Monday, September 01, 2008

“Hello, Newman.” Or, “What’s the Deal With This Mojave Experiment, Anyway?”

The “Mojave Experiment,” if you haven't seen it already, is a new Microsoft ad campaign intended to spiff up Vista’s poor image. You can find a link most days on the Wall Street Journal web site.

If you follow that link, you’ll find a “Mojave Experiment” video in which a Proctor & Gamble-style hidden camera captures the reactions of “regular people” when they are shown cool stuff they can do on “Mojave,” which they have been told is a new Microsoft operating system.

The camera then shows their embarrassed reactions when they are told that “Mojave” is actually “Vista.”

It is straight out of the Proctor & Gamble soap-selling playbook, which should be no surprise, because Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer started his career at P&G.

Unfortunately, the fundamental premise of the “Mojave Experiment” and those video clips is flawed. Only 43% of Microsoft Vista users call themselves “very satisfied” with it. And only 46% of Microsoft Vista users say they are “very likely” to recommend Vista to a friend or family member.

We are not making those numbers up, by the way: they’re right there on Microsoft’s own “Mojave Experiment” web site, in the footnotes.

As for the hidden camera video itself—well, anybody can videotape a bunch of people reacting with delight to product demos run by highly competent computer engineers from the company that created the program.

What they should videotape is a bunch of people attempting to load Vista on a computer and start doing stuff themselves, which is where the trouble has been, and show that to Microsoft engineers.

Years ago, Ford Motor’s advertising slogan was “Quality is Job One.” The slogan didn’t actually mean anything, but it sounded great. Unfortunately for Ford, consumers didn’t care about the slogan, they cared about the cars. Eventually consumers stopped buying Ford cars to the point where Ford is now being forced to actually do something about quality, instead of advertising about it.

Microsoft is looking more like Ford Motor every day.

But they’re not stopping with hidden camera laundry detergent-type web videos. They’re reportedly paying Jerry Seinfeld $10 million to appear in ads for Vista, presumably to counteract the devastating “Mac vs. PC” ads.

We’ve tried to imagine what will happen when Microsoft’s clunky, acronym-laden and user-unfriendly technology is combined with Seinfeld’s “What’s the deal with airplane peanuts?” schtick.

The first Seinfeld ad might go something like this.

Seinfeld stands at a microphone on stage in a nightclub setting: “What’s the deal with the ‘iPhone’ anyway? I mean, Apple didn’t release an ‘a’-phone and a ‘b’-phone and a ‘c’-phone…so why do they have an ‘I’ there? What’s the deal with that?”

[Modest laughter.]

He holds up an iPhone for the audience: “And how does it have “phone” in the name? I mean, come on, people—there’s no antenna, is there? [He mimes pulling an antenna out of the phone, as he always did on his TV show.] Hey, I don’t hear a dial-tone either. [He holds it up to his ear and shakes his head.] What’s the deal with that?

[Some chuckles.]

Seinfeld starts playing with Google Maps on the iPhone: “And have you seen how you move around these web pages? You move them around with your finger. [He touches the map, makes it bigger, smaller. Zooms in on a satellite image from Google Earth] I mean, hasn’t Apple ever heard of a mouse with a sophisticated interactive touchpad? What—are they afraid of mice now?

[No laughs.]

Seinfeld plays with the phone interface and notices he has a voice mail. “Hey, this thing actually tells you who’s left a voice-mail?” [Under his breath.] “I like that.” [Taps the phone and holds it to his ear, then says in a stage voice.] “Hello, Newman. I see you called me.”

[Laughter, applause.]

Seinfeld smiles, acknowledging the applause, then speaks sternly. “You know, Newman, this thing actually isn’t so bad. I just looked at my house in the Hamptons on this screen, and then I found out you can actually see who left you a voice mail. I can’t do that on Vista. You know what I think, Newman? I think you tricked me. Hello? Hello?”

[Scattered laughter, some confused murmers.]

Seinfeld clicks off the phone and starts scrolling through software programs: “And what’s with this ‘Apps Store’ anyway? I guess you can download these software applications…just incredible stuff here…”

[Newman enters the stage from behind the curtain with a team of Microsoft security men.]

Seinfeld, reacting as expected: “Oh, hello, Newman.”

[Some laughs.]

Newman, mechanically: “Hello, Jerry. Let’s make this easy for both of us. Just give us the iPhone and leave.”

Seinfeld: “I want my $10 million first, Newman.”

Newman, sweating, pulling at his collar as the audience begins to boo: “No chance, Jerry. You—shall we say—strayed too far from the script.”

Seinfeld, surrounded by Microsoft men, picks up the microphone stand and starts swinging it like a sword. “I want my $10 million, Newman! I’ll finish the script! Don’t take this iPhone!”

Newman makes a sign and the security men back off. Sweetly, he says: “Anything you say, Jerry. Just finish and you’ll get your money.”

