No, the 90 seconds were enjoyable and funny in a silly sort of giggle at the two funny men way and it is getting lots of attention.

If the whole intent is getting attention and getting us talking, it has succeeded and I guess Microsoft must subscribe to the theory that any attention is good attention. I’m not so sure. Can all this negativity be forgotten as new spots are aired or has this set the tenor that Microsoft will find itself fighting through? By the time Microsoft gets around to telling me why I should install Vista on top of my already just good enough WinXP, am I really going to care what Jerry and Bill are telling me? I’m thinking not. But Microsoft, surprise me. That’s the one thing you’ve failed to do in the last 20 years.

Microsoft cannot avoid being compared to Apple – that is how Microsoft and Apple have framed the conversation for years. And look at the reality. Apple has an application store for the iPhone, Microsoft is now building an application store for its phones. Apple has a media device, Microsoft had to make one. Apple has a song and video store, Microsoft has one. Apple has created brand recognition through the use of human story tellers now Microsoft looks to be going the same route. And now we learn that Microsoft is even putting WinGurus in stores. How Apple! That all being true, is this spot really how Microsoft should have started?

I don’t think so.

John Wilson (profile) says:

Kinda like it

I’m not the biggest Sienfeld fan. I’m far from the biggest fan of Bill Gate’s business methods, to be mild about bit.

Still, I think this ad suffers only in the comparison to expectations in the tech blogosphere and in places like ZDNet or CNET who seem to have been looking for a mea culpa for Vista.

(Not that one isn’t needed, mind.)

It’s a good ad. It holds your attention. it takes it away from both Sienfeld and Gates and onto the situation. It’s light and breezy; if not funny it is amusing.

It’s gonna be interesting to see where this all goes.

Far more interesting than politics! 🙂



Chris says:

Not your demographic

The problem with the people who wrote all those reviews? They’re all old. The mainstream blogosphere is extremely skewed away from this commercial’s target demographic. They don’t want the old IT guy at joe bob’s computer emporium to start using Vista. They know that getting people aged 10-30 to use windows is where it’s at. They can still be influenced.

I’m currently 22 – and Seinfeld is one of my favorite shows of all time (only behind Arrested Development and The Office). Ever think what these three shows have in common? Extremely absurd humor. Who do they generally appeal to? Not old people. I think all these critics really showed their age with this raining down of criticism. They showed that they aren’t in touch with what’s new and going on in the world, and this advertising company showed just how intelligent they are. It’s a funny ad – it keeps you interested – and in the end you think “Wow….Bill Gates isn’t some ancient weirdo locked in the basement still working on DOS.” Instead I’m left thinking – Bill Gates is a pretty quirky funny guy….and I think I like that. It makes you feel better about Microsoft – and thus their products. It’s not trying to be hip. It’s not faux hip. You don’t even know what hip is. This ad is quirky, intelligent, and funny. That’s what they were going for. It’s all win.

Name says:

you all are so DUMB

NO ONE here obviously understands marketing WHATSOEVER, you all are so DUMB.

As people have stated, it holds attention and piques curiosity, and thats ALL it needs to do. It DOES NOT NEED TO SELL YOU ANYTHING. There are ads that SELL you products or good deals (JC Penny 1 day sale! or Kennys Used Cars!) and there are ads purely to build the BRAND.

Which is more valuable to Microsoft??? I’ll help you dumb fucks out. The latter.

The fact that everyones bitching about it just shows that they are bitchy nerds that have nothing better to do AND that it obviously worked very very well.

If this ad sticks in your head, it achieves its purpose. Honestly… sometimes I wish this dumb diggers would think before running with their first instinct (BASH MICROSOFT!!)


Tony Jacobson (user link) says:

Very medium!

This was entertaining but medium at best. I think the very nature of the ad is in “repsonse” to apple and all the inertia they have had over the last couple years. Microsoft isn’t forging a path to the future, they are only barking because the ‘head dog’ (Apple) is barking. There is large-scale erosion happening in their market share from all sides. They seem to be sitting around and not quite sure what to do with themselves.

Tony Jacobson (user link) says:

Very medium!

This was entertaining but medium at best. I think the very nature of the ad is in “repsonse” to apple and all the inertia they have had over the last couple years. Microsoft isn’t forging a path to the future, they are only barking because the ‘head dog’ (Apple) is barking. There is large-scale erosion happening in their market share from all sides. They seem to be sitting around and not quite sure what to do with themselves.

Justin L says:

> There is large-scale erosion happening in
> their market share from all sides. They seem to
> be sitting around and not quite sure what to do with
> themselves.

Microsoft and Apple are old and boring. No one I know cares about Microsoft or Apple. Yeah we’re 19 and 20 year olds, but I gotta say this commercial and the idea of using a Zune or Vista is totally uncool. It’s like, pfff, who cares what these old white guys do.

Tamara says:

Excellent Ad

To the person who says noone under 30 knows who Seinfeld is, what planet are you on?

I’m 16, and I love Seinfeld. I didn’t see the show when it first aired, but I’ve watched the reruns on cable. I watch it every night. Probably seen each episode at least 5 times.

The ad to me is clear what it is meant to be. As others have said “It’s an ad about nothing.” It’s one of a series of ads. The later ads will be in the same vain – another ad about nothing.

