The new Microsoft "I’m a PC" ads are live, and they’ve already received a warmer reception than those from a few weeks back, which featured Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates traveling the world together.
The new ads feature a honest-to-goodness Microsoft employee named Sean Siler, who bears a passing resemblance to John "PC" Hodgman of those notorious Apple "I’m a Mac…and I’m a PC" ads. The commerical introduces Sean in a featureless, white environment, saying "Hello. I’m a PC," and then proceeds to quickly cut between dozens of people around the world who echo his sentiments. Bill Gates even shows up once or twice (as a "typical" PC user), and he almost manages to look cool. The ad ends with a Windows logo on a bright orange background, and the tag line, "Windows. Life without walls."
You can see them here, here, and here (on MSN Soapbox, ’cause I don’t feel like cluttering my blog with a bunch of embedded videos).
Anyway, the point of the ads is two-fold. First, Microsoft clearly wants to rebut Apple’s claim that PC users are all geeky drones with no personality. They present a rich, diverse, and sometimes quirky group of people who use PCs (read: Windows). Some of them even throw barbs of their own at Hodgman’s stereotyped PC geek, such as Gates saying "I wear glasses," an astronaut saying "I wear a suit," or a fashion designer saying "I hate tweed." The message is clear: PC users have just as much personality and flair as the Mac-boi elite. It’s a worthwhile and well-executed approach, but in using it, Microsoft immediately puts themselves in the position of responding to criticism, instead of rising above it .
The second, and somewhat more disappointing, aspect of the retooled Microsoft ads shows that the Gates/Seinfeld dream-team was misunderstood by Joe Public (brother-in-law of Joe Six Pack). A large number of people were apparently confused by or otherwise uncomfortable with the previous series, in which Bill and Jerry found themselves in some odd situtations (a discount shoe store, a typical suburban family’s home), while discussing lots of things except technology. They didn’t understand what Jerry Seinfeld, Conquistadors, churros, Bill Gates’ underwear, dijon mustard, toenails, or leather giraffes from Cabo San Lucas had to do with selling software (nothing, and that was kinda the point). Some people commented that Bill Gates came off a little autistic or even downright creepy (interesting sidebar: the same agency was responsible for those creepy Burger King commercials).
These new ads will certainly be more appealing to mainstream consumers, but I think they’ve lost all of the quirky charm of the original series. Maybe Microsoft will mix it up and drop in on "Bill and Jerry’s excellent adventure" once in a while, too.
PS: This is pretty cool. If you send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, you’ll get a cute (albeit automated) response from him. Neat.