NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Microsoft's ad push for its new Windows 7 operating system breaks tonight, and this time, instead of relying on Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld or a raft of other celebrities, ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky is using good, old-fashioned PR from magazines and bloggers to plug the product.
Windows 7, the long-awaited follow up to Windows Vista, is slated for worldwide release Oct. 22. The marketing push behind the product begins tonight with a 30-second TV commercial that breaks during the CW's prime-time premiere of "Vampire Diaries."
The spot, plainly dubbed "Good News," aims to harness third-party credibility and share with consumers a slew of positive Windows 7 product reviews penned by outlets such as CNET, Gizmodo, Maximum PC and the Seattle Times.
The star of the ad is young Kylie, who's fast become Microsoft's poster child for Windows as a user-friendly operating system. (She made her debut in a commercial earlier this year, plugging the Windows Live Photo Gallery, in which she color-corrects and e-mails a photo of her pet fish Dorothy to her family.)
In the commercial Kylie animatedly reads various Windows 7 product reviews off of her dad's computer, squealing about all the "happy words" she finds. The spot also tries to drive home the "easy-to-use" message, as Kylie highlights positive quotes from Gizmodo and CNET and uses them to make a sugary slideshow filled with unicorns and bunnies. The spot closes with her saying: "I'm a PC and more happy is coming."
"There's just been incredible positive momentum and feedback," said Gayle Troberman, advertising manager at Microsoft. "We thought it would be timely and interesting for the average consumer who may not follow the industry press as we do, to before the launch share some of that momentum about the amazing next generation of Windows. It's really about amplifying the positive reviews and buzz."
Unlike the negative reviews that have plagued Windows Vista, Windows 7 has been met widely with a positive reception in tech publications and the blogosphere. Google search data shows that Windows 7 has been building momentum over the past three months, as the program was released early to testers and tech-world influencers to help work out bugs. According to analysis by social-media monitoring firm Radian6 last month, 96% of the conversations comparing Windows 7 and Vista declare the new OS to be superior.
Meanwhile, the cutesy, lighthearted tone of the ad is very intentional; Microsoft wants stick to positive messaging as a counterpoint to rival Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign from TBWA/Media Arts Lab that -- albeit pretty humorously -- has been a long-running series of attacks on Microsoft.
But the sugary new tack is one Microsoft can only now afford to take because it finally has a shot at emerging from the dark cloud of Windows Vista problems with a product that by most accounts works really well.
No mud fights
"If you look at the new advertising Apple's been doing, and the back and forth in the marketplace ... they may be more about attacking and slamming, but we're much more about sharing the incredible" buzz about Windows 7, Ms. Troberman said. "We think the discussion should be about the products and the people who use them. That's a lot more interesting and inspiring ... than watching us skid into a mud fight."
The "Good News" spot that breaks tonight will keep airing for the next few weeks, but the real consumer ad blitz around Windows 7 won't begin until after the product's launch.
The messaging will shift to talk about the reliability and security of the Windows 7 operating system and highlight product features. Crispin, which is working with Microsoft's media agency, Universal McCann, and direct-marketing shop, Wunderman, on the Windows 7 launch, is then expected to roll out other elements such as digital and print, though TV will continue to be the primary part of the media mix.
"TV has been a very powerful medium for us," Ms. Troberman said. "It's a terrific way to get a fairly simple message out to the mass audience we're targeting for Windows."
Microsoft's target audience for its latest product appears to be widening. When the Crispin-created Windows consumer campaign bowed one year ago, it honed in on sports fans, breaking the much-talked about spot featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld kibitzing in a shoe store during the National Football League's season opener.
Its choice to bow Windows 7 marketing on the tween-oriented CW network could mean an attempt to target back-to-schoolers. (It also suggests Microsoft is trying to tag along on the buzz of all things vampire by breaking on the "Vampire Diaries," which is also jostling for its own "Twilight" and "True Blood" cred.) But so far this week, the second season opener of CW's "90210" and the debut of "Melrose Place" have underwhelmed in ratings.