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A Decade of Dreadful Microsoft Ads 220

Barence writes "PC Pro has rounded up the most howlingly awful examples of ads churned out by Microsoft over the past decade. The selection includes the cringe-worthy Gates & Seinfeld ads — where Gates looks like he’s delivering his lines with the help of a cattle prod — to the terrible Windows 7 party ads (an 'F1 key for social inadequates,' according to PC Pro), to the one that got away: an excellent in-house training video produced by The Office's Ricky Gervais."
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A Decade of Dreadful Microsoft Ads

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  • by linebackn ( 131821 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:43AM (#30582496)

    I've seen that Windows 1.0 video before, but is that a real commercial? I don't think I have ever seen any authoritative source information included with it. It looks more like a humorous self-parody that was made much later.

    On a side note: if it is real, did Balmer ever have hair?

  • The 7 second ads make me want to puke. The actors talk like they either had way too much coffee or seriously need mental help. If an operating system requires you to be that hyper to use it, then it probably isn't one you should use.

    Yes, I know Windows 7 is actually good, but the ads don't really tell us why.
    • The two I've seen both talk about a feature that I assume is part of the "actually good" thing.

    • Yes, I know Windows 7 is actually good, but the ads don't really tell us why.

      Hello, I'm a Mac.

      And I'm a PC.
      ... wait, you already know where I'm going with this.

  • by introspekt.i ( 1233118 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:48AM (#30582538)
    I don't know why everybody hates them.
  • And the Linux ads? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johnsie ( 1158363 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:56AM (#30582626)
    They were pretty bad too... The commercial with the little kid being brainwashed by Linux fanboys? The Obvious advertisng winners of the 00's were clearly Apple. They got the memorable TV ads and also got the word of mouth thing right. Linux and Micrsoft were the epic failures of the last decade, more so toward the end of the decade.
  • by dwheeler ( 321049 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:57AM (#30582642) Homepage Journal

    They missed some hideously-bad ads for Microsoft.

    My favorite "bad Microsoft ad" is a 2000 TV ad, which uses the musical theme of "Confutatis Maledictis" from Mozart's Requiem []. The screen says "Where do you want to go today?" while the chorus sings "Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis" ("The damned and accursed are convicted to the flames of Hell").

    There's also a 2009 ad featuring a vomiting woman [].

  • by Greg Hullender ( 621024 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:02PM (#30582692) Homepage Journal
    The Mac vs. PC ads that Apple runs have benefited Microsoft enormously because they've forced it to focus on serious quality problems that management had successfully ignored for years on the grounds that "nobody cares about that." It's hard to argue that nobody cares when someone is rubbing it in your face on a daily basis. When I was at Microsoft (over 14 years), nothing was more frustrating than reporting an inexcusable quality problem and having it dismissed on the grounds that "it's been in the last several releases, so it doesn't need to be fixed."

    When I play with Windows 7 and the new Office Beta, I see dozens of my pet peeves fixed, and I'll give a lot of credit to those Mac vs. PC ads. The most effective ads for Microsoft -- ever!

    --Greg (In some sense of "for" of course) :-)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by alen ( 225700 )

      a lot of it is perception

      apps like Google desktop became popular so MS put the functionality in Vista. when the crap that is Google desktop slows down your PC it's OK because it's cool when Google organizes your data. when the MS indexing service did it in Vista it was crap because it was Microsoft.

      same thing with Apple. when people got viruses pirating some Mac software it was their fault since p2p is dangerous. when people do the same thing on Windows it means MS sucks

      i'll probably get a Mac next year jus

      • same thing with Apple. when people got viruses pirating some Mac software it was their fault since p2p is dangerous. when people do the same thing on Windows it means MS sucks

        You know what else is dangerous? Entering your Administrator password when installing pirated software downloaded through p2p.

        Apple can't fix stupid.

      • apps like Google desktop became popular so MS put the functionality in Vista. when the crap that is Google desktop slows down your PC it's OK because it's cool when Google organizes your data.

        No, it was OK because I chose to install Google Desktop, or not. Indexing came enabled by default by Vista, I didn't chose to have it so much as I had to go out of the way to not have it. Yes it's simple to disable but the ease of that does not enter in the equation.

        What is not, and has not ever, been OK is to have

        • So you have it installed? What exact use do you get out of Google Desktop?

          I ask because I remember installing it a long while ago but I didn't keep it long for whatever reason now long forgotten. I guess I'm looking for an anecdote regarding it's abilities and how they're used on a regular basis.

      • "same thing with Apple. when people got viruses pirating some Mac software it was their fault"

        Or it would be, if that had ever actually happened.

