Mar 10

Microsoft gives us a good binging

An old boss once taught me to appreciate the absurdity of advertising by imagining the movie version of our meetings. From there, I started imagining the movie versions of meetings I never even attended — like the one that led to the above clip from the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries.


The Bing marketing group sits at a long conference table dotted with Microsoft-logo’ed, environmentally friendly coffee mugs. There’s tension in the air. The chief of Bing marketing, a man who strikes fear into his minions, needs ideas. Every attendee understands the urgency. In the public mind, Bing is but a pale shadow of Google.

CHIEF: It’s showtime, people. What do we have?

Awkward pause. A feeling of dread pervades. Finally, one young buck gathers his nerve and delivers the speech he’s practiced all morning.

YOUNG BUCK: I have an idea. Just think: Google has become a verb, right? You don’t search for something, you Google it. Well… that’s what we need to do. We have to become a verb.

Again, the attendees remain silent — this time out of fear for their colleague’s life. The chief looks agitated. The marketing pros in the room find the idea laughable, and sense the slaughter to come.

CHIEF: And, uh … how exactly do you propose we do this?

YOUNG BUCK (with inexplicable confidence): Two words: Vampire Diaries.

The marketing group starts mentally planning a going-away party. But then — a miracle. The chief ponders the thought.

CHIEF: Young man, I like the way you think. Let’s do lunch tomorrow. And I’d like to introduce you to Steve…

What Microsoft has done is pretty darn silly — because you don’t achieve Google status by pretending you’re a cultural phenomenon. This move reeks of the astroturfing Microsoft has attempted in the past. Google earned a place in our vocabulary by being good, not by putting on a play.

But as much as I enjoy deriding Microsoft, I hold the producers of The Vampire Diaries responsible. Hell, product placement people lurk around every corner, trying to sneak brands into a thousand TV shows and movies. Your production is not obligated to accept their pathetic offers — especially when they force you to violate the prime directive of screenwriting: to hook an audience on your fictional world, you must create a believable world.

In the show, we get a full-screen, amply branded Bing search, along with the spoken words, “so …. I binged it.” Since no one on earth has ever uttered these words, and since the character acts as if everyone speaks this way, the audience is indeed introduced to a fictional world. Unfortunately, it’s Microsoft’s fiction, not Vampire’s.

So in this particular episode, we have two villains: Microsoft and The Vampire Diaries. One has concocted a harebrained scheme, the other has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

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  • Despite this definitely looks as a non-classy, not to say dodgy, game, I think it wasn’t such a bad idea from MS. Once the verb starts to get used, who will remember how it started? Hopefully it will never get so popular :D

  • @ christian : that would depend on how many people watch the show, wouldn’t it? and with The Vampire Diaries, that number appears to be shrinking … if you’re going to get to mainstream, well, get to mainstream … don’t to do it the CW, do it on NBC, get Leno to say it? NOW you’ve reached an audience.

    in film, product placement guys are like lobbyists on the Hill … some actually offer great financial incentives, see James Bond and BMW, then Aston-Martin again, both paying huge to be part of that franchise, others not so much, so it depends on the show or films producers…

  • ken segall

    I agree, if the verb started to get used, nobody would remember where it started. I just don’t think they’ll ever there by doing something as silly as this. It would take a far bigger effort — and even then it would depend on the quality of the product, the quality of the campaign and people’s willingness to be manipulated in such an obvious way.

  • I live in the UK and over here the term “Binge” is used when hordes of brainless youngsters throw themselves in collective coma consumption of alcohol. You seen one lying on a street corner and you think “yep, he binged it”.

  • The sinister music helps explain Bing’s ability to intrude on the privacy of stalker’s victims, which while useful is not the kind of message I’d consider desirable in a placement.

  • Steve

    The definition of Bing is:
    (noun) a heap or pile, particularly of metallic substances.
    This makes the defintion of the verb:
    The creation of a heap or pile.
    Is this just MS creating another heap or pile? It’s weak (and totally lame) even for MS standards!
    When will they hit the bottom of the creativity pit?