Microsoft's Turn To Seinfeld May Need Virus Protection

Posted by: David Kiley on August 21, 2008

seinfeld.jpg

When Jerry Seinfeld starts appearing in Microsoft Windows ads, will the fact that he always had a Mac on his desk during the iconic TV series figure into the work created by Miami ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky?

As reported by The Wall Street Journal today, Microsoft, frustrated that its Vista operating system becomes less and less attractive with each passing week, is turning to an ad strategy that will feature the uber-successful comedian Seinfeld, and even company founder Bill Gates.

It’s difficult, and unfair, to pass an opinion on ads I haven’t seen yet. But, going in, I’m suspicious of the strategy of using Seinfeld, 54, to attract new users and would-be Mac users to Vista and thus PCs.

One doesn’t have to look very hard to find the foil to this strategy. It’s the Apple campaign for Mac computers. Quick: name the two actors who play in the ongoing story in Mac ads

in which the cool guy is the Mac and the older nerd, refugee from The Office” is the PC.? Certainly, a few readers of this blog can, but I’d say 99.9% of consumers can’t. [It’s Justin Long as Mac dude and John Hodgman as PC shlub). They do know, though, that those ads are for Mac and that they are entertaining. In fact, the Mac ads have a slight air of having been written by Seinfeld writers. They are that well done by TBWA/Chiat Day.

Using celebrities in lieu of a really good original idea is dodgy business. You know what brand of car Tiger Woods flogs? Buick. During the time that Woods has touted the GM brand, it has fallen bigtime in sales and popularity. Celine Dion was famously hired and then quickly cast aside by Chrysler after the automaker paid her about the same amount of money Microsoft is paying Seinfeld—$10 million. Gap dumped Sara Jessica Parker in 2004 when the actress was at her zenith, because the ads tested so badly. I’m struck by the irony that CP+B’s most successful work to date, for Burger King, has been grounded on original ideas and use of the iconic “Burger King,” not celebs.

One of the few exceptions I can recall, from my childhood, was Paul Masson being given a leg up by iconoclast actor/director Orson Welles, and the Miller Lite ads of the 1970s taking off by using professional athletes and coaches.

But make no mistake…Miller Lite was the star of those “Tastes Great. Less Filling Ads.” The ever changing casting of those TV commercials, pairing unique sports figures, was part of the fun and narrative.

Consider this assertion from a paper by Mohan K. Menon, University of South Alabama, Louis E. Boone, University of South Alabama and Hudson P. Rogers, Florida Gulf Coast University: “ Celebrity knowledge or expertise is defined as the perceived ability of the spokesperson to make valid assertions. The expert spokesperson seems most appropriate when advertising products and services that carry higher financial, performance, or physical risk while an ordinary consumer is considered best for low risk products or services (Atkin and Block, 1983). When celebrity spokespersons were viewed as experts in the product category, they were more liked (Buhr, Simpson, and Pryor 1987). Further, celebrity expertise tends to be highly correlated with believability and trustworthiness.”

Seinfeld’s advertising for American Express

has been very successful. But consider that it doesn’t take any expertise to spend money on a credit card. Many people have caught on to the idea that you can pretty much do anything with a Visa card that you can do with an AmEx. Choosing between a PC and Mac is a much bigger deal for anyone. That decision is usually based on a combination of the consumer’s own usage experience and reading tech-advice articles, blogs etc.

Microsoft is specifically trying to get people to give Vista, which had initial glitches, to reconsider it. It is, in a way, a relaunch of Vista.

This from the WSJ article: “Microsoft's immediate goal is to reverse the negative public perception of Windows Vista, the latest version of the company's personal-computer operating system. Windows is Microsoft's largest generator of profit and revenue, accounting for 28% of the company's revenue of $60.4 billion in the year ended June 30. The software has sold well, and Microsoft retains an overwhelming share of the market for operating system software over Apple. But Apple's computer sales have been rising, and Vista is dogged by the notion that it has technical shortcomings and is hard to use. Apple's latest Mac vs. PC ads take swipes at Vista. Microsoft says early problems with Vista have been largely alleviated.”

