Microsoft has pulled a series of tongue-in-cheek Apple-bashing videos, one of which shows two over-eager Apple designers pitching the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S to Apple CEO Tim Cook and design chief Jony Ive, after a backlash from online viewers.
The clip -- titled "A fly on the wall in Cupertino?" -- was posted Friday to Microsoft's Windows Phone YouTube account. Microsoft took it down Monday, but it is still available from the Fast Company website.
The video shows Cook and Ive from behind, so their faces aren't seen. But, some YouTube viewers felt the Cook depiction was in poor taste because it bears a strong resemblance to the late Steve Jobs.
In the video, the Apple designers poke fun at the plastic casing of the iPhone 5C and the new gold iPhone 5S model. One even sneaks in a jab at Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" being sent back to the R&D labs.
Microsoft isn't saying why it pulled the video, but a spokesperson told CRN it was meant to be a joke.
"The video was intended to be a light-hearted poke at our friends from Cupertino. But it was off the mark, and we’ve decided to pull it down," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email.
Microsoft has a long history of making bizarre and often confusing promotional videos. In 2008, Microsoft kicked off a $300 million brand-polishing campaign with a pair of television ads featuring Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, but they contained no Microsoft branding or messaging and lacked a discernible point.
There's also the cringe-worthy Windows Vista "Dancing In The Dark" video that plays on the 1980s Bruce Springsteen hit. And who could ever forget the Internet Explorer 8 video that shows a woman vomiting after checking her husband's Web browser history?
Microsoft has also taken heat for the factual accuracy of its "Scroogled" campaign, which claims Google is reading everyone's emails and using the contents to beam targeted ads at them.
Bashing campaigns are hard to pull off, and the recent Apple video suffers from the lack of comparative messaging, Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Westboro, Mass.-based Google partner, said in an email.
"Apple's Mac versus PC ads were very effective because they were based on accurate information and focused on legitimate differences between the products and how the companies relate to customers," Falcon told CRN. "The iPhone ads have low production value and lack an underlying reason for existing -- there's no comparison, just teasing."
Michael Oh, president and founder of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple reseller, says Microsoft isn't exactly speaking from a position of strength in mocking Apple.
"It would be one thing for these types of ads to come from an equal like Samsung. But, for them to come from Microsoft, whose mobile strategy is essentially buying up their largest hardware partner on Windows as a mobile platform?" Oh said in an email.
Microsoft is trailing Apple by a wide margin in smartphones, and it's anyone's guess whether spending $7.2 on Nokia's devices unit is going to help it close the gap. In the meantime, as Microsoft looks for a new CEO to replace the departing Steve Ballmer, shareholders may question the wisdom of putting time and money into making Apple-bashing videos -- even if they are just a joke.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 16, 2013