Confronting a gaggle of advertising experts with the befuddling Seinfeld Windows Vista campaign and asking them what they think, Vanity Fair has posted the responses in ironic, old-school, Windows XP error boxes.
Needless to say, some hack whipped out the old “Any publicity is good publicity” canard:
The problem with this whole theory is that it’s easy to get people to talk about you. For example, if I went to a metropolitan discotheque to try to pick up slinkily-dressed floozies, but then toss back ten vodka doubles, excrete in the middle of the dance floor and then split my head open on the rim of the toilet bowl as I combine micturating with passing out, there’d be no shortage of people willing to gossip about my actions at the end of the night. There would, however, be a complete lack of women willing to pay me to have sex with them. As an act of epic stupidity, my display might have been amusing; as a seduction technique, it would have been an abysmal failure.
My point: advertising is about seduction, not mere awareness. Any product can “raise awareness” by being epically incompetent. A car that spontaneously explodes every time an infant is detected in the backseat will certainly “raise brand awareness,” but it’s not exactly going to sell any cars.
Microsoft’s Seinfeld campaign was in direct response nor just to Apple’s blistering “Get a Mac” series of ads, but more importantly to Vista’s disastrous reception by a public that considered the OS to be be puzzling, inconsistent, bloated and buggy. Responding to that with a self-indulgent series of puzzling, inconsistent, bloated and buggy ads was such a forehead-slapping blunder that it raises serious questions about the qualifications of any ad agent defending the campaign. Does the curiously named Anne Bologna understand even the most basic truth about advertising: that an ad isn’t just about eliciting incredulous WTFs, but about selling a product to consumers by saying something good about it?
Or, in the words of Zain Raj:
Error Message: The Microsoft Advertising Campaign [Vanity Fair]