And in my experience, re-launch is a word that should be stricken from the imaginary dictionary of marketing terms I keep in my desk.

Re-launch: To spend great sums of money on veterinary bills on a crazed horse that has already been severely injured while escaping from a burning barn. While the horse is being prepared to race another day, much money is also spent repairing the barn whose design will be changed again just when work is completed when a new chief stable director [CMO] is inevitably named.

Seinfeld, though it stopped producing shows in 1998, is the mother of all syndicated comedies. Today’s twentysomethings are just as apt to have seen every episode in re-runs as boomers and thirtysomethings are to have seen them in first-run. Too, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Television, which distributes "Seinfeld"is about to send a 60-foot Seinfeld trailer around to campusus to promote re-runs.

And to think, the first college I attended had neither cable-Tv or the Internet.

Reader Comments

R

August 21, 2008 1:35 PM

At least Seinfeld is likable. Did anybody buy anything because Tiger Woods promoted it? Any success was probably despite Tiger, not because of him.

Gumby

August 21, 2008 2:04 PM

Seindows?

Beltway Greg

August 21, 2008 2:13 PM

Seinfeld has already appeared in the "Think Different ad campaign for Apple. Check out Youtube. Apple should hire Dave Chappelle to hawk its wares. And yes I bought a Buick because I'm sure TIger drives one.

Now get out there and buy some IPhones b**ches."

Beltway Greg

KenC

August 21, 2008 2:31 PM

An apt comparison to the advertising strategy employed by Apple and MS would be to Pixar vs Dreamworks. Pixar, for the most part, Tom Hanks aside, eschews, celebrity voices, and goes for character actors. Dreamworks always goes for the celebrity voices, over character actors.

jim

August 21, 2008 2:38 PM

I wonder if these new Seinfield/Gates ads will focus on a Mac vs Vista, or Vista vs XP? XP users reluctant to make the switch to Vista are most of the population of Microsoft's potential new Vista users. As for the perception "Vista is dogged by the notion that it has technical shortcomings and is hard to use.", well, that is not my case. I am happy with XP and see no benefit with moving to Vista.

mf

August 21, 2008 2:58 PM

This is a fight Microsoft won't win. Think about the Apple campaign years ago with celebrity spokesman Jeff Goldblum. Those, I thought, were great ads because they were the perfect blend of "nerdy cool" –things both Apple and Goldblum embody. Microsoft is just plain ol' nerdy and I don't see the Seinfeld connection changing that nor do I anticipate any creative approach convincing me to get off my Mac to try Vista. In my opinion, HP has come the closet to Apples creative genius with their "The Computer is Personal Again" campaign. The use of celebrity is brilliant and the whole strategy is captivating, engaging and very well executed. CP+B have their work cut out for them on this one.

Dawn

August 21, 2008 3:02 PM

interesting stuff!

Marlon

August 21, 2008 3:04 PM

Okay, is Seinfeld really the answer to the perceptions that Windows Vista is flawed? Excuse me while I chuckle. Don't get me wrong, I like Vista (I have it on my Intel iMac), but Microsoft doesn't need advertising to sell copies of Windows Vista. Apple, by virtue of being a stranger in a strange Windows world, must advertise just so people will know there are alternatives to Windows. Microsoft, just has to let inertia carry the day to win, no work involved.

Let's be honest. Microsoft could produce a version of Windows that crashes hourly, doesn't work with any third party products, and is utterly useless, and yet it will still remain the dominant operating system on the planet. Why? Because nearly every single PC maker finds it easier to license Windows, then to build their own operating system to put in their hardware. Apple is the only PC maker to build their own OS. Microsoft doesn't need help, they've got Vista installed in every new non-Mac PC being made. What about XP? Take away downgrade rights, problem solved. It's within their control to eliminate XP as a competitor.

It just amusing that MS has such an inferiority complex that they view little Apple (well, maybe not so little any more) as such a serious threat to their Windows cash cow.

