Microsoft's new ads for Windows Phone 7 portray smartphone users as selfish schmoes ignoring their children, their spouses, and the world around them as they tap their touchscreens. Most of the dialogue consists of a single word, "Really?" from disgusted onlookers, or superimposed over a couple at a romantic restaurant forsaking one another for their handheld.
While some of my colleagues have expressed dismay at Microsoft's $500 million marketing blitz, they're missing the point. I've seen two people at a restaurant frantically texting at the table. I've seen the familiar, zombie-like stagger of someone attempting to walk while engrossed in his or her iPhone. I own a smartphone and I also find the Windows Phone 7 commercials funny, because there's definitely a kernel of truth.
Of course, the Windows Phone 7 has some problems; it's late to the smartphone market and most everyone has already bought a BlackBerry, Apple, or Android handheld. It lacks an extensive catalogue of third-party apps, and as of yet doesn't have the cut-and-paste functions, but Microsoft assured reporters that it will all be fixed by next year.
The positives about the phone are that it integrates with Microsoft Office, and its unique interface is garnering good reviews. (The interface is based on folders called hubs that group applications and content together, such as the People hub, which organizes contacts and social networking information.)
Advertising is about causing a sensation and triggering someone's memory while shopping for a similar product. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 spots are definitely causing a stir, which can only help the brand, but the company should be investing some of its $500 million budget into showing how well the Windows Phone 7 works with Microsoft products and is easily adaptable to the office.
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Instead, the "Really?" ads seem to target consumers, not businesses, Microsoft's bread-and-butter. In its ads, the Windows Phone 7 is touted as the phone that will "save us from our phones" and will get users "in and out and back to life." Those words may resonate more for consumers than businesses that seek phones to enhance productivity and efficiency.
And perhaps that's Microsoft's strategy--that like the iPhone, BlackBerry or latest Android handheld, it hopes to attract a few executives or managers to buy one of its phones. Once that happens, that company's IT department will be forced to juggle another smartphone platform.
If that's the case, expect to see Microsoft's ad strategy subtly evolve in the next few months. Its new commercials may feature employees marveling at how efficient their new Windows Phone 7 smartphone is and how easy it is to work on projects from home.
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.