        "a lot of the old time Mac fanboys are noticing and complaining"

        Such as?

        Seriously, how did parent get modded up?

  • IANAL, but after the 7min mark, is considered a crime against humanity in most civilized nations.

  • by Slash.Poop ( 1088395 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:06PM (#30582722) Homepage
    Can anyone really deny this was the decade of Microsoft?

    XP released in 2001, is still going strong and will be for quite some time.
    7 released in 2009, is going strong and has received great reviews.

    Server 2003 released in 2003, is still going strong and will be for quite some time.
    Server 2008 released in 2008, is going strong and has received great reviews.

    There was the Vista speed bump but overall this was without a doubt a Microsoft decade.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Well, the stock never returned to its 2000/2001 peaks, and the company's reputation never recovered from the bashing it took during the big anti-trust case. I'd say the 1990s were Microsoft's big decade -- the double-zeros weren't a complete disaster, but they were hardly a triumph.

      If the double-zeros belonged to anyone, it had to be Google. They went from nothing to a household word, and they didn't even have to advertise to do it.


    • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
      Depend how you read "Decade of", probably in absolute numbers in personal computers Microsoft could had it. Apple did big this decade with OS/X, iPod and iPhone. And Linux and open source got a great decade in internet servers and improvement of public perception, The other big player that could be claimed to be the "Decade of" is Google. If trends continue this way im not sure who will own next decade, but probably wont be Microsoft.
    • XP released in 2001, is still going strong and will be for quite some time.

      It's still going strong not because XP is a great OS, but because there was nothing to replace it with until Windows 7 came along. If you wanted to run Windows, you had to run XP -- you had no choice.

      Contrast that with Apple that's had several major OS upgrades since OS X came out.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        And also abandoned a large swath of users.

        I love my mac, but I am pissed that they flipped all us PPC hardware owners the bird. Not all of us Apple users have buckets of money laying around.

        • I am pissed that they flipped all us PPC hardware owners the bird. Not all of us Apple users have buckets of money laying around.

          There's no compelling reason for the average user to upgrade to Snow Leopard: it adds little to Leopard. Leopard still runs on PPC and will be a great OS for years to come. Is there something that your current PPC/Leopard Mac doesn't do for you?

          Also, PPC owners have known about the transition (and eventual abandonment) since 2005. They've had nearly half a decade to save up

    • Microsoft is still a very profitable behemoth, but in this decade, Windows Mobile has been seen largely as a flop and some suggest it may be dropped completely.

      Microsoft paid for exclusive titles for the XBox platform like mad, which had hardware failures like mad, and the XBox division just hermorhages money left and right.

      The Zune is regularly mocked as a weak immitator to the iPod (though I wish my iPhone had an OLED screen).

      Microsoft lost OS market share to Apple, lost massive browser share to Firefox,

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by diamondsw ( 685967 )

      No, it really wasn't, because the 90's were when Microsoft's dominance was on the upswing and they seemed invincible. (Windows 3.1, 95, NT4, Office 95, IE, etc). Now they're slipping on many fronts (Windows Vista, IE marketshare, Office 11, Silverlight, WMP/WMV/Zune, etc). They haven't lost yet, but only because they have so far to fall.

      Seriously, the only bright spots for Microsoft this decade where they've improved over last are the Windows Server line and the XBox.

  • The scene where Gates is reading Code Complete as a bedtime story to the little girl single handedly made me want to buy the book
  • by anomnomnomymous ( 1321267 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:10PM (#30582778)
    The second one can be found here []

    Both are excellent comedy imho.
    • yup, my favourite bit was right at the end of the first video: "its rubbish, it doesn't work and its full of viruses". Seems they saved a bit of truth after all the funny stuff :)

      Come to think of it, there was a fair bit of other things I think 'softies should consider to be truths: "keep your good ideas to yourself, make them work for you and maybe set up a rival company". That's what made the Office such good comedy, it was based so much on a solid foundation of things everyone knows.

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:18PM (#30582846)
    Sure, Microsoft has made some terrible ads. And when the get a good one they follow it up with a bad one. The "I'm a PC and I'm 4 and a half" ad was pretty good. The same girl doing the "happy words" ad was terrible.

    Lots of people like the Apple "I'm a Mac" ads but I find them to be terrible for a different reason. I think elevating your product relative to your competitor by calling them down directly is mean-spirited and low.

    To me those ads make Apple seem slimy. They are what you get when you take an American political attack ad, throw in some whimsy, and add a generous helping of conceited snobbery.
    • But Apple is so clever at reversing that strategy. It is always the PC who comes to the Mac and tries to bully them saying how they are superior. The Mac takes the abuse, plays the nice guy, and comes out on top.

