Agency: Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Rating: 1 1/2 stars
Windows 95 needs substance upgrade
Microsoft, we are informed breathlessly by every media organization in the world, has finally unveiled Windows 95. This, of course, is no longer news (and if it is news to you at this stage, you might also be surprised to learn that O.J. Simpson is in a bit of trouble with the law).
What is news is that the television commercial launching the most ballyhooed consumer product since the Saturn--and maybe the Edsel, and maybe fire--is really quite bad. Not boring bad. Or ugly bad. Or image bad.
Just selling bad.
It's a 60-second spot from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., a montage depicting the program's many applications--from the classroom to the florist shop to the factory floor--intercut with monochromatic, tinted shots of traveling and bustle.
They're an apparent allusion to the Microsoft slogan, "Where do you want to go today?" and it would be odd how incongruous they're juxtaposed against the Rolling Stones' racy, pounding standard, "Start Me Up," except that cinematography is quite splendid and anyway nobody can really understand a single, slurred Mick Jagger word.
Oh, it's a handsome ad: the typical Wieden combination of gritty and lyrical, hopeful and severe from the folks who became famous admonishing us to just do it. Sure enough, here they are again dishing out life advice in onscreen type:
Start Windows 95
Hmmm. As long as Wieden and Microsoft are telling people what to start doing, might we be so bold as to suggest that they start demonstrating?
Inasmuch as the introductory ad's brand-awareness function has been satisfied by the biggest publicity windfall in marketing history, perhaps this would have been an opportunity to show the features we've been hearing about since approximately the Bronze Age.
The "desktop" interface is a key to the product? OK, um, what does it look like? Multitasking is easy? Could we see some multitasking of a duration greater than 0.5 seconds? The stylish quick cuts are so stylishly quick, in fact, that it is impossible to discern any difference in Windows 95 from, say, Windows 3.1.
This is, of course, partly a function of the limitations of a 60-second spot, but it is chiefly a function of aesthetics overwhelming communications. This commercial is so determined to be handsome and inspiring, it utterly forsakes the opportunity to be enlightening. It is Microtoosoft.
The forthcoming Windows 95 infomercial presumably will demonstrate features to a fare-thee-well but that does not mean the main TV campaign is free to neglect its opportunity to put visual meaning to the weeks and months of hype.
The principal audience for a Windows 95 upgrade is the current Windows user, who may easily be swayed to convert given the slightest nudge of encouragement that the quality-of-computing difference is as dramatic as publicized. But for all the sophisticated filmmaking at work here, this advertiser cannot even make the most basic merchandising promise:
"As seen on TV."
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Copyright August 1995, Crain Communications Inc.