by Shane O'Neill

Windows Phones: First TV Ad Too Soft to Make An Impact

Oct 12, 2009
Data Center

The new Windows phone TV spot is cute, but too cute for its own good, and fails to deliver a coherent Windows Mobile message.

Have you seen the new Windows Phone TV ad? My initial reaction when I saw it on TV is that it’s too silly. I watched it a few more times on the Web and it becomes endearing, although it never stops being just too … soft.

The main problem is that it makes you smile but it doesn’t make you think. Windows Mobile is in trouble. The reviews are bad. This was not the time to go warm and fuzzy.

The new Windows Phone TV commercial.

The ad also doesn’t make it clear that a Windows phone is not a Microsoft branded device, but a platform that runs on hardware from different manufacturers. This particular ad features AT&T’s HTC Pure smartphone. Many viewers may just assume that the HTC phone is the Windows phone. This is only going to get more confusing if Microsoft doesn’t address it.

Here’s the premise of the ad: Life-size app icons in tights linger around the apartment of a pensive young man as he prepares to leave for work. They look like sports team mascots crossed with Gumby but are shaped like popular Microsoft apps such as Word, Outlook, IE and Windows Messenger. The only non-Microsoft app in the bumbling bunch is a Twitter mascot, which really speaks to how popular Twitter has become.

Anyway, our hero is reluctantly leaving all his app icon buddies behind for the day, as if they are pets. Melancholy pop music plays. He exits the house and the icons follow. As he gets to his car, he smiles and holds up his Windows phone signifying that they can all join him out in the world now because of his new phone. A joyous group hug ensues as the song’s chorus goes happy.

All together now: Awwwwwwww.

Microsoft has been playing the cute card (See the Kylie Windows 7 ads) to thaw its cold image, and it has successfully connected with people with uplifting campaigns like “The Laptop Hunters” and “The Rookies”. But here Microsoft is pushing its luck. Windows Mobile has been muscled out of the American market by titans iPhone and Blackberry and last week Windows Mobile 6.5 got hit with negative reviews. They needed an ad with more muscle.

But instead Microsoft is playing it nice and safe. It’s not the worst strategy. You could argue that it is too soon for an aggressive, sexy commercial directly confronting the iPhone or BlackBerry. This ad is also good for branding, as it reminds people that all those apps they use on a PC such as Word, IE, Outlook etc. are now more accessible on new Windows phones.

It is somewhat delusional to think modern smartphone users — most of them clinging to iPhones and BlackBerrys — even want to use IE and Outlook on their phones. But the ad does convey how Microsoft can transition the PC experience to the phone better than others. Or at least provide the most commonly used PC apps. You can’t miss ’em when they are big puffy characters wearing white tights.

Despite its flaws, the ad has its heart in the right place, and just getting the “Windows Phone” name in front of millions of viewers is long overdue. Call it a moral victory.

Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at Follow him on Twitter at Follow everything from on Twitter at