Prank

August 21, 2008 3:05 PM

As a long time Seinfeld fan, Jerry uses Macs not PCs on the show. So the new ads with Seinfeld won't resonate with me. Jerry has every right to make a living and more power to him. But he chose to put a Mac on his desk for all those years and I believe there were no product placement fees involved. I won't believe the commercial no matter how clever it may be.

Now, if Microsoft chose Kramer rather than Jerry then they would appeal to a different sort of crowd. The crowd that hates people of color. Now there's a differentiator for all the marketing bozos to chew on. But probably not a good idea.

Maybe MS should focus on something else, something that people are interested in. XBoxes are nice enough, even though MS loses money on each one sold...

nadir

August 21, 2008 3:09 PM

you might make a case by saying seinfeld used a mac but with consumers having a short memory... it's not that hard to pull this one off

Marcelo

August 21, 2008 3:31 PM

Ok its likable, but tell me WHY SEINFELD? The best reason to I agree with this post is: Mac ads make the best from simple ads! There isn't stars on their ads, and its really effective! Why not someone new? Well, for us let's just wait and check it out...

Dumbiste

August 21, 2008 3:48 PM

Out of 4 OSes that I am using: OSX, Linux, Vista and XP, Vista is the worse. People are not stupid, they realized what a bad thing Vista is. The UAC thing is absolutely awful and useless. Ubuntu got it better, Mac got it better. No wonder why the Mac adoption is growing. MS lost its focus. Not anymore the place to be for a techie. MS products are riddled with bugs, it seems that they cannot get anything right. Can Seinfeld fix that?

me

August 21, 2008 4:04 PM

Seinfeld as a promoter of Microsoft? Yuk. Apple, here I come!

T

August 21, 2008 4:34 PM

Windows is getting passe... Even "Get a Mac" is slowly becoming "Just download Linux; everything's free, and it works, too."

Jess

August 21, 2008 4:36 PM

Tiger must be making someone money or they wouldn't continue to use him for product endorsement.

MDN

August 21, 2008 4:56 PM

Is this the same Jerry Seinfeld whose eponymous television series basically chronicled the history of Apple Macs on Jerry's apartment desk?

Apple’s 1997 “Think Different” ad featuring Jerry Seinfeld which aired only once during the series finale of Seinfeld:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNDEwsIGJKI

rc

August 21, 2008 5:03 PM

This is going to flop. They are trying to compete with MAC, the MAC commericals have an old man and a young man. The young man represents the college students, the old well it obvious. I see Jerry Seinfeld as being the old, not many college students recognize or even like him, the fact that Micheal Richards was on Seinfeld is more memorable due to his racist rants, thus Microsoft's new marketing ploy will not work. If you want to appeal to the college group try using young famous people and xbox 360 characters. you have to appeal to the crowd and well seinfeld doesn't

trevorblanco

August 21, 2008 5:42 PM

Tough call. Seinfeld was funny in the 90's but that's all past now. I Don't see this turning out too good but, we'll see. I actually think this will help Apple, not hurt. MS can't make do anything right, that goes for adverts. MS is associating themselves with a has been, typical big company bungling.

james M. Anderson

August 21, 2008 6:16 PM

This is the greatest compliment to Mac, Micro-bloat using a washed up comedian to tout its product, also washed up and dated, wow, what a message!

It's me again!

August 21, 2008 7:03 PM

I've been on every Microsoft operating system beta since DOS 5. Microsoft used to listen to user's feedback and make course changes when good suggestions or serious bug reports were filed.

This changed on the Vista beta. I had serious serious issues with Beta 1 and dutifully filled out and filed detailed bug reports. No response. Similar issues were in Beta 2. Serious enough that I really coulden't use the product for day-to-day use to test if fully. Again I reported detailed bugs, crash-dumps, and suggestions large and small on how the product could be improved. Very little response from Microsoft this time, basically saying 'we'll think about it'.

Release Canidate 1 came out, and again there were too many bugs to count, but I reported as many as I could considering the OS was still unusable on my very current-technlolgy machine. I filed bug reports - this time they were closed as status "WILL NOT FIX". This seriously bothered me. I tried to contact the beta program managers directly and their response was that the issues I was reporting resides in NVIDIA drivers that were out of their control. I responed that my system was a typical modern setup and many tens of thousands had been sold, and that they had to support the hardware. They said they would see what they could do.

