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Doubt cast on Seinfeld as Windows TV ads near

Eric Lai | Sept. 1, 2008
The reported US$300-million "Windows, not Walls" campaign will kick off next Thursday, September 4, with the airing of the first Seinfeld commercial, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Choosing Seinfeld would violate that rule. The long-time bachelor and, at least according to his semi-autobiographical sitcom, "man-child", is not only a father of 3 but, as noted earlier, is 54 years old -- only a few years younger than the late Lorne Greene was when the Bonanza star began pitching Alpo Dog food in the 1970s.

Microsoft rejected younger comedians Will Ferrell, 41, and Chris Rock, 43, because it did not want its campaign to be seen as pandering to the youth market or be seen as too hip, a Wall Street Journal report said.

Noting Rock's reputation for profanity-laced standup routines, Ippolito agrees that he may have been too edgy for Microsoft. But Ferrell would've not only had broad appeal but through his many successful movie comedies, "clearly is very relevant to the twenty-something audience."

But others, such as Graves, think that Seinfeld "may be above" such an ageist rule.

"He's ageless," says marketing guru Sergio Zyman, who argues that choosing Seinfeld is consistent with what Microsoft, as the still-overwhelming market leader, really needs to do.

"I think the strategy has to be to reassure all of the consumers still using Windows that 'Hey, you're OK, you're still cool,'" said Zyman, who was chief marketing officer at Coca-Cola in the 1980s . "If you actually came up with a commercial that was kind of the reverse of the 'I'm a Mac' ones, with a cool guy portraying Windows, that'd be too much on the edge, and you're not going to get away with that."

Zyman, whose consulting firm has helped Microsoft on past launches such as Excel and the Xbox, says that Apple, as the underdog, can afford to do aggressive, "insurgent" ads. Microsoft, which still must cater to senior executives and mainstream buyers, is limited to doing "incumbent advertising."

Not that he believes that the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials have led to a lot of actual PC-to-Mac conversions. "It's still more noise than numbers," Zyman said.

AdRants' Hall expresses a similar sentiment, though less kindly.

"Maybe Microsoft is throwing its arms up and acknowledging that the people who are going to buy and use Vista are not on the cutting-edge of anything, and that Apple users will be younger, cooler, hipper, the early adopters and the 'good' geeks," Hall said.


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