Employment Branding Through TV Ads – What Does Microsoft Need to Be Cool?

Kris Dunn Culture, Kris Dunn

I’ll admit it in front of the world – I’m a Microsoft fan.  Xbox at home, IE7 for a browser, Media Player 10, PC guy, not really thinking about Google Apps or Chrome.  Microsoft recruiter invited into the cool FOT project.  So sue me, because I guess all that makes me hopelessly corporate.

Still, there are limits to my loyalty.  Zune?  I don’t think so – 3 iPods.  I didn’t say I was crazy.

What my Microsoft sensibilities could use right now is a branding campaign that elevates Microsoft (or even a single division) to the level of the Mac/PC commercials.  I’m sure that would help with the employment branding efforts and morale in Redmond as well.

I thought Microsoft had a nice start with the "Hey Genius!"campaign, but I ultimately found that the advertising was really focused at the campus recruiting crowd.  So I sat and waited, until Microsoft finally announced they were going to spice up their advertising mix with Jerry Seinfeld.

Jerry Seinfeld?  Really?  Can Kramer and George Costanza come along for the ride?  After all, Microsoft is attempting to even the playing field with Mac/PC.  If you were wondering what having Seinfeld as a spokesperson would look like in the first commercials, hit the video below and I’ll see you afterwords for comments and analysis (email subscribers click through for the Seinfeld/Microsoft commercial):

I love seeing Bill Gates as a human, but this isn’t working with Seinfeld.  Where’s the reference to the technology?  Where’s the insider humor?  Hello?

So, here’s what I would do, if I had the unlimited budget of Microsoft for a cool ad campaign:

1. Sign Will Ferrell

2. Do a series of commercials with Ferrell playing a variety of roles in the business environment: Insider CEO, manager, individual contributor, etc…

3. I’d incorporate a knock-off of Mac from the Apple Mac/PC commercials…
4. Positioning – "Microsoft means business", underscoring the fact that business and home computing are almost exclusively driven off of Microsoft products, and Apple products have limitations that are hard to overcome when everyone else is using the Microsoft platform…

5. I’d have Ferrell hammer the Mac guy in the way only he can do.  I’ll leave it to the copy writers to figure out the dialog.  I’m an idea guy…

Put it all together, and you end up with understated gold (less is more) like this gap ad from Ferrell (email viewers click through for video):

So that’s my idea.  The employees in Redmond deserve a cooler campaign. So do the recruiters at Microsoft.

If you had $300 Million, what would you do to bring the cool factor to Microsoft?