I’ve always been fascinated with branding and advertising campaigns and, sure, I sometimes watch Mad Men and think, “That would be so fun!” – blatant racism and sexism of their office aside.  And I’m puzzled over a recent ad campaign I started noticing in the last few weeks.  As I’m sure many of you know, Windows launched a phone to compete in the smartphone space against Apple.  I’m not going to discuss whether I think that was the right move or not, but I do want to discuss their ad campaign strategy.


In the ads, we see several scenarios of people so absorbed in their smartphones that they completely miss the world around them.  For example, they crash into a fire hydrant and don’t even notice.  They attend their child’s soccer game and are oblivious to the action.  So far, so good – I think Microsoft is tapping into a deep public sentiment that is gathering steam – enough with the phone already!  I’ve experienced this myself – about a year ago, I attended a Tweet Up event which included dinner.  At one point during the dinner, I looked around the table of roughly 20 people to find that I was the only one not typing furiously onto my phone’s keypad.  Remember – these are people who had previously only communicated virtually.  This was their big chance to meet face-to-face and talk.  And what did they do?  They messaged each other while sitting in the same room.  So, yes, when I see the Microsoft ad, I’m on board and have a strong emotional connection to what they’re saying.


Then, they lose me.  Because the punchline is something like, “Well, this won’t happen anymore because Microsoft’s easy-to-use interface saves you time, so you spend less time on your phone.”  Huh?  Let me clue you in…it’s not the ease of the interface that’s causing people to spend so much time with noses pressed to tiny screens.  My theory is that people are addicted to two aspects of a smartphone:  1.  The mental distraction which keeps our minds busy and 2. the feeling of importance that comes with emails that must be answered.  See how critical I am?  I have to stay glued to my phone in case I need to weigh in and prevent the company from going under.


My armchair diagnosis aside, I think Microsoft has a huge disconnect between the problem (too many people embedded in their phones) and how they are solving it (a new interface?).  It doesn’t make sense.


There is one other tiny marketing play in their campaign that I do find more logical, although they made it very subtle.  My husband pointed out that most of the people in the ads are middle-aged men.  I think the logic is something like this…in most families, the husband works outside the home.  In most companies, Windows is the primary operating system.  Therefore, working men will be more comfortable with a Windows-based smartphone.  That could actually be a very successful message (although why the focus on men?  Why not just make it about working professionals?) but also very hard to tease out from the broader message.


What’s your reaction to these ads?