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The Wall Street Journal reports that Jerry Seinfeld, lately slumming in family flicks like Bee Movie , will next be starring in ads for Microsoft


"What is the deal with a browser called 'Safari'?"


The Wall Street Journal reports that Jerry Seinfeld, lately slumming in family flicks like Bee Movie, will next be starring in ads for Microsoft Vista. The veteran comic and '90s sitcom star is no stranger to commercial endorsements, of course. He and American Express were buddy-buddy for years. For $10 million, he'll apparently appear in ads with Bill Gates. (Not Steve Ballmer? WTF?)

The intent is clearly to offset MSFT's perennial "not cool" issues. Among other tech companies, Apple has most effectively beaten the Redmond goliath with the cool stick. Its Justin Long-John Hodgman "I'm a Mac" ads play on this rift (though many prefer Hodgman's bumbling "I'm a PC" act to Long's hiptard shtick).

I can just imagine what Microsoft's Seinfeld ads will be like...

Those who recall the era of glowing green cursors on black PC screens and 5 and 1/4-inch floppy disks may remember how IBM once used the image of another funnyman, Charlie Chaplin, in its advertising. Then, something old was being used to sell something new. Because nothing says cutting-edge technology like a figure from silent movies.

Microsoft, a young company relative to IBM in the '80s, seems to be clinging to the same ossified logic. Seinfeld, a mega-wealthy baby boomer who collects sports cars, mansions, and trophy wives, built his brand during the '80s comedy club boom. Then he enriched himself during what now looks to be the final golden era of sitcoms, pre-Internet and YouTube. On his show, sharp eyes may have spotted a Mac in the back of his set. But I don't recall him ever using it. Because, again, there was no Internet, no online dating, no porn sites (Kramer!), no cyber-anything. Jerry--the character--was a telephone kind of guy. (Funny, I also don't recall any cell phones from the show.)

But now, comedy dinosaur or no, Seinfeld will be representing the Vista brand--to presumably make it hip, smart, funny, and all those other qualities Madison Avenue is surely telling Redmond it needs. If in those Apple ads, Hodgman's "I'm a PC" character is supposed to be the fuddy-duddy, now Seinfeld will essentially have to rebut the charge. (For the record, Hodgman is 37, Seinfeld 54.)

What will the new ads in this $300 million campaign be like? I'm guessing something like Seinfeld's old, observational comedy act...

"Thank you, thank you. It's really great that you came out to see me tonight. Y'know, what is the deal with calling a browser 'Safari'? I mean, safaris are dangerous! There are tigers, guns, rhinos. People get trampled and eaten. And I don't want that on my computer. Computers should be safe. That's why Vista's browser will be renamed 'Armchair Explorer,' because nobody ever got hurt in an comfy chair.

"And another thing: Didja ever notice how certain other computer companies keep making their machines smaller and smaller and whiter and whiter? It's like they're trying to match the decor in your bathroom or kitchen. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't want my computer to look like a bar of soap or a toaster. I have enough trouble in the morning getting the toaster to work. I don't want to be putting the bread in the floppy drive or the disk in the toaster. But, maybe the floppy disk wouldn't be so floppy if I heated it up in the toaster? Hey, we should add that feature to Vista. I'll tell Bill about that. Not that Ballmer guy--he scares me.

"Hey, you know what I'd like to see? A machine that could take the yellow legal pad pages where I write my jokes so that I could send those pages to another person, via the machine, and they could read those jokes and give me feedback. Or write their comments on the new piece of paper. Then they could type my edited jokes for me, which would be really helpful. And then they could mail them to me. But what would we call that machine? I've forgotten where this joke is going....darn it, I can't read this notecard without my bifocals...

"You know what I'd like to see more of on my computer screen? Pop-up ads. I love those things. They're always reminding me of stuff, giving me ideas for jokes to write down on my yellow legal pads. But why are they called 'pop-up ads?' They should be called 'pop-in ads,' because they pop into your computer. Who are the ad wizards who decided on 'pop-up ads?' Because I really don't get it.

"And another thing: Why do they keep trying to put email on my phone and voice on my computer? Keep them separate! Like the American and National Leagues. I'm not spending my money on a voice-puter or a phone you can type on. That would be silly. I mean, think how large your pockets would have to be to carry the phone-puter around. But maybe that's another product for Microsoft: Instead of making computers smaller, we should be making shirts larger! I can't wait to tell Bill.

"Thank you very much! I'll be appearing here all week..."

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