      Even though Apple is slamming Microsoft in these ads, they play themselves off as the victim. It is the most clever mud-slinging campaign I've ever seen. It really is brilliant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by diamondsw ( 685967 )

      The whole point of those ads is to point out the flaws in Windows that people take for granted, and say "it doesn't have to be that way".

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:19PM (#30582856)

    In the early days of Linux (and still somewhat not, though less common) a common thread here on Slashdot was that Microsoft succeeded because of 'marketing'. What about dinosaurs with neckties made you want to buy Office? Or some girl projectile vomiting made you think IE was a good browser?

    Microsoft succeeded by knowing that network effects are important, and making sure everyone who could possibly run their software had it, thereby locking them in for the long term. Once they had that dominance, then they could force people to do things illegally. For those that simply say 'monopoly' and do no other analysis, remember in the early days Microsoft was just one of a few companies, and only once network effects started rolling in did they achieve dominance where they could dictate.

    Linux did itself no favors by screaming 'marketing' every time there was a comparison against Windows when they could have thought how to get those network effects and push out on the desktop somewhat.

    • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:29PM (#30582974) Homepage

      As long as Linux can't run the majority of the required software and devices it won't matter how good or bad its marketing is.

      • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @01:21PM (#30583616) Homepage Journal

        I'm not sure if people realize it, but the device portion is largely taken care of.

        Try upgrading to Windows 7 today, and notice that suddenly your printer or web cam no longer work, because there are no drivers, especially since OEMs are pushing x64 bit versions of Windows 7.

        Conversely, Linux supports more hardware than any OS on the planet, from small embedded devices, legacy hardware, desktops, servers, tablets, phones, to super-computers.

        The 2.6.33-rc1 kernel even has an OSS Nvidia driver built in now. Most Nvidia and ATI hardware should work out of the box without proprietary drivers (not that I'm opposed to proprietary drivers if they truly work better).

        I find most hardware just works out of the box with no work in Linux, but I find myself hunting for drivers in Windows all the time. People are stuck in this mindset that Linux hardware support is lacking, but that just isn't the case.

      • I'm writing this from my Linux machine at work. It was purchased by my office and I was told "here's your machine, enjoy". There were no considerations on "does this work" on any components. And oddly enough, everything works, just like just about every component I've used for a long time.

        I upgraded two machines to Win7, and both of them had problems with the existing hardware. Two different devices where the manufacturers don't support anything higher than 32 bit Windows XP

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Linux can run the majority of hardware. in fact it runs more devices than Windows Vista or 7 can use.

        Dont believe me? I've got 5 scanners that are not Vista or 7 compatible, yet hey work perfectly under linux.

    • Marketing is more than advertising, which is just a sub-set of marketing. Marketing is also about closing sales and landing exclusive contracts. Microsoft did a great job of positioning themselves in their respective markets and strong-arming the competition.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      The network effect was critical, but they got that going through marketing. They spent years strapping rockets to pigs in order to capture the network effect. By the time /. started, they were well into enjoying that network effect that marketing (and a number of unethical business practices) helped them to establish.

      Linux, having no marketing budget has had to go with guerrilla marketing. All things considered, it's done quite well for itself, it just hasn't cracked the desktop yet.

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )
      You are confusing marketing with advertising. Networking effects purposefully pursued (and sometimes illegally enforced) were part of Microsoft's marketing efforts.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:31PM (#30582988)

    I like informative advertising -- here's the products, here's the pricing. Grocery store inserts in the paper are very useful advertising. This also extends to informing people about a product. "Did you know this was available? Now you do and know where to get it if you want it." Direct, honest, acceptable. Persuasive advertising makes me see red, the stuff that's trying to create demand for a product. You're trying to create an emotional response in me, you're trying to use sex, vanity, greed, and jealousy to make me buy your shit? Unacceptable. And when you get some fucking corporate behemoth like an insurance company put out a little heartwarming mini-story and try to link their brand with that emotional response, that blatant kind of manipulation makes me want to start supporting capital punishment.

    The funny thing about advertising is that the numbers are so soft. How do you judge the effectiveness of a marketing campaign? How can Coke tell if the billboard down the street is doing anything to keep their brand going? I really wonder that when I see billboards advertising stuff like a CNN show or a local comic with a limited engagement. How can they possibly measure the effectiveness of that ad? At least on the web there's a chance of measuring the clickthroughs though that does nothing to show the people who remembered the url and typed it in directly later. There's really no hard, scientific way to measure this shit. If a product does well, do you credit the quality of the product or the advertising? There's too many variables.

