Sep 09

A stealth campaign for Windows 7

You’re likely familiar with Microsoft’s terminally cute Windows 7 commercial featuring 4.5-year-old Kylie (see earlier post). However, an entirely different Windows 7 campaign is being held in a secret location: the Windows Videos page at YouTube. (You actually need to drill down to find the little fellas. One example is above.) It seems that Microsoft/Crispin went through all the work to conceive and produce a new crop of spots, then shuffled them off to the side while Kylie works her “magic” in prime time.

Until we get a witness under oath, we can only speculate what the plan is. I will note that some companies make a rule of producing more commercials than they end up running (much to the glee of my freelance producer friends). Intel, for example, used to take two campaigns to full finish, investing over a million bucks in a campaign that would never run. They needed to have a “backup campaign,” just in case the favorite didn’t fare well in testing. (A quick review of Intel’s last decade of creative will show you how well that worked.)

Maybe that’s the strategy here, with the added benefit that in this content-starved world, there’s no need to shelve unused ads. They can be repurposed in Microsoft’s YouTube showcase of imagination — which then, in effect, becomes sort of a home for retired creativity.

Mystery aside, are these spots any good? There’s a range of work here, most of it comfortably in the “okay” range. Some of them actually make an attempt to promote a Windows 7 feature, instead of just trying to make us feel good about Microsoft. Others, well … they just try to make us feel good about Microsoft. But at least they’re contemporary, and they don’t cynically use young children to score easy points with mainstream America. They’re not awful — but I wouldn’t start packing my bags for Cannes just yet.

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  • Ken,

    Have you seen the “virals” they did with people telling us all how to host a Windows 7 party? Kind of incredible in the most perverse way.

  • ken segall

    You’re stealing my thunder! I was utterly astounded when I saw it, and plan to post about it soon. I’m just trying not to bash Microsoft so very often. (Though I find it’s difficult to restrain myself.)

  • ken, let yourself go… it’s alright to not like weak work…

    what the hell? Star Trek does 7? or vice versa? can we please let go of the “my laptop controls my world via CGI” thing? that you can take a picture, send it around the globe in an email and have that play out to innocent civilians in the background that just wanted to smoke a joint and play hacky-sack is not telling me anything about the OS.

    EVERY OS does that, all three of them…

    and those virals elevate MS to the level of a Tupperware party…

  • ken segall


    Forgive me. I think I watched the Kylie commercial one too many times, and now I’m going all sugary on you. You’re right about the OS benefits being rather me-too-ish. I’m just being mindful that coming up with an OS campaign isn’t an easy thing to do. Just to knock Apple around a little (and savor this, because you know how often it happens), they tried multiple times over 15 years to come up with a good anti-Windows campaign. Each was perfectly logical, but failed dismally. Only now have they finally scored with the Mac. vs. PC, which I really do love — but it demonstrates how hard this is.

  • agreed, but i believe that Apple stuck with something and broke it down to advance it, yes? i don’t recall 7 new directions in one year, like the current crop of MS stuff… sure, it’s easy to knock work AFTER it’s released into the wild, but it’s also easy to stop for that half a minute BEFORE you release and think (with everyone in the room) “is this the best we could do now? will this fly?” all the while being mindful of your observation that it ain’t easy…

    which is what i think is a main problem with the CPB / MS relationship… too quick to rush to market, resulting in many missteps and people in and out of advertising sitting there scratching their heads… more than a few friends and family have asked me “what the hell was that about?” with each new iteration from Boulder/Redmond… “it didn’t fly? no problem, let’s do it this way this month!”

    i had no answers except to sit there as befuddled as they …

  • ken segall


    Correct. Apple didn’t try multiple times in one year. They gave it a rest and tried once every few years. You hit upon one of my favorite problems with our whole business. Too often stuff gets out that you can’t imagine could ever get past the layers of approvals necessary to clear the path… but it does. Often. In my opinion, the real problem is a lack of leadership and a clearly articulated vision. Without those things, everyone’s just shooting in the dark.

  • Vik

    The ad portrays Windows 7 very similar to Vista… I’m unclear as to what the differentiator(s) for 7 is/are. Not a great strategy when they’re aspiring people up-convert…


  • i do believe you’ve hit on the main sticking point, ken: leadership without clear articulation. maybe it’s everyone being PC (not THAT PC)?

    Apple seems to have handled that end pretty well and you’d think that would be a clear mile marker for others, like MS, to follow. there are a few companies that do the same thing: here’s our goals, here’s how we’re going to get there and here’s what we’d like to say along the way… and then stick to it.

    i believe MS would gain a lot more ground if they didn’t try to play catch up so damned much. they certainly know the landscape but seem to be unable to drive on it, no matter what vehicle they get…

  • ken segall


    Yes, I agree completely. I don’t get the feeling from Windows 7 that it’s any different than Vista. I’m not compelled to investigate or upgrade.


    I agree completely with you too. But maybe that’s just because you were agreeing with me? While we’re being so agreeable… I too have always been amazed that other companies can admire what Apple has done, easily observe the principles behind their success, yet be so incapable of adopting similar principles to drive their own success. It takes real leadership to keep a company on track.

  • that’s interesting about everyone using Apple as a yardstick but never following the path they made…

    how many presentation decks have you seen go out in new biz pitches with “industry leaders examples” like Apple, Nike, HBO, etc… who have, by the by, clearly defined and charted methods to their success, followed by the “and here’s what we came up with after citing those category leaders…” section and the work shown is not even in the same galaxy as any of the companies mentioned as the leaders?

    that type of leadership certainly needs to be addressed…

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