RealTime IT News

The Many, The Proud, The PCs

Looks like Bill & Jerry are history. Microsoft has dropped comedian Jerry Seinfeld from its controversial ad campaign after three spots that paired him with company co-founder Bill Gates.

The ads drew a chorus of criticism for their lightweight marketing of Microsoft, which is barely mentioned, as the duo takes a comedic stroll through Middle America trying to connect, as one of the ads states, with "real people."

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has insisted in various press reports that Seinfeld was never part of the long term plan, but more of a teaser to generate interest. "Seinfeld was not fired, I can show you hundreds of e-mails that this has always been the plan to phase him out," a source close to Microsoft's marketing effort told InternetNews.com.

Also, Seinfeld did not get the widely-reported sum of $10 million for working with Microsoft. "Not even close to that," said the same source.

The ads are part a reported $300 million ad campaign by Microsoft designed to spur greater interest in Windows Vista and partly to respond to Apple's popular "I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ads that shed PCs in a dim light.

The latest phase of the campaign features the "Life Without Walls" tagline and a variation on the "I'm a Mac, and, I'm a PC' persona with various "normal" looking folks from all walks of life, as well as Gates and various celebrities (Deepak Chopra, Eva Longoria, etc.) proudly declaring "I'm a PC."

From celebrities to fish mongers

Microsoft said in a statement that the TV and online commercial spots feature "real people from the diverse community of one billion Windows users around the world - from celebrities to fish mongers - all affirming the sense of creativity and connection that Windows brings to their lives by stating: 'I'm a PC'."

Analyst Martin Reynolds said the Gates/Seinfeld ads got a lot of attention and now Microsoft is providing something more meaningful, showing the breadth of people who use PCs in their lives.

But as much as Microsoft wants to promote its own products, he thinks the campaign could also put a dent in the effectiveness of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) ads, which position the "PC" character as a frustrated fuddy-duddy, jealous of the Mac.

Microsoft's new ads feature one character who looks a lot like Apple's PC guy, played by comic actor John Hodgeman. "I think that's creating a problem for Apple," Gartner analyst Reynolds told InternetNews.com. "It's going to drain a bit of the equity Apple has unintentionally built in the PC character because when you first see the commercial you don't know which company it's for."

If Microsoft wanted to get really aggressive, Reynolds suggests it could introduce an "I'm a Mac" looking character too, but not quite as cool and hip as Apple's. "Even if you have PC emulation on a Mac, a lot of the high end games and certain CAD programs and other applications won't work on the Mac," he said. "There's a lot they could do to play up the PC."