    I suppose dog and pony shows can convince idiot IT directors to make expensive decisions. "Let's go with this vendor. They put out a nicer lunch spread than the other one." But is that always effective? I can't think of a Microsoft ad that informed me of anything useful. All the vague, emotional appeals they make could apply just as easily to the current product or the one that came before. There isn't a single Microsoft product I look forward to using, I simply use them because they're what everyone else is using and there's not much choice. It'd be like the fucking water company advertising to get people to drink more water -- haven't got much of a choice there, bub. Exchange 2007? No compelling need to upgrade. We'll do it when we have to, probably when we're ready to upgrade the mail server. There's no compelling need. Server 2008? No need. Windows 7? When we upgrade or desktops. Maybe when XP EOL's but everything works well enough for now. Office 2007? Yay, you get a million rows in Excel but pay for it with ribbons.

    I guess that explains Microsoft's advertising problem. If you need their products, you already have them. The only reason to upgrade from XP will be when it's EOL'd with no more security patches and all your new desktops are coming with W7 licenses. 64-bit support and tons of ram? The average worker still doesn't need it. Those who do can run XP 64. When there's no good bullet points to sell on, all you've got left are vague emotional appeals.

    • The iPhone ads that show a specific feature are textbook examples of great ads.

      Not everyone was in the smartphone market. They didn't think they needed one. Apple runs an ad and shows you what the iPhone can do for you in simple terms. It doesn't get any more basic or effective than that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's at least one awesome microsoft ad:

    Life is short []

    Brilliant enough to excuse all the others, really.

  • by alteran ( 70039 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @12:41PM (#30583114)

    For years I have been surprised by MS's inability to create a decent ad. Having been to a handful of MS conferences over the years, I have also noted that the warm-up videos are also first rate, so obviously there are people at MS who "get it" and can oversee the commission of decent advertising.

    I was recently puzzled by Microsoft's "Laptop Hunter" ads, and really, MS's failure to push what was a really effective ad. They've been smarting for years for from the Mac-PC ads, and they've finally got something that hits the competition similarly below the belt (advertising press reported Apple execs were pissed). MS essentially completes the ad run and then shelves the campaign.

    For whatever reason, MS's advertising mentality is just not aggressive and cutthroat.

    • The laptop hunter ads were the first Microsoft ads that seemed to be on par with Apple's in terms of attack strength, but I don't think they resonated. It made me feel like I was forced to buy Microsoft products because they were a monopoly. It was really a reminder of the lock they have on the market for me.

      Apple's ads try to make it "fun" to own a Mac. In my opinion, Microsoft needs to focus on what you can do with Windows. Apple does not do that beyond their iStuff. Push Office. Bring back Windows

    • If Apple's execs were pissed, they were pissed all the way to the bank because Apple had unit sales growth during the laptop hunters run.

      Meanwhile, the pc makers showed declines except in the netbook sector. Microsoft's gross revenues take a hit when a netbook is bought as opposed to a laptop. (Not that every netbook sold is a laptop not sold, but Microsoft, in order to fight off the Linux threat in the netbook market, discounted OEM Windows heavily and I wouldn't be surprised if, to break even, Microsoft n

      • Meanwhile, the pc makers showed declines except in the netbook sector. Microsoft's gross revenues take a hit when a netbook is bought as opposed to a laptop.

        And this is exactly why the Hunter commericals did not help anything and were shelved. Because you had two reactions from customers:

        1) I'll shop around like they did on the ads. Look! Cheap netbook!

        2) I'll shop around like they did on the ads. This Apple laptop is more expensive, but it sure feels nicer to use...

        When you're essentially the default

    • I was recently puzzled by Microsoft's "Laptop Hunter" ads, and really, MS's failure to push what was a really effective ad.

      What? An ad that effectively said, "Our OS is so bad, we'll pay you to buy hardware that has it on it?" Wow, if that is what passes for an effective ad in the minds of MS boosters, I'd hate to see an ineffective one.

  • The new ads with kids saying "I'm a PC" are their best ads in a long time, but those are clearly derivative.

    Was the last good Microsoft ad campaign the "Start Me Up" ads when Windows 95 launched?

    I'm not much of an Apple fan, but damn they know how to advertise.

  • And , as an old tag says, there is no disputing taste Seriously - I thought the ads were entertaining and fun; I didn't expect much in the way of info cause MS is a monopoly, and doens't need to sell its products, ON the other hand, i don't expect much of gates; i'm quite happy with windows2000 both OS an office
  • This [] is my personal favorite.
  • With 90% of the market, Microsoft has never really needed to advertise. Maybe they just wanted to hurt their customers a little bit more?

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor