Adwatch Review: Microsoft


LONDON - LONDON - Richard Warren, joint chief executive at DLKW, reviews the Microsoft TV commercial that ranked seventh in the Adwatch poll for 9 December.

Adwatch this week is dominated by the Christmas offerings of the nation's retailers. It's tempting to stick to one of my 'specialist' subjects, but, with our work in at numbers one and 13, I think my impartiality might be somewhat questionable.

So let's take a look at one of the more intriguing campaigns of the year - the launch of Windows 7.

Apple and Google, the brand darlings of the world, have had great success in repositioning Microsoft as the Darth Vader of the software universe - clandestine, defensive and self-righteous.

So any brand strategy from Microsoft that intimates an end to this era of software omniscience - and this one with the line, 'Windows 7 was my idea', abruptly does - is to be welcomed.

A campaign that features proud consumers boasting of their input into the product starts to change our perception of Microsoft and to humanise the brand. So far, so good. My problem is with what it has started.

Mike Fischer, the chief marketing officer for Microsoft, launched this campaign with the PR soundbite: 'This is the year of the consumer.'

Notwithstanding that in December 2006 Time named its Person of the Year as 'you', in reference to individual website content creators, why has Microsoft suddenly decided only this year that is the 'year of the consumer'?

My chief gripe with this strategy is that it just doesn't feel real. It feels like Microsoft is jumping on a band-wagon. It might matter less in other sectors, but this is the one that gave us 'open source' and 'crowd-sourcing'.

Brands such as Linux and Android have consumer participation embedded in their DNA. Even Dell has changed people's perceptions with its consumer forum site, IdeaStorm.

The problem for Microsoft is that the bar for 'consumer participation' strategies in this sector is so high that however laudable its attempt, the very fact of trying cruelly exposes how far short it is falling.

Does 'Windows 7 was my idea' mean, 'I took part in a focus group', or does it mean, 'I wrote the software'? In this sector, when it comes to 'consumer participation' strategies, only the latter now counts.

The execution exacerbates this issue too. The enforced super 're-enactment' completely torpedoes any possible authenticity.

As we all know, the critical issues for any brand seeking to position itself around embracing 'consumer participation' is, is it 'for real', and how far are they prepared to 'let go'?

Four years ago, Microsoft, famously, was prepared to do it 'for real' and to 'let go', internally, with then-employee Robert Scoble's blog. Why not externally now?



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