Microsoft Mocks Moronic Mobile Users In Windows Phone Ad

Microsoft is taking some heat for its new Windows Phone 7 television commercial, which depicts a series of mobile device users tapping and staring at their smartphone screens while completely ignoring the everyday events taking place around them.

By highlighting this all-too-common mobile behavior, Microsoft is taking a risk. The message is that Windows Phone 7 displays pertinent information in such an easily accessible way that people won't look like idiots with eyes perpetually glued to device screens. But one could argue that if Windows Phone 7 is so compelling, people will spend even more time with their devices instead of actually engaging in real world experiences with other humans.

But despite the potential for cognitive dissonance, many Microsoft partners believe the Windows Phone 7 ad, which includes the taglines "Designed to get you in, and out, and back to life" and "It's time for a phone to save us from our phones," is exactly the type of message Microsoft needs to be sending as it tries to differentiate Windows Phone 7 in an increasingly crowded mobile market.

"The ad sends a strong message and really highlights Microsoft's view that Windows Phone 7 is different and that people will interact differently with it," said Clinton Fitch, a Dallas-based Microsoft Windows Mobile MVP (Most Valuable Professional). "I think this could pay off nicely for Microsoft in the long term because it is so focused."

Sponsored post

In the ad, Microsoft is playing up Live Tiles, user interface elements that feed real-time data from the Web for information such as e-mails, social networking feeds, calendar and photos. Live Tiles are the first thing Windows Phone 7 users see when they fire up their devices and, more importantly, they also represent a complete break from the clunky Windows Mobile user interface.

Next: Why Partners Think The Ad Makes Sense

Live Tiles present information in a way that makes it easy for users to find what they're after with just a glance, says Julie De Jong, an Atlanta-based Windows Phone MVP. "They allow your home screen to be your own 'personal command center,' and you don't have to spend time tapping through to specific applications," she said.

What partners seem to like most about the new ad is its sauciness, which is an adjective no one would have ever used to describe Windows Mobile. And if Microsoft is to achieve its goal of getting consumers to buy Windows Phone 7 devices, it's going to need more ads that grab peoples' attention and make them laugh, according to partners.

"Playing it safe with marketing is boring, and this ad makes a very clear statement and one that I think is fantastic," said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider. "Microsoft should be bold [in its advertising] more often. It speaks to people."

Although the ad treads firmly into the realm of comic absurdity, it’s also something to which literally everyone can relate. Anyone who has tried to negotiate a city sidewalk during the morning or evening rush can attest to having to maneuver around slowly shuffling, mobile device-toting zombies who are oblivious to external stimuli. Microsoft also manages to make its point without trashing the competition, which it has often done in downplaying the success of mobile foes like Apple and Google.

On the other hand, the ad doesn’t make the connection with Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 until the very end, and it doesn't demonstrate how Windows Phone 7 is superior to other smartphones. That will surely come in future ads, but as it stands now there's not much to get viewers excited about buying a Windows Phone, says Allen Nogee, an analyst with In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Next: How These Sorts Of Ads Could Backfire

The lack of features like copy and paste, which Microsoft says is coming next year, and the fact that a CDMA version of Windows Phone 7 won't be available right away, could also prevent Microsoft from focusing too heavily on what Windows Phone 7 can do that other smartphones cannot, at least for the time being.

Alan Gould, president and CEO of Westlake Software, a wireless solution provider in Calabasas, Calif., believes Microsoft may end up turning off consumers if it doesn't put features and functionality front and center in future ad spots.

"They're still acting like an OS maker and not fundamentally understanding the wireless market," said Gould. "The smartphone crowd is quick, impatient: They want it now, they're willing to spend more money and they want to be wowed. If you do not wow them on day one, it's really tough to get them to come back."