Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Secret Behind Microsoft’s Mysterious Seinfeld Ads Revealed!

Remember those Microsoft ads starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld? The ones that confused and upset the blognoscenti and vanished from TV after just a brief stint in 2008?

All part of the plan, Microsoft says now. David Webster, chief strategy officer for Redmond’s central marketing group, tells TechFlash that the ads were supposed to be confusing. So you’d pay more attention to them, and to the next several campaigns Microsoft had loaded up.

“We figured that that sort of obscure nature of the communications would make people lean in a little more closely to see what we were going to next,” he says. “And that part certainly worked, in the sense that everybody leaned in, and they paid a lot more attention to our subsequent work than I think they might have had we just started with it.”

This actually sounds like a plausible explanation to me. And I seem to be in the minority of people who actively liked the ads. Still, Webster and his co-workers certainly seem to have had their feelings hurt by the public raspberries the ads generated. Check out the defensive tone here:

But you know, it is what it is, and they will live forever in Internet posterity as being either something that people treat as a cult classic, or as a random curiosity. But I still get mail from people saying, “Hey, could you guys do that as a sitcom? I’d love it as a web series, I think they had great chemistry, I’d like to see them do it in the future.” Like anything, things become cult classics for some people for some reason, and there’s a core group of people who really wanted to see us go further with those.

It’s also interesting that many of the original clips of the ad have disappeared from YouTube, though you can still find a few that give you a good sense of what Microsoft was trying to. Go ahead and refresh your memory: