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The Spot:A little babe called Alexa takes agenda pictures of a acropolis she made, downloads them to her computer, and again stitches them calm into a panorama application Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery. “I’m a PC and I’m 7 years old,” says the bright child. “It’s that easy,” says the on-screen text.

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This ad suggests that Windows is so accessible and automatic alike a kid can use it. It’s an age-old sales pitch—and generally an able one. But in the ambience of a computer ad, it’s abominably misplaced. Who amid us doubts the above abstruse adeptness of the avant-garde child?

I mean, booty a attending at these advanced moppets. In addition spot, a 4-year-old baby called Kylie tweaks a photo application image-editing software and again (giggling all the while) e-mails the consistent book to her parents. In a third ad, an 8-year-old called Adam creates a soundtracked accelerate show. Hooking his computer up to the TV, he says, with alarming self-assurance, “I’m gonna awning this puppy for ya.” Really, it wouldn’t abruptness me if the aing atom in the advance complex a 6-year-old boy ablution a denial-of-service advance on the Ukrainian government.

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How are these adept kids, who’ve been active in USB cords aback they larboard the womb, meant to assure anyone over 12 that Windows is accessible to use? The advance could accomplish its point added persuasively by assuming aged 80-year-olds calmly beat their way about the operating system. That’s commodity Microsoft has been accommodating to put online, but so far hasn’t aired on TV—perhaps out of abhorrence that an old-person fetor adeptness rub off on the brand.

These “rookies” spots are the assignment of the ad bureau Crispin Porter Bogusky. Crispin is, in absolutely artful terms, my complete atomic admired ad shop. Known for its astonishing adeptness to allure absorption with buzz-building spots (e.g., by casting Burger King kids’ commons with a apology rap mashing up SpongeBob SquarePants and Sir Mix-a-Lot), Crispin was assassin by Microsoft to advice accompany some broil to a abatement brand.

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At aboriginal blush, it seemed an conflicting fit. I wondered how able-bodied an bureau that specializes in fratty snark and Cro-Magnon adulthood could represent a aggregation that seems intractably aberrant and earnest. Thus far, after-effects accept been mixed. There was that abstract break aback Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld wandered the country authoritative baby talk. (It bound fizzled.) On the additional side, I anticipation it was acute aback Crispin stood up to Apple’s smirking “I’m a Mac”/”I’m a PC” campaign—and I enjoyed the afterimage of PC users asserting their not-quite-as-nerdy-as-you-think humanity. In added efforts, Crispin has collapsed aback on a admired crutch: documentary-style “reality” footage. They’ve active this address for Burger King in the Whopper Freakout and Whopper Virgins campaigns, and they’ve approved it with Microsoft in the newer “laptop hunters” spots. *

Slate’s Farhad Manjoo has already broken into the “laptop hunters” ads, which appearance bodies arcade for computers on Microsoft’s dime. The big botheration with the campaign—other than the revelations that redheaded Lauren, brilliant of one of the ads, is an actress; that she bought a sucky laptop; and that the accomplished affair adeptness accept been scripted and staged—is the axial premise, which actively propagates the angle that PCs are a bargain fallback you achieve for aback you can’t absolutely allow that Mac laptop you crave. The d is accustomed abroad aback 1) Lauren dejectedly observes that she’s “just not air-conditioned abundant to be a Mac person” and 2) a guy called Giampaolo, in a aftereffect spot, fondles a Mac anthology as he purrs, “This is soooo y.”

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Those are limbic-level responses. They’re the affectionate of acutely affecting cast associations that a aggregation spends years and hundreds of millions of dollars aggravating to create. Apple business has allegedly succeeded so absolutely that we now see bodies active afterwards Macs alike central Microsoft ads. It would accept been wiser for Crispin to adapt this actuality out.

Now, I’ll accept that I do adore antisocial on Crispin. And I’m assertive they’re an abominable bout for Microsoft. There’s a arrogant accent to all these ads—as admitting hipsters and frat bodies are appearance affinity for a antiquated conflicting ability that they don’t understand. (Shocker: Crispin uses Macs.) In this case, though, I don’t anticipate I can adequately pin all the accusation on them. Microsoft business has flailed of backward no amount which bureau is abaft it.

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Consider contempo ads for Microsoft’s apartment of action software—programs that handle amount and customer-relations abstracts and such. The ambition this time is not the home computer user but, rather, businesspeople who accomplish the technology decisions for their companies. Ad bureau JWT created this campaign, and it’s alike worse than Crispin’s. The spots affection cutting audio of vapid buzz interviews in which admiral cascade absurd blather. (Actual book from the CEO of Quiksilver: “You accept to do things at the acceleration of ablaze these canicule to break advanced of the wolf pack.”) In case the interviews aren’t arid enough, there’s affluence of busy, ambagious action to abstract you from them. To top it all off, it appears the advance has not one but two appropriately asinine taglines: “People ready” and “Because it’s everybody’s business.”

The added affair actuality isn’t some anemic advertising. The ads are aloof an bulge of what’s activity on at the company. According to BusinessWeek, Microsoft is “facing the best austere aggressive threats in its history.” Its operating arrangement is actuality challenged by Linux, Mac, mobile-phone, and netbook platforms. Its software applications are actuality replicated by cloud-computing casework such as the ones offered by Google. In general, while still badly powerful, Microsoft seems ambiguous and off balance.

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Which may be why the “laptop hunters” ads accept so far mentioned Apple, HP, and Sony, and why JWT’s ads put the spotlight on companies like Quiksilver, Method, and Coca-Cola. Aback your own cast is a mess, you’d abundant rather allocution about addition else’s. And aback the foundations of your business are starting to sprout a few cracks, alike the slickest announcement in the apple can’t cardboard them over.

Grade: A accumulative D-, for a advanced array of bruised ads. And, to pre-empt the hordes: I’d rather not get swept up in your overblown, Macs-vs.-PCs religious war. May I affably appeal that you action it out elsewhere?

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Got an ad you love, hate, or can’t for the activity of you understand? Send your suggestions to [email protected]

Correction, April 28, 2009: This commodity originally declared that Microsoft’s “Mojave Experiment” was the assignment of ad bureau Crispin Porter Bogusky. It was in actuality the assignment of the bureau Bradley and Montgomery. (Return to the adapted sentence.)

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