Microsoft's 'Really?' Ad: Yes, Indeed

Carl Weinschenk
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Smartphones That Work for Business

Our Carl Weinschenk looks at the best mobile tech on the market today.

As a blogger for IT Business Edge, my task is to comment on how telecom and IT technology will impact organizations and, to some extent, consumers.


Commenting on television commercials doesn't appear to fall within that mandate. But, on rare occasions, it does. Smartphones and mobile devices are exploding, and the market share lines are still unsettled. It is into this environment that the latest entrant from Microsoft, Windows Phone 7, launches. Whether it succeeds or fails is a big deal. Though the company seems to have jumped the shark-another television-related reference-it still is massively influential. Its marketing, including its consumer advertising, will have an impact on how well its new releases do.


Now that I've gotten past my defensiveness about this post, to the matter at hand: The television commercial supporting WP7 is dreadful. The idea, which presumably will be followed up in subsequent ads, is that people are so wrapped up in their mobile devices that they lose touch with loved ones and can no longer perform day-to-day tasks without messing up.


Folks in the "Really?" ad do things such as drop phones in urinals and pick them up and, because they are so consumed with their phones, text while giving massages with their elbows and are otherwise absent from the moment they should be in. The pitch is that Windows Phone 7 is so simple that users' mobile business will be fast and enable them to return to the real world quickly.


The problem is that the ad makes the people who are potential customers look, at best, like dolts and, at worst, like dangers to themselves and anyone in their vicinity. I'm not in sales, but one of the basic rules is probably not to portray potential customers as idiots and jerks. The message in the ads is that people are sheep who are captive to other smartphones until Microsoft comes to liberate them. It is hard to interpret the basic concept as anything but insulting and condescending.


Many people found the young lady in this spot for the Palm Pre to be creepy. (I found her Carrie-like.) That, however, was just the case of a bad ad. The "Really?" spot, however, leaves me wondering if as much is being said about Microsoft's ethos as about the new phone. That's not a good sign for an outfit that has not been in the grove for a decade or so and, in its heyday, was famously controlling of-and condescending towards-its customers.

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