Microsoft’s new Seinfeld ad: one word – WTF?

Microsoft’s $300 million Vista ad campaign starring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates seems unlikely to revive the fortunes of the sickened OS but it could possibly spell the end of Seinfeld’s career as a corporate pitchman.

Online reaction to the ads which are spreading across YouTube (following their TV debut) with an enthusiasm Vista itself seems unable to muster amongst consumers has been almost universally negative.

I saw the comment ‘WTF?’ on my Twitter feed more times than I’d care to count while every other post on YouTube appears to use the word “suck”.

To be fair many of the negative comments came from Mac zealots who probably wouldn’t enjoy a Microsoft commercial even if it featured Melinda Gates fellating Steve Jobs in a hot tub filled with third-generation iPhones. But self-proclaimed neutral parties couldn’t muster up enthusiasm either.

“I’m no fan of the Get-a-Mac ads but this sure sucked way more” one commenter wrote. Others were more direct: “That was bloody awful.”

The commercials have undoubtedly generated a reaction a point ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky which masterminded the campaign will doubtless be emphasising in PowerPoint slides to a pissed-off Steve Ballmer next week.

However far more energy seems to have gone into attacking the ads than into reconsidering Vista. Perhaps that because the material pretty much ignores Vista unless you consider obscure metaphors about shoes in-jokes about Bill Gates’ speeding conviction and the suggestion that future software might be “moist and chewy” a sensible way of referring to Microsoft’s flagship OS.

“Maybe someone should tell them that commercials are supposed to show off the product in question not throw in a random scene that has nothing to do with it. If my grandma seen this she’d have no clue what was advertised right now” wrote one heartfelt if grammar-challenged viewer.

My own take? For $10 million (Seinfeld’s reputed fee) Microsoft might have been better off giving away a coupon for free RAM with every copy. That would at least ensure that Vista ran with something like acceptable performance.

The choice of Seinfeld who has previously starred in ads for American Express has provoked much discussion but Seinfeld and Microsoft do have some things in common.

One of the central premises of Seinfeld’s eponymous sitcom was that nobody should ever learn anything. The recent history of Windows development is a textbook example of that principle.

There are apparently more ads in the series so it’s possible that by the end of the year Microsoft’s marketing genius will end up being applauded. But I still reckon it’s more likely we’ll all be praying that Microsoft defies expectations and actually does get Windows 7 out the door in the next 18 months. That’ll stop the ad campaign and (possibly) the pain.