If you’ve read my opinions about tech company advertising, you’d know that I think Microsoft has some of the worst in the business. Historically, their ads fall cleanly into one of 2 camps: “disingenuous comparisons” and “adolescent humor”. Their latest attempt to breathe life into their Windows Phone offering, “Smoked by Windows Phone” was doomed to failure the second someone in Marketing decided to port it from “CES novelty” to “major marketing push”.
The gimmick, as it was first covered at CES, is that you bring your smartphone and match it up against a Windows Phone in a real-world speed test using one of Microsoft’s pre-designed benchmarks such as “take a picture and upload it to Facebook”. If you won at CES, you got a crisp Benjamin. In the most current promotion being run at
both Windows Stores, if you win, you walk away with a special Hunger Games edition HP ultrabook.
The problem with this set-up should be obvious. Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and assume that the comparisons are fair and decent representations of useful things you would do with your smartphone. With a $1,000 piece of kit on the line, don’t you think people are going to do everything they can to rig the game in their favor? And how does Microsoft think it’s going to look when someone beats them – fairly or unfairly – and the dude in the Windows Store refuses to pay out? What excuse do you think the general public is going to find acceptable? The answer: none of them. Microsoft is going to looks like dicks that not only rigged a competition in their favor, but dicks that welch on bets when they can’t win a competition rigged in their favor. And that’s exactly what the breeze coming off the Internet about this debacle smells like.
Exhibit A: dude beats Windows Phone using Android phone at Windows Store. Windows Store employee redefines the rules of the competition on the fly. Dude tweets what bullshit this is. Windows Marketing guy tweets back and offers the cheated Android user a rematch.
Exhibit B: guy on Reddit finds it funny that Windows Phone outperforms his phone when uploading a photo. Guy Speedtests Windows Phone and finds upload speeds significantly faster than his, leading to claim that Microsoft throttles the WiFi in their store to give them an unfair advantage when uploading a photo to Facebook.
This does not have the makings of a viral marketing campaign; it has the makings of Microsoft hanging itself out there like a piñata at a birthday party.
Update: It looks like the gentleman from Exhibit A is a good example of what howling on Twitter about your misfortunes can do: after challenging Sahas Katta to “a rematch”, Microsoft manned-up and made good on granting him his reward: a laptop and a Windows Phone. Score one for Redmond. I still think the campaign is a horrible idea, but at least they’re honoring the terms of their challenge (after being called out on the Internet, that is).