Offensive? These guys? Nahhhh.
When Microsoft pulled out of a planned partnership with Fox's "Family Guy" to sponsor a one-hour variety show version of the famously raunchy animated series, the collective reaction was one of confusion. The software giant said its last-minute decision was based on the fact that it'd seen a transcript of the show and was shocked by offensive content that included jokes about the Holocaust and incest.
Offensive? These guys? Nahhhh.
But as anyone who's ever watched the cartoon knows, offensive content is the only kind of content "Family Guy" offers. So it felt insincere for Microsoft to claim naivete, especially in light of their other partnerships with some of cable's equally "offensive" programs.
TechFlash was thinking the same thing. So when they got a chance to talk to David Brewster, one of Microsoft's biggest ad guys, they asked him to explain the "Family Guy" fiasco. Which he did, with some of the most purposefully obfuscating marketing-speak we've ever seen.
Q: Any lessons learned from the Family Guy experience?So there are nuances between being in a "Family Guy" episode and advertising in one? Ya don't say.
Webster: I think, in general, we are, as a large company, surprisingly willing to experiment. We believe that if you're going to be relevant to consumers, you have to be willing to engage in the kinds of dialogues in the places where consumers are interested in having a conversation. I think the old world of purely running 30- and 60-second ads, and staying out of the other integrated brand approaches, ultimately isn't going to get the job done. It has its role, but I think we also need to be more of the moment, in the moment, borrowing cultural currency and associating ourselves with relevant experiences people want to have. (Editor's note: Whazu?)
Now, that being said, when you adopt a principle where you're going to experiment and try some things out, you don't always know how every one of those things is going to turn out when you start going down that path. And you have to be willing to make some corrections and adjustments on the fly, in market, in a moment when you gain more information. We reserve the right to wake up smarter every day. In this case, I think that's probably the situation, as simply as you can put it. (Editor's note: I think you can put it a lot more simply than that.) Things that sometimes look good on paper, and seem like there could be some good synergy in terms of audience, when you get closer to it and think about it, you're maybe not as comfortable with it.
Q: Right, I think the joke was, had Microsoft watched the Family Guy?
Webster: Yes, I personally had. There were many different strains of comedy within Family Guy, and I think the difference between being in a Family Guy episode and advertising in a Family Guy episode, there are some nuances there. ... Frankly, we're going to continue to be willing to experiment, and try new things, and go new places, and that means sometimes at the 11th hour, we may still call an audible and say what looked good on paper doesn't seem like as good a fit at the scrimmage line. I think it's all part of being willing to engage in the moment and take some risks.