So Microsoft dropped the Seinfeld ads - anyone think they might have figured out that the last few years of his show prominently featured a 20th Anniversary Macintosh?
The first in the series of new ads is different - but raises similar questions about which company the people who made it are actually rooting for.
The top line message in this ad is superficially clear: "it's ok to be a PC user because lots of other people are too" - and the carrier for that is the subtext that "using a PC is PC".
The first problem I have with this is that its impossible for Microsoft to say that it's ok to use a PC because lots of other people do too, without raising the specter of non PC users - and thereby contradicting it's own core sales premise: that you have to buy into Microsoft's lock step upgrade process because everybody else does.
The subtext message is worse: their decision to remind viewers of Apple's ads by using the "I'm a PC" personification in their opening scene has to be counter-productive for Microsoft - and then they double down on that effect by replacing the humor viewers expect from the Apple ads with a grim recital of politically correct labeling as their actors say things like "I design green buildings", "I blog for Obama", and "I turn number two into energy."
And if that isn't enough, you get a whole collection of ginzu knives with the ad: to balance, for example, that Obama reference they have a guy say he "broadcasts for McCain" - but most people know that McCain doesn't own any radio stations and while he has lots of supporters who work in radio, nobody "broadcasts for McCain."
Second, they have a crowd scene in which some actor claims that being PC connects her to a billion people - but even the most ignorant and bigoted of PC fans knows that the actual connections are almost all handled by Unix while only the most venal of target site operations explicitly favor Microsoft clients over Mac OS X and other Unix clients.
Overall there's an interesting parallel to Vista in these commercials in that you could almost see a couple of genuinely creative people pitching an ad idea to a Microsoft committee - which promptly repudiates the humor, destroys the creative idea by earmarking in old ideas in exchange for votes, and allows its own collective bafflement and anger at falling further and further behind Apple to turn the final product into a hallowean house kind of Apple parody.
So what's the bottom line? Well, if an ad agency approached your company to sell an ad whose opening highlights the competition, whose core message contradicts your primary selling message, and whose ending invites anyone with two brain cells to rub together to consider the ad a lie, would you hire them?