I initially wasn’t, however. At first glance at the first ad, it seemed like it was random and jumbled just for the sake of being so. It was pretty funny, but was the type of funny that has already been mastered nearly forty years ago by Python. I do get that it was mainly an introduction to the ads to follow, and it did that relatively well. It just appeared to me that airing that type of thing during the NFL opener was a terrible blunder that didn’t anticipate the audience well. But then I heard a fantastic deconstruction of the ad from Ryan Block on This Week in Tech. Ryan peaked my interest via our shared background in media and communication studies in college, which was the point that I really “got” what was going on here. Whether the ads are effective or not are still in question, and is a question that probably won’t be answered until all of them have been given time to settle in. But for now, I really encourage you to give that episode of TWiT a listen so that you can understand what’s really going on with them and why Microsoft might be banking on them.
Essentially, these ads are huge metaphors for small points that they are making. That may be easy to interpret after a viewing or two, but these are the kind of things that you notice something new about every time. For instance, Ryan makes an excellent guess in that the shoe store in the first ad is a metaphor for Windows itself. Maybe that shoe store isn’t as pretty as some designer store, but it’s cheaper and gets the job done just as well. I’d also venture a guess that “The Conquistador” is also highly representative, perhaps in conveying that Windows is a preferred choice among many power users. Though I’m not sure why they’d insist that it runs tight. The second ad is much better at this type of thing, if indeed this type of almost sumbliminality is the intent. All of the seemingly throw away type of gags all build up to make one point, that Windows is connecting families. It may or may not be a good method for making this type of point, but it at least made me think about it in a lengthy way, which does make it a good ad.
I’m a Mac guy, and there is no way that ads such as these would have me switch back to Windows. And at this point, I don’t think it’s going to make the average user seriously consider switching or sticking to Windows, either. Nor do I really think it is in direct competition with Apple’s great PC and Mac Guy ads, which was a wise move. It may never be seen if these are actually selling any actual product, but it’s very successfully putting Microsoft and Windows into the public conversation.
(Though Vista still sucks, and I doubt it can change that.)