This Spot Makes Me Puke

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

Microsoft continues to stumble along its doomed quest for cool with a series of Internet videos that make absolutely no sense. One spot (above) was so incomprehensibly bad that popular outcry got it yanked. 

The campaign is purportedly targeted at Millennials, who are obviously defined by their shared disinterest in anything like functional reality, honesty, or good taste; each spot is a combination faux public interest message/Chris Hansen-like expose, revealing people embarrassing themselves as they suffer various web afflictions that IE8 can cure. The spots have acronym titles, like "F.O.M.S.," for "fear of missing something." A campaign landing page promises a donation, amounting to approximately $1.15, to Feeding America each time IE8 gets download.

Sound just exquisitely mixed-up and wrong-headed? Yup, sure is. And it didn’t have to be:

  • A cause is a good thing. Linking downloads to something meaningful is totally legitimate; Microsoft just chose to blow it up entirely in executing the program. Imagine if there’d been some understandable goal, like "feed a million people for a year," or whatever? Imagine if downloaders could prompt larger contributions by doing more, like participating in polls, or even getting involved directly? A cause-related marketing program without such qualities just reeks of insincerity
  • Funny videos can be useful. They just have to be relevant to the intended viewers, and being so means providing some connection other than artsy corollaries of a fart joke. Does anybody think that Internet browsing is cool or funny? There must be better, still fun ways to illustrate functional benefits of IE8; getting would-be users engaged in relevant content would have done much more for the brand
  • Talking about branding isn’t branding. I love the circular logic that drives campaigns like this: the branding strategy is to get people to talk about the branding strategy. Ultimately, the Microsoft videos tell us nothing about I8, nor does the Feeding America tie-in give us anything compelling us to action. It’s all about how edgy and creative its marketing can be. Download or use IE8? Yeah, whatever 

One fellow bulber suggested that Microsoft shot the puke spot with the specific intention of prompting an outcry (a tactic pulled out of the ‘ol "there’s no such thing as bad publicity" playbook). I don’t think the company is that smart, though the segment is egregiously bad.

Getting attention with the puke spot simply forces the question that all the other spots similarly fail to answer: why should anybody care?

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