In college football, large football-factory schools like Ohio State will often schedule games against vastly inferior opponents to help them pad their record and standings in national polls. During these games, the football factory school will attempt to score as many points as possible. It is not unheard of to see a school up by 30-40 points in the second half and still throwing the ball deep, frantically trying to run up the score to make the win more impressive in the eyes of national poll voters.
(What does this have to do with this commercial? Simmer down, I'm getting there.)
During their undefeated 2007 regular season, the New England Patriots adopted this approach while playing other NFL teams. Up with a comfortable margin, the Patriots would continue trying to score as much as possible rather than adopt a conservative, run-out-the-clock approach. ESPN.com writer and Patriots fan Bill Simmons calls these late scores "Eff-You Touchdowns." The point of scoring was no longer to improve their standing, but rather to rub their superiority into the faces of their opponents. They were the unstoppable juggernaut.
Well, after watching the above ad, I think that I have seen the world's first Eff-You TV Commercial.
What other explanation is there? The ad is inexplicable. Watching it for the first time, I had no idea what they wanted to sell me. In fact, the word Microsoft is not said until 70 seconds into the 90 second spot.
Is the ad supposed to be humorous? Then why hire Jerry Seinfeld? He's hasn't been funny in years. There was exactly one unfunny episode of 30 Rock ever made, and it was the one he guest starred in. He doesn't make jokes, he is a joke. And he doesn't exactly get back on track with this ad. I chuckled mildly once. ("Is this your toe?" "No." "Then what is it?" "Leather.")
And even when they do get around to talking about Microsoft, they don't actually talk about real products or features. Instead, it's computers that are soft and spongy like cake and billionaire software developer Bill Gates shaking his rump.
Now, compare this ad to the ubiquitous I'm a Mac, I'm a PC campaign
that Apple has been running since 2006. In the place of unfunny ex-comedian Jerry Seinfeld is funny comedian and hobo expert
John Hodgman. The ads are funny, concise, and iconic. And, most importantly: the ads actually talk about Apple products and services! No foolishness about sponge cake computers. Instead we hear about the genius bar, or time machine, or how easy it is to switch from PC to Mac, and on and on.
Three years in, Apple has made some headway. Since 2006, Apple has jumped from a market share of 6%
and Windows Vista is such a dud that Microsoft has to trick people
into even trying it. Microsoft would seem to be on the decline.
That is until you remember that, despite these gains by Apple, Microsoft is still the dominant force in PC market. And that's what this ad is all about. It is a message to Apple.
"Make all the cute little ads you want. We're still the juggernaut. We're still the champs. We don't need a great ad campaign to get our products or our name out there. In fact, watch this: we're going to launch a completely confounding ad campaign starring our awkward founder and possibly the least funny man in show business today. It won't matter. Eff you, Apple."
Eff you indeed.