Oct 10

Microsoft tries the “Lemmings” approach

And now, Windows Phone ad #2.

This one will be more polarizing than the Windows Phone launch ad, because it doesn’t just have some fun with current smartphone users — it judges them.

That first spot poked fun in a kind-hearted way. It said, “Hey, ya gotta laugh at yourselves.” In this follow-up spot, our happy host turns into Mr. Hyde, saying, “You’re all a bunch of zombies.”

This isn’t too far off from Apple’s famously misguided moment, when they ran a commercial that said, “You’re all a bunch of lemmings.” Coming just one year after its historic 1984 commercial, Lemmings bombed horribly because it insulted the very people Apple was trying to impress.

This new Windows Phone ad portrays iPhone and Android users as lost souls living in a twilight world, enslaved by their phones. Oblivious to the consequences of their addiction. Connected to the world yet disconnected from each other.

A first-time smartphone buyer might be spurred to action by this approach. Current iPhone and Android users, not so much. The message Microsoft sends to them is, in effect, “You’re doing it wrong” — which is either insulting or naive.

There’s no mystery why people are so engaged/mesmerized by their phones. It’s because they’re enjoying the hell out of them. They feel no need to be “saved,” especially by a phone that has only a wisp of an app library.

“Getting in and out” quickly, as Microsoft suggests, is not the point of having a smartphone. Accessing rich content is. And every smartphone user already has the ability to get to their content quickly and efficiently.

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, how schizo would I appear if I said I really liked this spot? Well, I do. I love it purely as a creative effort, removed from its strategy. The one-take staging, the slo-mo mood, the Donovan soundtrack — it’s hypnotizing and delivers its message well, ill-conceived as that message might be.

This, of course, is the problem. Creative alone won’t make the world beat a path to Microsoft’s door. A compelling strategy would come in handy.

Remember, Lemmings was a creative gem in its day — but it generated more hostility than love.

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  • I guess if this spot will be successful, people will buy less smart phones (including MW7 ones). The world is not much different from what shown and I am sure MW7 is not the answer.

  • I liked it, too, for pretty much the same reasons you did, Ken.

    I think where this ad really falls short is that it does not show or otherwise explain how WP7 will live up to the promise of getting in and out fast, or “saving us from our phones.” In fact I don’t think the first spot did that very well either…

  • I’ve seen this comment repeatedly, and I have to disagree.

    Yes, you can get to things quickly on an iPhone. But it’s hard to argue it’s airtight and perfect.

    If I have 5 friends I want to get up-to-date with, I have to:

    * swipe unlock
    * tap into an app (let’s say sms)
    * use that app
    * home button
    * tap into an app (let’s say mail)
    * use that app
    * home button
    * tap into an app (let’s say facebook)
    * use that app
    * home button
    * tap into an app (let’s say twitter)
    * use that app
    * home button

    I’ve wanted a dashboard from Apple for a long time. I want my unlock screen to know that all four
    of these siloed apps contain valuable, glance able information for me, that should be aggregated for me.

  • rd

    Notion that lemmings all go and kill themselves
    has been proven false and a Disney propaganda,
    so why is it still prevalent. can’t you come up
    with another analogy.

    As far as Microsoft is concerned. how the
    mighty have fallen, a company has gone
    from “Windows Every Where” (where corporations
    use it 8 hour every day, I guess that is not having
    your head buried) to this. talk about desperation

  • ken segall

    My analogy was to Apple’s commercial, which — rightfully or wrongfully — was titled “Lemmings.”

    I honestly don’t see much difference — other than the fact that WP7 shows some info on the lock screen and iPhone makes me swipe the unlock button before I see my stuff. (Which takes a split second.) The WP7 screen on the commercial shows the number of text messages waiting (like iPhone), the number of new emails I’ve received (like iPhone) and the number of unplayed voice messages (like iPhone). On either phone, I still have to tap once to see exactly what those things are. If WP7 actually makes things easier, Microsoft might think about demonstrating that in their commercials — which they don’t do in any of their spots so far.

  • Why the Euro setting? The car at the end of the spot has EU plates.

  • A lot of the “Mr. Hand” iPhone ads were basically instructions on how to use a smart phone.

    I kind of liked that the two Windows Phone ads haven’t been real “feature-y”.

    Though I do agree that this one is a little insulting. And I don’t think that people on the fence about getting a smart phone will say, “hey – that’s why I haven’t gotten a smart phone – maybe this is the one for me!”

  • @Ken: You posted your comment while I was composing mine.

    As a developer I’m quite excited about the “glance-able” aspects of Windows Phone 7. From my server I can send a push notification to the phone that will just update the text or the background image on my app’s tile – no alerts, no “okay” button, just a little update. I also have the option of sending a “toast” message – which works like a pop-up message

    I think these are cool features – but once again, not so cool that it’s going to change a lot of people’s minds.

    Also, Stephen Fry thinks it’s cool.

  • ken segall

    Okay, the Stephen Fry part convinced me :)

  • ChuckO

    I’m perplexed by not showing the phones in action and trying to sell a smartphone for people who don’t want to use a smartphone.

    The did beat Apple in one regard though. I find “Always delightful…wonderfully mine” even more fey, effete and off-putting than “Magical and revolutionary”.

  • Jay Robinson

    I also like the spot as a creative effort. It grabs the attention. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the message it leaves the viewer with is: Don’t buy a smart phone.

    I think we have a long way to go in devising an attention heirarchy on our mobile devices. Apple will likely do it in paternalistic fashion, Android by creating super-granular setting control. But this ad seems to say: Just leave it in your pocket. But if I’m that kind of person, why am I buying a content phone?

    Microsoft can only reduce screen time by making the phone less compelling. Is that really their pitch?