So the product went gold. I received a copy of Windows Vista Ultimate for my troubles. Again I installed the OS, but the very same problems I had been reporting for OVER A YEAR were still in the product. I gave up in exasperation.

Recently, I tried again, using SP1 and the latest drivers. Same thing.

Microsoft, I loved you, but you went astray with Vista. I've been a Windows software developer since Windows 3.1. I've attended most of your PDC's and written millions of lines of code for your product. I know what I'm doing.

Vista sucks. It really, really stinks. I'm still using Windows XP on my system, even though I've been working much more with Linux, Java, and other non-Microsoft technologies.

.NET is gery good work, and many (MANY) Microsoft products are far superior to anything out there.

But Vista simply stinks. I sure hope Win7 isn't more of the same or you will finally lose me. I WANT to move forward and stay on the leading edge of technolgy, but when your new products are VASTLY INFERIOR to your older products, I simply can't make the sacrifice.

So, will my next system be an Apple or a Wintel? It's up to you, Microsoft. Do the right thing - listen to your testers feedback and make a better product, and I will buy it, encourage my friends, colleagues and neighbors to buy it, and write killer apps that will sell more operating systems.

Are you listening, Microsoft?

LAS

August 21, 2008 7:04 PM

Vista has shortcommings that are going to severely limit it's popularity. For one thing it is a DRM (Digital Rights Management) beast that tries to prevent you from installing/playing copied software and media. Who needs big brother? Microsoft forgot about OS performance with Vista instead focusing on forcing PC upgrades. Apple and Ubuntu Linux are far more secure, performance oriented and useful. Paying for software is so 90's! The world is turning to Open Source and cloud computing.

John

August 21, 2008 7:55 PM

Using a celebrity to promote a product never works for me because I know I have to pay some extra to the celebrity. Instead I will study the quality of the products and then make my decision. But anyway that is just me.

HJ

August 21, 2008 7:59 PM

Seinfeld is not likeable. Ever since his show ended he's acted like jerk. (i.e. the Larry King interview)

God Microsoft frustrates me. Instead of using some innovation or striking back against those Apple ads they buy a celebrity to basically be their friend. I have no doubt these ads will be as good as Bee Movie, which means they won't be good at all. As big a market share as Microsoft may have they have the WORST street cred ever.

James Mason

August 21, 2008 9:22 PM

Seinfeld may be likable but Vista is still complete rubbish. I'd buy an Apple EVEN if Tiger were selling it.

Rob Frankel

August 21, 2008 9:42 PM

This is going to be the biggest bomb since Hiroshima. Check the blog at robfrankelblog.com for more.....

vito positano

August 21, 2008 9:49 PM

My take is that Ballmer is fixing Vista without technicians but with a public relations crew. How Rovian. We recall that Bush's method to fix his bad economy was to write good news stories about it and plant them.

Brett

August 21, 2008 9:50 PM

While Tiger's Buick ads failed miserably, Tiger has been the single reason Nike Golf has risen to the level it has today. Tiger brought respectability to Nike Golf when it was emerging on the scene 10 years ago. On the other hand, Tiger doesn't drive a Buick. At least I don't think so. I'm sure he drives something much nicer.

Celebrities are best used when they relate directly to the products they are marketing. If Tiger uses Nike clubs and balls, then they must me good enough for the general consumer.

The Seinfeld American Express ads were successful because American Express is the an aspirational credit card company. To my knowledge you normally get less in dollars/benefits with their card, but you get special treatment or offers at different locations. For example, Atlanta Airport has special lounges for American Express card members. At the Tennis US Open last year American Express had special short-cut lines and shuttles to move there card holders around.

The relation between the Sienfeld American Express ads and the consumer is American Express makes you feel special. Like a celebrity.

Advertising is all about subtle signaling to the consumer. It makes the consumer believe they need this product, but you can't just come out and say buy my product. You have to have a reason. The consumer then develops the idea that he/she needs a product, but doesn't necessarily every really come to reason that any one specific ad made them buy this specific product, unless it is a product at a price.

