Well, that’s one controversial marketing plan that will never see the light of the day, unless it’s conveniently “leaked.” Microsoft has pulled the plug on an animated special designed to promote Windows 7 by the creators of the animated series “Family Guy.”
The “Family Guy Presents: Seth and Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show” is still going to air November 8 as planned, but with a different sponsor, according to a report in Hollywood trade magazine Variety today.
“Family Guy” is known for its frequent off-color if not raunchy humor, and Microsoft’s choice of the show as the backdrop for promoting Windows 7 raised more than a few eyebrows. Last year, Microsoft teamed relatively wholesome comedian Jerry Seinfeld with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in a series of inoffensive but largely confusing commercials that seemed designed to promote Microsoft’s vision, though not any specific products.
In the case of “Family Guy,” Microsoft’s statement on the decision indicates someone in charge realized they might be pushing the envelope too far by aligning Windows 7 with the “cutting edge” humor show.
“We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of Family Guy, but after reviewing an early version of the variety show it became clear that the content was not a fit with the Windows brand,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.
“We continue to have a good partnership with FOX, [series creator] Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein and are working with them in other areas. We continue to believe in the value of brand integrations and partnerships between brands, media companies and talent.”
Variety reports Microsoft execs attended a screening of the special earlier this month that included MacFarlane, who voices several of the show’s characters, and Alex Borstein, the voice of “Family Guy” matriarch Lois – pitching Windows 7. The show included typical “Family Guy” style jokes focused on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.
Analyst Ben Bajarin said Microsoft probably reached out to the “Family Guy” group in hopes it could produce something bold and edgy that would counter perceptions Windows and Microsoft the company are boring. “But there hasn’t been a consistent message from Microsoft,” Bajarin, analyst with Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.
“Apple has had a clear, consistent brand message, but I haven’t seen that from Microsoft the past couple of years … a positioning statement that they’re happy with,” said Bajarin. “When I first heard about ‘Family Guy,’ that seemed like an act of desperation. I’d rather seem them develop a consistent message and stay with it, rather than throwing darts and seeing what sticks.”