As for the tagline question that follows-"Where do you want to go today?"-well, that's an easy one. We're registered Democrats, so the answer is: Canada.
But even as we try to grapple with the concept of Chairmen Helms, Thurmond and D'Amato, perhaps we should take heart, because the world Microsoft is talking about is a world not of partisan politics and demagoguery. Rather it is one of ultimate democracy. It is a borderless world of unlimited possibilities, of empowerment, of initiative, of the supremacy of ideas.
A digital world, in other words, brought to you exclusively by Microsoft. Or so Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., seems to be suggesting. "Listen," says a listless female voice-over in a studied monotone over a provocative montage of images. "This stuff that we make, it's powerful."
The pictures to support that notion come rapidly, and some are obvious: colorful bar graphs, spreadsheets, videogames, layouts and other computer-generated images. But mainly the power is illustrated by shots of the potentially empowered: a Suzuki violinist and a venerable Asian senior, gorgeous women and guileless schoolchildren, a European trolleyman and a Young Black Male. We see 52 people of all ages and ethnicities (including exactly three working-age white males, if you count the animated low handicapper from the Microsoft Golf videogame outtake).
What specific benefits this multieverything assemblage derives from Microsoft is unclear, but the overarching message, like the midterm election, speaks loud and clear.
"It makes you powerful," the wan voice-over continues. "Take it. Gather up your ideas. Make trouble and good things will happen. (Hey, who wrote this copy? Newt?) Just do something amazing."
Yes, that's what she said, "Just do something amazing."
No shots of Bo Jackson crunching numbers, but the similarities to Wieden's classic Nike campaign are unmistakable. Having managed to confer a moral force onto something as mundane as sneakers, the agency seeks here repeat the magic for software. (At one point in the montage, the words "Just do" appear-full-screen -for 0.04 of a second.) But this time, the product is already imbued with a mystical quality, so Wieden finds itself in the peculiar position of mystifying and demystifying the subject at the same time.
Even as repeated echoes of the voice-over and fleeting, ambiguous images cultivate an aura of spiritual transcendence, pointedly conversational (and, frankly, patronizing) wording such as "this stuff we make" tries to present software as less arcane and forbidding than perhaps most people regard it.
"We're in your corner," the woman says in more or less the way America spoke to the Republican Party. "We can't wait to see what you're going to do."
And we can't wait to see if this works. Considering the advertiser is essentially staking claim to the entire global digital future, it is rather Microsoft-pedaling its name, which shows up only in the 2-second end frame. But then so did Nike. Over time, brand recognition can be established. And Microsoft-unlike, say, an active National Endowment for the Arts-will be around for a long time.
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