Friday, July 10, 2009

Microsoft IE8 ad triggers gag reflex

If you've been reading my marketing and communications perspectives on a regular basis, you know I can come off a bit, um, hectoring and parental when it comes to watching what you say. Even in supposedly private conversations. I know, we should all expect some consideration or discretion. But that's not how the world works. Any time you open your mouth or do something and someone is witness, it's public.

Not only that, everything you say and do can have a very, very long life, one much larger than you might have imagined. Thanks to the very tools I'm using to type this missive, your offhand remark, rash blog entry or revealing Polaroids can be exchanged and archived all around the worldwide web within moments, and endure forever. People whose cultural and moral backgrounds differ greatly from yours will weigh in on perceived transgressions with all the precision and pithiness of Judge Judy dismissing the claims of comely young ladies seeking the return of damage deposits and bail money.

So, with that in mind, let's turn our attention to Microsoft, which recently distanced itself from a very bile filled Internet Explorer 8 commercial known as OMGIGP Internet Explorer 8 Puke Vomit Girl. Directed by one of my favorite comedians Bobcat Goldthwaite, the ad, a parody of 50s commercials with intrusive experts, consists of a woman spewing pea soup repeatedly as one-time Superman Dean Cain explains the wonders of In-private Browsing. I'd have loved to have sat in on the confab Cain had with his agent about that gig.

It's a relatively recent ad, and the company made news last week for, as this story puts it, pulling 'the worst technology ad ever". So why are we talking about old news? Because, despite Microsoft distancing itself from the ad, it the spot is in Advertising Age's list of the top viral ads, thanks to people posting it on YouTube. (The ad was removed from Microsoft's site and YouTube channel, as well as the website of its advertising agency.)

Currently, 750 thousand people have watched the disowned ad, and not many of the comments I waded through are very favorable ranging from 'seriously gross' to 'she was using IE8, thats (sic) why she ralphed'. So the ad continues to draw interest and eyes. And thus, in a perverse way, it continues to do the job it was intended to do: promote IE8, even if in a rogue way and generate discussion around it. The talk may not all be rah-rah for IE8, but the mission has been accomplished. I'm one of many who have given attention to the ad, thus perpetuating its life and the promotion of IE8.

You could accuse MS of being disingenuous, knowing that distancing itself from the ad would create more interest in it and possibly IE8. I don't think that's the case. I think they knew a vomiting girl would appeal to a particular segment of their target audience, but they didn't think about how it would go over with a broad and worldwide consumer base.

Still, for all the talk, all the attention, I don't know that this ever could have been an effective, or affective, ad for MS because it is too out there for the masses. Instead, it's an object for debate over standards and scorn over execution. It comes down to this - sometimes, the decisions you make are like a bad lunch; they have a way of coming back on you. Know your message, your audience and always ensure your creative goes down smoothly, with no unpleasant aftertaste...

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