Why Does Microsoft Think We're Stupid?

Scott Francis
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Recently Microsoft took over the BART subway system in San Francisco with a bunch of Windows 7 advertisements.  So far so good. Who can blame them.  Visually the ads even look reasonably good. But when you READ the ads, they make their customers sound stupid. Some quotes:
“I suggested they make it less complicated.  Guess what? Now it’s less complicated.  I so rule.” “I’m a PC.  And windows 7 was my idea.” “Windows 7:  I wanted simpler, now it’s simpler.  I’m a rock star.”
Each of these quotes has a picture of a person to go with it to lend it credibility.  But look these ads make me crazy. First, where’s the authenticity in the advertising?  What do I mean by authenticity?
  1. Who are these people that are quoted?  Tell me who they really are, if they’re supposed to represent me.
  2. Did they even know they were posing for Windows 7 ads or are these just stock photos?
  3. Did they have any say on what quotes would be attributed to them via these ads?  I doubt it.
  4. Would a real person say these things?  Why?
  5. Did Microsoft solicit our opinions on what Windows 7 should be?  I must have missed that memo or survey.
  6. Did Microsoft actually get any ideas from the particular people quoted BEFORE they built the product? Again, I doubt it.
First, Windows 7 was not the idea of the gentleman pictured next to the first quote.  He isn’t holding a laptop, but he has a folio in his hand that likely has some paper in it.  He probably could care less about whether a windows 7 was ever produced. Second, referring to point #6 above: if you watch the ads on tv, combined with the print ads, the point seems to be that there are all these “PC people” running around taking credit for something that they quite literally had nothing to do with – this isn’t normally considered an admirable trait in someone – claiming credit where none is earned.  That kind of behavior is frowned upon in most organizations of any worth.  Why aren’t they saying Microsoft rocks?  or Windows 7 rocks?  The messaging is just wrong at some basic level – painting Windows 7 fans as being some kind of socially inept patronage of low-EQ. Third, the specific ideas, generally not touted in print, but touted in TV ads, are just plain pathetic.  And when they’re actually demonstrated on screen, they hardly look simpler or better (like the side-by side window option… something that Windows could do in Windows 3.1 by the way, using a menu option instead of drag and drop). Microsoft, please.  Please communicate with your audience as if it is smart. Please leverage spokespeople who appear to be smart and reasonable people that I might relate to, not credit-hounds who will say whatever the marketer wants them to say.  Create real fans of your products and let them talk about why they’re fans.  Or use actors but let them make points that appeal to a discerning audience.  The current round of ads are just awful.  Cereal ads are smarter than this.  They don’t have Moms claiming that “healthy cereal was my idea! I so rock!” – they have Moms saying “I was looking for a healthier option for my kids’ breakfast, and now I’ve found it with <insert healthy cereal brand here>.”   Is it possible that Microsoft needs to hire a Consumer Packaged Goods expert from P&G and the like to remind them that they shouldn’t talk down to their customers (and worse, they’re prospects)? Microsoft needs to be aspirational rather than condescending. Can’t wait for these ads to go away.  Microsoft, if you’re listening, do something about it.

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