If you haven't been paying attention, over the past couple of weeks Microsoft has been releasing a series of advertisements designed to boost their image and tell their story. The first commercial featured Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld together in a shoe store, and the second had Gates and Seinfeld move in with an ordinary American family.
This past week, Microsoft moved into the third phase of its advertising campaign, entitled "I'm a PC". It's pretty good, if you haven't seen it, you should check it out.
I think that these are a very clever series of ads. After the first one you could be forgiven for not knowing what the point of the ad was, and while the second had a definite story, you still might not know where Microsoft was going. But certainly, after releasing the third one, we can definitely work our way backwards and figure out what the deal was with the first two.
Let me attempt to give my interpretation.
The third ad is a direct response to Apple's "Mac vs PC" ads. Microsoft's ad says that PCs are for everyone, from the Obama blogger to the McCain broadcaster to the African school teacher. It pokes fun at the Apple ads as if to imply that Macs are elitist; geeks use PCs whereas cool people use Macs. Microsoft counters by saying that not everyone is cool, we all have our own roles in life and there's nothing wrong with that. PCs are for everyone from all walks of life.
So how does this fit in with Gates and Seinfeld? Consider the message in the third ad - that PCs span all social stratifications. In the first ad, Gates and Seinfeld are quirky; Jerry wears his clothes in the shower and Gates has his discount card which he has had for 30 years. The two are a little out of touch, but they, too, are PCs.
The second ad shows Gates and Seinfeld attempting to connect with a real, average American family. This one has more of a storyline and comedic feel to it. It's designed to show the humorous side of Microsoft. But while we do have an element of "I'm a PC" foreshadowed in both of these ads, the real message is very subtle and you could miss it: at the end of the first commercial, Seinfeld asks Gates if Microsoft is coming up with something to make computers yummy and delicious. In the second ad, Seinfeld asks Gates if Microsoft is coming up with a frog with an email, or a goldfish with a web page. In all of these cases, Gates responds in the affirmative.
This is a joke, of course, but the point is further clarified at the end of the third commercial: Life without walls. The slogan "Life without walls" is about how software enables people to go further beyond what was previously possible. The schoolteacher in Africa can connect with a billion people. The environmentalist in the arctic can connect with supports back home. Barriers that were previously huge obstacles (in this case, remote isolation) are now overcome; what was once a wall is now no longer there. Software enables us to live life without walls.
That's what Seinfeld and Gates are alluding to in both commercials. Turning computers into something delicious is a wall because computers are not food. Frogs cannot do email, goldfish cannot create web pages. These are walls. When Gates responds by saying "yes, we are working on these features", he is effectively saying that Microsoft is working on software that will break these walls down. Things that are obstacles are obstacles no longer.
So that's what I think. How about you?