Microsoft is making a mistake because they are picking a celebrity just to advertise. They need to relate a well known celebrity that uses it's products in his/her line of business to promote it's products.

F.Guzman

August 21, 2008 10:21 PM

I dont see how having Seinfled would attract the younger crowds. Speaking from a college students point of view most of my friends gravitate towards Mac because they preseive them to be "cool, dont have as many problems as Vista, and are more user friendly" Microsft has a huge battle to fight to get their brand out of the gutter with the college crowd, everyone wants a MAC,its the cool thing to do. The popularity of the iPod with the college crowd has also had some influence on their choice of computers, and we all know how that Zune episode ended. I figure Microsoft is fighting a losing battle(even though the should fight it because when we get older we are going to keep using Macs) but they should focus on reinventing cool not trying to do what MAC does especially when MAC does it best.

Brett

August 21, 2008 10:23 PM

Oh, one more good example of using a celebrity properly was Gatorade and Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan = the ultimate fit, performance machine. Not only was Jordan talented, but he also trained the hardest. How did he do it? Gatorade liked you to think part of what allowed him to train so hard was Gatorade's fuel mix (electrolytes) gave him an edge. The result, Gatorade quickly became the most popular sports drink on the market.

melv

August 22, 2008 1:15 AM

I think that people did buy Buicks because of Tiger. Tiger made buicks seem fun, prestigous, and mainstream. That is exactly what the white male, who plays golf and is over 35 with a wife and family wants to think. He wants to be hip/cool again, only thing is that the wife has a minivan and cool dudes don't ride in minivans no matter what. Solution: get a Buick! Hey! Tiger has got one.

The way that MS can get customers back is by not being MS. Microsoft needs to fix it's broken software and stop screwing over consumers. Vista was a flaming pile of crap. I had it pre-installed on a laptop I bought in 2007. I downgraded back to XP. I want my system to work ergonomically like a Mac does. The Mac interface looks goregous. Windows GUI looks eerily reminicent of Windows 98 SE. Microsoft's interface design pales in comparison to the Mac. MS interface has remained the same ugly blue (the main theme), green, and silver for half my life. I'm now 21 and I want a Mac.

I will change to a Macbook in the near future and sell this laptop on eBay or Buy.com.

I know that one day OS X will be available on PCs, but I can't wait that long.

-melv

Erick

August 22, 2008 1:47 AM

Advertising saving a dud product. When will clients and agencies wake up?

m.r.

August 22, 2008 5:00 AM

Seinfeld is a nice guy but why would you want him to advise you about a technical choice? is he a tech expert?
and what does Tiger Woods realy know about cars? money would be better spent creating a better product!

John

August 22, 2008 6:37 AM

Apple ads show Apple as cool, which it is, or at least many people think it is. Importantly, Apple thinks it is so these are honest ads.

What will be the theme of the Vista ads? Microsoft, I think, has a sort of nerdy, corporate atmosphere to it. If they try to pass themselves off as cool or fashionable or hip I don't see how that would fly. There would be a disconnect.

Jeff

August 22, 2008 10:23 AM

I'm a big Seinfeld fan and I thought his American Express commercials were terrific. But I never did get an AmEx card.

Having a celebrity in the commercial will get people to pay attention to the commercial. Since most of us tune out (or FF through) commercials, that helps the advertisers. Whether it translates into more sales, well, that remains to be seen.

Kevlar

August 22, 2008 12:26 PM

I worked at HP on the first few builds of what was then called 'Longhorn' and later became Vista. We were all excited about what Microsoft was promising for Longhorn, mainly the end of the the Registry, journaling (so that search would actually work as it does in Linux and OSX).

What happened to those two features? Vista still has the registry, and no journaled file system. On top of this vista in very slow, and the graphical 'enhancements' , with a few exceptions, do nothing to add to the user experience.