Seinfeld resumes reading from the offscreen cue cards, unenthusiastically: “So what’s the deal with the ‘iPhone’ anyway. It’s not a phone….”

Newman: “That’s not good enough, Jerry!” He grabs for the iPhone.

Seinfeld, keeping it away from Newman: “All riiiiiiiiiiiiiight, keep the $10 million. I just want this iPhone, Newman!”

[Now other Seinfeld characters begin to appear on stage from different angles.]

Kramer: “Giddyyup, Jerry. You need that $10 million. Your career isn't what it used to be. Just hand over the iPhone, buddy.”

Elaine: “Hello, Jerome. How’s about you giving that old phone to little old Lainy?”

George: “Jerry, is hanging onto that piece of plastic really worth giving up $10 million? You give it to Newman and I'll tell you what happened in The Contest

Newman, giggling: “You haven’t got a chance, Jerry.”

Seinfeld, seeing someone else in the audience, shouts: “Uncle Leo! Help me!”

Uncle Leo comes up on stage, shouting: “Jerry! Hellooooooooo!” He viciously grabs for the iPhone.

Seinfeld falls to his knees, clenching it in his fist as they try to tear it away. He scrunches up his face and hisses: “Microsoft!”

The screen goes black.

Jeff Matthews
I Am, In Fact, Making This One Up

© 2008 NotMakingThisUp, LLC

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews.
Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews’ recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes investment advice. It should never be relied on in making an investment decision, ever. Nor are these comments meant to be a solicitation of business in any way: such inquiries will not be responded to. This content is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


whydibuy said...

The rip into Vista is warranted, but you fail to mention that lots of folks, myself included, still use and like XP. Yes, the upgrade cycle flopped for MSFT but its older version is still alive and well. I see lots of ads for new pc's that come preloaded with XP still. I do enjoy the mac vs pc ads though. Very clever schtick there.

Frank Shaw said...

Jeff, FWIW it's "mojave" with a "j" and not an "h".

Also worth noting that it's pretty unlikely today for somebody to install Windows Vista on a PC -- that was a scenario when the product was first out and people where upgrading, but today people tend to get the PC already running Windows Vista.

fatbear said...

Jeff, nice try, but keep the day job.

Gone to the blogs said...

Ouch...hearing crickets after that one.

The point of "Mojave" was not to tout the operating system per se, but instead to point out that public opinion can often differ substantially from reality. Not to say that Vista is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the incessant blogosphere kvetching (and the predictable herd behavior of the media) about device driver incompatibilities shortly after launch created perceptions and biases that were blown way out of proportion.

And what does the painful iPhone riff have to do with Vista, anyway?

Mark said...

Personally, I'd rather see a scenario starring Seinfeld's (much funnier) co-creator. It would go something like this:

Larry finds out that Bill Gates is about to offer the $10 million to Jerry, so he immediately intervenes to get the deal for himself. He calls Bill Gates's office, and Bill tells him what an incredible fan he is, and says sure, he'd love to talk to him about using him instead of Jerry...

The problem is that being a "creative type", Larry actually uses an Apple machine, and doesn't own anything that runs on Windows. So Larry, cheapskate that he is, buys a bare-bones machine with no operating system, then downloads a BOOTLEGGED copy of Windows from a server Microsoft itself sets up to catch the bootleggers. He then rushes out to the meeting with Gates, takes out the computer to impress Gates with how much he loves and uses his product, boots it up, and gets the following message on his screen: "Warning: You are using a STOLEN, ILLEGALLY DOWNLOADED version of Windows on this computer."

Needless to say, the failure to spend $99 winds up costing Larry $10 million... And then, to add insult to injury, Bill sues Larry for an ADDITIONAL $10 million, in order to make a "celebrity case example" out of him!

(If Larry or his producers are readers of this blog, you can contact me through my agent.)

Jeff Matthews said...

I like Mark's better.


buzz said...

It's interesting that Seinfeld used to prominently position a Mac on his show. I think Apple got a better deal out of that than MSFT will get out of this.

MightBWrong said...

The Jerry & Bill (Gates) commercial is even worse than yours. Jerry and Bill meet in a discount shoe store - and it goes down hill from there. Really lame. The photo on the discount card is Bill's actual mugshot from his DUI.

jb said...

Just a small footnote about the ad's use of the reaction shot:

Jeff said: "anybody can videotape a bunch of people reacting with delight to product demos run by highly competent computer engineers from the company that created the program."

Madison Avenue has started adapting one of the sickest memes on the internet. The ultimate reaction shot was created using the video "2 Girls 1 Cup." It became viral last October. Google it and start at the Wikipedia story before venturing forth.

The ad would have been 'edgier' if MS had actually shown unsuspecting users (like grandmothers) reacting to a "2 Girls 1 operating system" video.