Is This Microsoft Ad Too Sexy or Too Lame?

By Mike Schuster  APR 19, 2010 1:50 PM

In its latest marketing blunder, Microsoft's TV ad is edited to avoid possible encouragement of "sexting."


Collectively, we missed our chance. The warning signs were there, but all of us held back, hoping that things would change on their own. "They must see how bad they've gotten," we thought. "They've gotta realize that they've gone off the rails." But as we believed in our heart of hearts that judgment would be improved, that conditions would be remedied, and that transgressions would be long forgotten, here we are again. Powerless bystanders confronted with one foolhardy lapse after another.

Folks, now is the time we rise up and tell Microsoft's (MSFT) marketing execs that they can no longer be left to their own devices. The pain and destruction they cause is far too great.

The latest in a string of poor advertising choices is Microsoft's overly hip spot for its Kin mobile devices. Touted as "social phones," the Kin specializes on social networking -- despite its 15-minute delayed updates and incompatibility with instant message clients -- and is targeted to a youth market. Make no mistake, the edgy website and tagline "Share Life as You're Living It" is thoroughly aimed at Millennials.

Of course, as advertising executives are destined to do, they're completely off the mark when employing what they believe to be "a hipster's lifestyle" in the Kin's marketing. The official ad features an extremely upbeat and well-dressed crowd bouncing and frolicking in foam like a family-friendly American Apparel ad as Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros deliver their post-neo-alt-folk-country tune "Home." Reminiscent of Miracle Whip's "Don't Be So Mayo" ad campaign, the spot is a blatant attempt at a marketing department trying to interpret youth culture and rings utterly fake:

The upturned trilby. The pop-locking. The random hookup. The incessant texting. The... animal costumes? What?!

But as Madison Avenue's version of Williamsburg progresses, a young man gets hyped up into a frenzy, photographs his bare chest underneath his shirt, and sends it via the Kin to a female fellow partygoer -- much to her giggling delight. Ignoring all the other crimes against youth culture, Consumer Reports regarded this as accepting and encouraging "sexting" -- that scandalous trend your nightly news is warning you about.

In response, Microsoft reviewed the footage and noted the scene "did not come across in the spirit with which it was intended," according to a company spokesperson. Adding, "Microsoft takes the issue of sexting very seriously and it was never our intent to promote it in any way." In short, the clip was edited and the bare-chested photo was removed.

Wholly unoffensive photos aside, can Microsoft ever break its streak of unconscionably horrible marketing?

It's been nearly two years since the company blamed the user for Vista's abysmal reception. Shortly thereafter, ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (MDCA) teamed Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in a $10 million bomb about nothing. The company's "I'm a PC" campaign featured celebrities who've championed Apple (AAPL) products in the past and even used images made on a Mac. Television spots for its Bing search engine annoyed many with the rapid-fire spoken search results and rendition of "Oklahoma!"

And the less said about Windows 7 Party, the better.

Look, Microsoft. We're not expecting a runaway hit like Apple's bickering John Hodgman and Justin Long. Or Yahoo's (YHOO) melodious yodel. Or even "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids!" But get it together. Nearly every promotional campaign you launch is rife with mistakes, annoying actors, condescending tones, and positive references to your competition.

Do some research, run the ads by a bigger audience, and stop trying to cater to an oh-so elusive "youth market" with a fabricated and phony representation.

All things considered, however, you were smart to keep Kylie.
No positions in stocks mentioned.