8.222008

seinfeld isn’t going to rescue vista

According to the Wall Street Journal, Jerry Seinfeld has signed on as pitchman for Microsoft’s VistaThe $10MM deal is reportedly part of a $300MM campaign from Microsoft to counteract the damage to Microsoft’s image resulting from Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads that trash Vista.

The news has set the blogosphere ablaze with criticism.  Gawker.com says “using Seinfeld humor in ads was already considered tired three years ago.” BusinessWeek’s David Kiley questions the logic of the move, pointing out that in his sitcom Seinfeld always had a Mac on his desk.

Timing is the issue for Bob Williams, CEO of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing, the company behind such great brand/celebrity match ups as Jenny Craig & Kirstie Alley and Hanes & Michael Jordan.  He remarks, “Having Jerry Seinfeld promote Vista now is a curious move.  If industry reports are correct and Windows 7 is going to be out early next year, why spend $10MM to promote Vista now?”

The deal doesn’t make sense from a brand perspective either.  I won’t debate whether or not Seinfeld can make Microsoft Vista seem cool — that isn’t their problem.  Microsoft isn’t cool and that’s OK.  What people need to know is that Vista works.  A Google search on the phrase “Vista sucks” delivered 230,000 results — the videos and blog posts make it clear that people want to use Vista, but they’re encountering serious and numerous problems doing so.

So Microsoft first needs to fix the product — then it should commission a campaign to convince people that it has.  Regardless of star power, even the most creative advertising is going to ring hollow if the product doesn’t live up to its promise.

But even assuming Microsoft does indeed clean up Vista, I’m not sure Seinfeld is the right association for the brand.  After all, he played a skeptical, glass-is-half-empty kvetcher for 9 years — not quite the type of positive image equity Microsoft needs to derive from a spokesperson.  Perhaps the only way to properly use Seinfeld in ads would be for him to issue challenges to Microsoft to prove that Vista works — and for Vista to step up to the plate and prove its worthiness of his esteem (a la, is Vista “Seinfeld-worthy?”)

From what is being said about the ads, however, it seems they intend to stress how Vista “breaks down barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting.”  So I guess we’ll just have to add this campaign to the long list of efforts by companies that create a huge gap between what their brand says and what it really does.

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