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Microsoft’s Ad Campaigns: An Overview

Microsoft’s ad campaigns have rarely been memorable.


Product: Windows 95

Campaign: “Start Me Up”

Agency: Wieden+Kennedy

The first TV commercial for which the Rolling Stones licensed their music. Of course, the Rolling Stones don’t exactly scream new and innovative.


Product: Windows 95/98

Campaign: “Where Do You Want to Go Today?”

Agency: Wieden+Kennedy

Montage of all the software that runs with Windows. Not trying to be cool — just utilitarian, like Windows itself. It worked.


Product: Microsoft Office 2003

Campaign: “Evolve”

Agency: McCann Worldgroup

Lame idea: implying that you’re a dinosaur if you don’t upgrade your software. Worse idea: insulting customers.


Product: Xbox 360

Campaign: “Jump In”

Ad: “Zero Hour”

Agency: McCann Worldgroup

This short-lived attempt to be edgy shows commuters on a train platform engaging in a massive imaginary gunfight. Huh?


Product: Windows Live Search

Campaign: “Ms. Dewey”

Developer: Evolution Bureau

Flash-animated site hosted by a “hot librarian” who gives sassy responses to viewer queries — a blatant rip-off of the Subservient Chicken site Crispin did for Burger King.


Product: Vista

Campaign: “The ‘Wow’ Starts Now”

Agency: McCann Worldgroup

These cloying ads — comparing Vista to milestones like the moon landing — managed to hype the new operating system while not saying anything about its features.


Product: Vista

Campaign: “Clearification”

Agency: McCann Worldgroup

Webisodes starring comedian Demetri Martin of The Daily Show, who was signed three months after Apple started running its “Mac vs. PC” ads with The Daily Show’s John Hodgman. The Martin spots were legitimately hilarious, but the virus didn’t catch.


Product: Halo 3

Campaign: “Believe”


Movie F/X whiz Stan Winston created a 1,200-square-foot diorama of a Halo battle scene, complete with 650 figurines in horrific poses. Cool.


Product: Zune

Campaign: “You Make It You”

Agency: McCann/T.A.G.

Psychedelic TV spots show twentysomethings wandering through eerie music videos. It made some noise: Bloggers noted the ad with a Shins song is cooler than the song’s actual video.


Product: General Business Solutions

Campaign: “People-Ready”

Agency: McCann Worldgroup

Microsoft’s big attempt at “conversational marketing” went south after Valleywag carped that influential tech bloggers (Michael Arrington and Om Malik among them) were getting financial incentives to use the slogan “people-ready.” Not cool.


Product: Xbox 360

Campaign: “Parental Street Cred”

Agency: MacLaren McCann

Experts in lab coats ironically “teach” parents how to communicate with kids: “You’re lookin’ straight up gangsta in those def threads, but if you plan on mackin’ in that getup, you be stone cold trippin’.” The real irony: the collective groan from gamers.