Really? Windows Phone 7 Ads Slam Competition for Being Too Engaging

It takes a lot to offend me. I laugh in the face of insults. But, in the past couple of weeks, Microsoft has really hurt my feelings with its strange, anti-phone-geek Windows Phone 7 ads. And it’s not only me who should be sobbing into my capacitive touchscreen; just about anyone who’s ever used a smart phone should ought to be outraged.

In its latest one-minute commercial, entitled “Really,” the company inexplicably spends 60 seconds showing how people who are obsessed with their smart phones are ignoring everyday life. In one scene, a father peers into his handset while his son is trying to play catch with him. In another, a husband ignores his lingerie-clad wife to check his phone. In still another, a businessman drops his phone in a urinal and then picks it right up again to keep on texting. In each of these scenes, the offended party (son, wife, fellow bathroom goer), finally stands up to the phone addicted person and says “really?”

Then you see a photo of the Windows Phone 7 home screen and of a handset. The commercial closes with a scene of a young couple staring across the dinner table from each other and the text “be here now” on the screen.

Just check out the ad below.

If this were a PSA from the Foundation for a Better Life, all the finger-wagging about absent parents and distant husbands would make sense. But, Microsoft, you know this is a commercial for your smart phones, right?

What’s the meaning of all this? Are smart phone users all inconsiderate louts? And if Windows Phone 7 is a smart phone, how is it going to stop this behavior? The only logical conclusion I can draw from this video is that I ought to throw away my Droid and go back to using a dumb phone with no data plan. Then I’d presumably spend more time being a good person and less time staring into my handset like some kind of nineteenth-century opium addict.

I think what Microsoft is trying, but failing, to say with any real conviction is that the home screen tiles on Windows Phone 7, which show messages and social media updates right on the home screen, will make it easy to see information at a glance and get back to what you were doing in real life. Indeed, the tile-based UI on Windows Phone 7 is  a nice touch and, so far, I’ve been nothing but impressed with the Windows Phone 7 devices I’ve tested.

But is telling people that your device is less engaging than the competition really a winning strategy? Imagine if companies applied this logic to marketing other popular products:

  • Google TV: Less compelling content to distract you
  • Windows 7 Tablets: Short battery life so you can spend more time with your family
  • iPhone 4: More dropped calls help you keep it short

Microsoft’s new OS has a lot going for it, including several very addictive and time-consuming games like Sims 3. Is the company really trying to say I should be spending less time playing Xbox Live and more time outdoors?

Ironically, smart phones have the greatest potential to help us get out of the house and on with life. Since I got my Droid last year, I actually spend less time on the computer and more quality time with my family, because I can constantly check my e-mail without booting up the PC to do it. Instead of getting up off the couch to check my mail and see if something urgent from work has come in, I simply peer at the screen in my pocket and then, if nothing requires my immediate attention, I put the phone away.

At the same time, a good smart phone allows you to immerse yourself in the Internet or in its apps when you want to. Give me a really compelling game to take my mind off things while I’m waiting at the dentist’s office. Help me study my Chinese with a language learning app while I wait for class to begin. Let me sit there and watch silly videos when I have nothing better to do.

Telling me your phone won’t monopolize my time is like telling me it’s not worth my time. Microsoft, do you “really” mean that?

AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Ram Says:

    You’re an idiot.

  2. raymundo Says:

    I DO AND DO NOT AGREE WITH YOU, MERELY BECAUSE I THINK YOU ARE JEALOUS WITH WINDOWS FINALLY DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. ON THE OTHER HAND WE ALL KNOW THAT THE COMERCIALS AT SOME POINT REFLECT SOCIETY’S BEHAVIOR IN FRONT OF THEIR LOVED ONES. I ACCEPT THAT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I CAN’T PUT MY PHONE DOWN BECAUSE OF BEING ENTERTAINED AT IT, BUT ALSO THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I SPEND LOST OF TIME ON MY EVO SEARCHING OR LOOKING FOR AN APP IN THE NOT SO SOPHISTICATED OS. NOW, IF WINDOWS CAN ACTUALLY HELP YOU AVOID SOME OF THAT TROUBLE THEN THEY ARE DEFINITELY RIGHT. SO PLEASE, LEST WAIT AND SEE WHAT ACTUALLY WINDOWS HAVE TO OFFER BEFORE WE SHOW OUR TRUE FEELINGS.

  3. David Says:

    Yeah…I’m kind of confused with the message Microsoft is sending out with this commercial. I don’t think it will benefit their windows phone 7. However, the video was funny.

  4. Bolezhinkov Says:

    I think you may be extrapolating different ideas from the commercial than what the average smartphone consumer would.

    There isn’t anything in the ad trying to tell you that the phone is not engaging – they are pointing out that you (in theory) only need to look at your home tiles to be up to date with everything that is happening with your online life. You seem to think they are trying to sell a negative feature – I can assure you (and the people I have showed this ad to can as well) that is not what most people see when they watch this.

    To them, this ad makes them think about all the times they (or someone they know) have pulled out their phone and used it at the wrong time. It sends you on a guilt trip and tries to make you feel like WP7 will let you avoid the awkward situations or disapproving looks as you dig through some sub-menus or launch apps.

    For those of us in a more technology friendly workplace or home environment, its not as big of an issue – we’re used to and totally okay with phones being pulled out in the middle of things because we are being productive/up to date. But MS has to sell WP7 pretty hard and I bet its like the cigarette industry – you can’t get people to switch brands so you have to get new smokers. MS needs to get the demographic of people who are about to move to a smartphone – I just saw the stats this week, maybe 1/3 of mobiles are smartphones in the USA now. Those people who don’t yet have a smartphone may be the ones who don’t like the (apparent) complexity of current offerings, so MS tries to sell them on WP7 being a way to avoid all that.

  5. Rob Says:

    Actually, for someone who is just seeing the commercial who knows nothing about the product this commercial says hey our phone is less interesting than your phone and wont keep you from your loved ones. The commercial says nothing about the product’s features or advantages over other smartphones.
    If I was in the market for a new phone and based on this commercial I wouldnt be looking to buy a windows 7 phone.

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