As with Windows 3.1, 98, and XP Microsoft copied the surface of more user-friendly operating systems, but none of the philosophy behind those sytems.

http://www.learnucd.com/kevlar/the-web-is-dead-long-live-the-iphone

AH2

August 23, 2008 12:42 PM

What might prove most interesting is how Apple responds. This could turn into a bonanza for Apple. Could you imagine Apple adding Kramer to their ad campaign. How about George and Elaine.Why not Newman.

It might be worth Apple paying up to sign the other Seinfeld regulars. This could get very very funny. And Microsoft may come to regret paying Jerry Seinfeld $10 Million. This could end up costing them a lot more !

steve

August 24, 2008 12:59 PM

We recently got a new PC with Vista. It's tiresome, not cool. I'm thinking about getting an Apple for my next computer. Microsoft has a real problem. Operating systems are supposed to be invisible for users other than system geeks. Their need to sell new versions to maintain their profits is in direct conflict with the needs of their customers. Killing off XP has created ill will that will last for years.

John

August 25, 2008 5:27 PM

Loved your article but you missed the point of the Orson Welles "Paul Masson" wine ad. They quickly took it off the air when they realized that every wine drinker who watched it caught the irony in the eyes of Orson Welles. His acting was superb and the commercial worthy of SNL at its best. But endorsing the wine? Not a chance.

From Kiley: I don't think they yanked it off the air as fast you say.

Brian

August 25, 2008 8:23 PM

WSJ is way off base.
Windows is less than 20% of revenue, and questionable as to profitability.

MS Office is the largest source of revenue and provides almost ALL of MS' profits.

Without Office MS would be dead years ago.

BTW: We got a computer from our supplier that accidentally had Vista instead of XP on it. When my staff got to installing the inventory management system on it (that is key for our business) it locked up solid (repeatedly) during the install.
That's when we realized it didn't have XP (it was a new staff-member setting it up), reformatted the drive, installed XP, and its fine.

XP is flaky (compared to Mac, Linux) but Vista is unusable, except with the pre-installed MS apps.

Sell short on MS shares.

george

August 25, 2008 8:44 PM

too funny

Clyde

August 27, 2008 10:52 PM

I like J.S. reruns, I have watch them over and over, they are the best thing since the reruns of I Love Lucy. In my opinon future generations will be watching J.S. reruns for years to come, even after Mac, Linux, Microsoft, etc. have all expired.

Evarog

August 28, 2008 11:53 AM

I have one computer on Vista Ultimate which I have used on the Internet for over 2 years now including 6 months Beta test. Apart from a few applications like Open Office, there is not much in this computer, yet there is 45Gb of stuff on the hard drive. I have had close to 200 updates in the 2 years. This is extreme bloatware.
Microsoft is capable of monitoring what we do, and in the case of a Homeland Security threat, they know our computer chip numbers and can shut us down.
So my work computer runs on XP, and my hobby computer where I do a lot of writing is on Suse Linux 10.2 so it just works and gives me no interruptions.

m.r.

September 3, 2008 6:03 AM

went by the Apple store in a local mall last evenining. it was jam-packed with people!lots of sales reps on the floor.
they were promoting Apple products. they seem to know what they promote. why would anyone want to believe Seinfeld? what does he know about PCs?
MS must think the public is stupid!
money would be better spent putting MS
knowlegeable reps in PC store. but.. that makes too much sense! finis!

OS11

September 8, 2008 10:07 PM

It is the product which is sloppy.

Microsoft needs to spend more on code, and less on marketing.

Fix the product, and stop acting as a monopolist.

People use Windows because they have to, not by choice.

Windows 7 is just UNIX with a pretty face, a complete re-write.

Too many people have been burned too many times by Microsoft. Fool me once...

As if Microsoft has a birthright to have people get excited by horrible, Frankenstein programs?

It is not 1985 anymore.

This is why old-timers get put out to pasture.

They want to keep re-living their coming-of-age days.

It is too late.

People are moving on.

Phineas

November 25, 2008 8:00 PM

That's right - Tiger does NOT drive a Buick. I have friends who work for Buick and they know it for a fact and are very bitter about it,as they should be. The agreement that a celebrity had to sign to prove they actually did use the product they're endorsing was DECADES ago.So how does Tiger Schmiger get away with it?

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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