Wednesday, April 16, 2008

that unpleasant microsoft "rocking our sales" video

Welcome to the "2 Girls 1 Cup" of in-house promotional videos. Actually, I wish I could say that it was as repulsive and fascinating as the sight of two girls swapping their waste products back and forth. It's more like the two girls were just about to throw up into each others' mouths but then decided to talk about potpourri and dress up real nice and sing lullabies to orphans.

Corporate videos are inherently corny. They're always on the verge of ridiculousness, as if the actors were about to wink at the camera at a crucial moment or give a thumbs-up to the viewers (actually, in this video that's what they do). In this case, though, the wit and creativity have been carefully ironed out until nothing is left but the fatuous byproduct of a Bruce Springsteen impersonator rasping out Microsoft Newspeak to a dancing audience. 'Our ecosystem rocks'?

What's the dead giveaway? The unattractive dancing girl meant as the Courteney Cox stand-in from the original Dancing In The Dark video. A pretty girl would crank open the window and admit the terrible spectre of sexual desire into the proceedings. Sexuality is utterly verboten in the arid air of the corporate world, even though we spend more time with our coworkers than we do with our own families.

I'm not qualified to comment on the effectiveness of Windows Vista in corporate environments (note that the messaging doesn't bother with home user sales - I imagine that individual consumers aren't as significant a market, and most of us get our Vista Basic or Home Premium bundled with our computers) or its success to date, but I know enough about corporate communications to smell the desperation smoking off this thing in dark oily clouds.

Here's a rule of thumb I will call the Oyster Principle: in a reactive corporate environment, positive messages grow around the seed of a negative message. That is to say, if you've got something nice to say it's because something is wrong, and you're trying to cover it up deeply enough that the target audience won't notice. In many cases, the negative message dissolves entirely into the structure of benefits and anticipated returns. This is not necessarily a bad thing, insofar as sound policy can be a response to an identified problem. But in-house corporate videos are the roughest of aggregations around the irritant of a bad situation. In this case, the message is: Our sales are sucking. But now that we've come out with SP1, our future is bright! Bring on the revenue!

Ow. I think of the flashy but desperate Sino-rapper Sushi K from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, clumsily rapping to a crowd of thrash-metal loving skateboard kids about market share and the fact that his "special fondness is in your pants".

Anyway. I'm not one of those strange but smart people who watch Microsoft doggedly and post reports on its every move, so I may be misreading this video. Also, I'm drunk.


sgazzetti said...


Seriously. I have seen that two-girls-one-cup thing, and it has got nothing on this. The MS video is the one that really needs the urgent, you-can't-unwatch-this-thing warning. I too would be drunk if I had watched it sufficiently to produce such an exegesis. I think I have to go take some heroin now.

palinode said...

sgazzetti - Think of it this way; you can now divide your life into two parts: the innocent years before you saw this video and the hellish corrupted aftermath.

trinity67 said...

Oh god I just threw up a little and most of it didn't stay in my mouth.

Disgraced Media Baron said...

I always wondered what happened to Mary Lou Retton.

And now I know.

I don't know why this particular video brought to mind this old chestnut - perhaps the blending of the delicious flavours "corporate sales team" and "creepy" unlocked this memory...

palinode said...

dmbaron - What a great ad. The creepiness, the violence, the palette - it all looks like a contemporary piece. Although now that I think about it, there was a thread of creepy ads back in the eighties.