by Tom Kaneshige

Carly Fiorina and the Demon Sheep: A Baa-d Ad

Mar 26, 2010
Enterprise Applications

An ad tells us a lot about a person, company or product. Just look at tech ads.

We’ve seen underwhelming tech ads before—we’re looking at you, AT&T and Microsoft. In California, tech honcho turned political candidate Carly Fiorina has created a series of ‘em.

Fiorina, whose vying for a senate seat, came out with one of the oddest attack ads ever aired, infamously dubbed “demon sheep.” Now we’re left wondering what it says about Fiorina.


Or does it really matter?

Ad campaigns tell us a lot about people, products and culture. That’s probably because top executives have the final say, and they prefer ads that reflect something about themselves. Just take a look at tech ads.

Some ads work wonderfully, others not so much. Take, for example, those confusing Microsoft television commercials with Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates a couple of years ago. Apparently, they were supposed to be confusing.


David Webster, the chief strategy officer in Microsoft’s central marketing group, told TechFlash: “We figured that that sort of obscure nature of the communications [between Seinfeld and Gates] would make people lean in a little more closely to see what we were going to next.”

Confusing. Complex. Awkward. Does this describe the ad, Windows, Gates, or all of the above?

In contrast, Apple’s “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” ad is brilliant in its simplicity: two guys having a real conversation. Apple products resonate with people because of their ease of use. This single image tells the entire story, unlike the image of Seinfeld and Gates above.


The ad shows that Apple is in touch with consumers. Likewise, Verizon’s “Map for That” ad campaign works because map images are easily digestible. Consider this clever Verizon ad that aired during the holidays. It taps into childhood images and memories, which supports the simplicity of the message.


Meanwhile, AT&T countered with a lawsuit. Then it decided to follow in Verizon’s footsteps with its own comparative television ad. Even worse, AT&T rolled out a dry boardroom chart and an obscure actor—quick, name a movie starring Luke Wilson—in its first ad aimed at Verizon.


So does this ad say anything about the person or company it represents? Absolutely. The underlying message: stodgy AT&T can’t innovate.

Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for in Silicon Valley. Send him an email at Or follow him on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.