Remember that upcoming FOX special starring Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy–the one sponsored entirely by Windows 7, with the operating system worked into the show itself? Musing about it a couple of weeks ago, I said “there seems to be a basic cognitive dissonance at work when a supposedly take-no-prisoners, slay-all-sacred-cows kinda sensibility is applied to a paid advertising message.”
Turns out we won’t have to deal with any cognitive dissonance after all. According to Variety, Microsoft executives attended the show’s taping and discovered that the embedded Windows 7 references were accompanied by “riffs on deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.” They were apparently startled–um, have they never watched Family Guy?–and concluded, according to a Microsoft statement, that “the content was not a fit with the Windows brand.” Goodbye, Microsoft sponsorship. (The company says it’ll work with McFarlane on other Windows-related marketing.)
A few thoughts:
- I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy, but I admire Seth McFarlane for doing his thing rather than sanitizing it to please a sponsor.
- I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but is there a chance that this is a happy outcome for Microsoft? It gets to be briefly associated with Family Guy without having to deal with any complaints from anyone who’s not amused by gags about the deaf, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene, and/or incest.
- Today’s news comes less than four months after Microsoft released an Internet Explorer ad with on-screen puking, then pulled it after the complaints rolled in. Does the fact it allied itself with a famously tasteless entertainer and chickened out before the show went on mean that it’s getting smarter about this stuff, or didn’t learn anything from the “vomiting wife” hubbub?
- Was it rational in the first place for one product to both ally itself with an adorable five-year-old spokesgirl and pay to be woven into a show whose raunchiness was a foregone conclusion?
- What is it with all these Microsoft ads that stir up odd, self-defeating controversies? We’ve now had the Family Guy controversy, the vomiting wife controversy, the Lauren is an actress controversy, and the inexplicable Seinfeld campaign controversy.
The new “Windows 7 was my idea” ad isn’t bad, but you know what? No matter how much money Microsoft blows through advertising Windows 7, I think it’s going to get its most relevant, effective, and appealing marketing for free–in the form of largely positive word of mouth. And I’ll betcha not a single real-world Windows 7 user will bring up the Holocaust or feminine hygiene when he or he recommends Win 7 to friends, either…