Adam says:

Seinfield himself wasn’t funny. It were all the other people in the show that made it funny. This ad is dumb, I haven’t felt any need to laugh, I was just like “WTF?” all the way through it and then “wow, that was lame!”. But Apple ads are also retarded, I hate them too. Anyone who bough a Mac based on these ads is a fvcktard. But then again I hate commercials in general:)


rigoberto_einstein says:

Vista ad

Mission accomplished. Ad deflects the user’s attention from the worthless products MS has dispensed over the past 15 yrs and engages the consumer by appealing to the tendency in people to have everything they want without expending any mental effort….including a PC you can eat.

No wonder all the hi-tech jobs are going overseas. There’s no one here who can think.

Anonymous Coward says:

This seems backwards, has Microsoft Rickrolled the Net?

Your right!

The sheer volume of negative reports from BIG Media Outlets does seem backwards. Usually it’s the small blogs that are critical of things, and then it flows UP to the bigger outlets. This is real BACKWARDS.

It seems fishy, and I wonder if Microsoft even gave advance copies of the ad to the reporters so they could have a negative commentary posted within HOURS of go-live of the ad.


bluebearr says:

I hadn’t heard anything about the commercial before I saw it. First, I recognized Seinfeld, but didn’t recognize Gates. I kept trying to figure out what the point of the commercial was – were Bill and Jerry really advertising a shoe store? I found the jokes to be lame (does Bill Gates have a leather toe? Is everyone in this mall a shoe expert except for Bill Gates?).

The second time I saw it I just felt embarrassed that Seinfeld (who I like) and Bill Gates (who ought to have better things to do) should be part of this turkey.

m74k3H (user link) says:

Left me confused...

I would be considered a Mac fan and a Microsoft-basher, but I’ve earned a good salary working on software for Windows and have used Microsoft products, I’m certainly don’t think I’m a hater.

So with that, the Microsoft commercial left me confused. I haven’t studied Marketing, but my basic understand is that a) want people to know you have a product and b) make the customer believe they want it. The presence of Bill Gates and the Microsoft blurb at then end clearly announced the company. However, the best I could figure out is that they were suggesting something big in the future. And while they seem to be linking choosing a computer with buying shoes, most average computer users aren’t going to buy this.

I can only guess this is a lead up to other commercials that would clarify the message.

I think this is where Apple’s commercials are so much better. They push the message clearly that you can save your pictures, make movies, do homework easily on a Mac.

I do have to say the platinum card was a genius move for anyone who got the joke.

PRMan (profile) says:

Seems familiar...

This commercial was just like Vista. Lots of jokes and shiny, absolutely no point or utility.

Microsoft just succeeded in further cementing what I was already suspecting, that all the people who had a clue at Microsoft have gone elsewhere.

At least Apple’s ads have a point. Apple does X or Y feature better than Vista. They have humor and are cool, but without missing the point that computers are tools that get a job done.

Ura Moron says:

Microsoft (s)ad

I saw the ad and shook my head and thought Microsoft must have struck a pure vein of “lame” somewhere in Redmond. It doesn’t take much to make Bill Gates look like a socially inept putz, but making Seinfeld seem pyscho and creepy, does take some directing skills.

This didn’t make me want to buy Vista, or even find out more about Microsoft, it just made me want to turn off my TV and never turn it on again.

I must say Microsoft could save the money wasted on these ads and use it to fix things in Windows, if they can find anybody that still has a copy of the commented source code.

Microsoft – too inept to know its inept.

Anonymous for good reasons says:

umm what?

I own both and use each OS. I also know a desperate attempt to gain face for an inferior product, and it failed just like the PCs do that use Windows after a few weeks of regular use.

I thought this ad actually captured the essence of Windows perfectly… lets put some gloss on and make a terrible version of something that actually does what people want/like.


I was actually embarrassed for the two multi-billionaires if that is possible

Clint (user link) says:

The negative reaction is part of the plan

I am willing to bet that this massive negative reaction, and all the people saying “i told you MS are old and out of touch” is EXACTLY what Microsoft and Crispin+Porter have been aiming at all the time.

First you affirm people in their believes, while getting an amazing amount of attention. And then you open up the second part of the campaign (this one: ) showing people that in fact Microsoft is not Jerry Springer and Bill Gates trying to “get in touch with ordinary people” – in fact PCs are used by all kinds of smart, trendy and young people and thus are very much in touch with everything.
It will be interesting to see what happens on this.

CR says:

MS ad makes perfect sense

This ad targets baby boomers and their general state of self satisfied mediocrity. In the smug characters of Gates and Seinfeld the ad says it’s ok to be boring and not all into new things like Linux or fancy shmancy designy Mac computers. You like your Ford Taurus and your gated community. You like vista too! I mean it’s what everyone uses! You are the silent majority, and Nixon knew about you, so does Microsoft. You are the ones that are going to keep MS fat and rolling through these competitive times, and that is why they made this ad. It’s to let you know it’s ok, you’re not alone. It’s ok to settle for mediocrity as long as it gets the basic jobs done at work and you can still download porn,( which is what the chewy cake reference and creepy gates ass jiggle thing is all about). I think MS knows their market well, and will keep a lot of it because of this ad.

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