New Gates and Seinfeld ad: do you get it yet?

Microsoft has released its latest installment of the much-discussed advertisements featuring former CEO Bill Gates with comedian Jerry Seinfeld, revealing a tiny bit more of what the company is aiming to achieve with its abstruse ad campaign.

Last week, I recorded my immediate reactions to Microsoft's $300 million ad campaign with a mix of confusion and reproach. One week later, Microsoft has released the second installment in its ad series. While its intent remains on the vague side, Microsoft's serial ad campaign has engaged viewers with its esotericism.

In the latest ad, which comes in at a bewildering 4 minutes and 30 seconds, Gates and Seinfeld are holed up with a suburban family because they are "out of it," and need to "connect with real people."

It is a matter of perspective whether the apparently necessary blog concordance from employees is a good or bad thing. On one hand, you should not have to explain your advertisements, especially when they're created to explain you.

On the other hand, this open dialogue and viral distribution of the advertisements has made fans and critics alike micro-analyze what is an otherwise incomplete picture.

These ads have been referred to as "icebreakers," meant simply to capture the viewer's attention and introduce us to settings, themes, and characters. Gates has been wisely cast as Seinfeld's straight man. In this second commercial, Seinfeld is even referred to by the classic "funny man" tag from double act comedy.

The action has thus far taken place in the "real world," with a less-than-subtle culture shock theme. Seinfeld refers to Gates as living in a "moon house hovering over Seattle," while effacing his own ridiculous collection of cars. Early in the spot, the man cast as the family's father asks Gates if he's ever eaten scalloped potatoes before, with a naivete that borders on patronizing.

Running gags have now also been established, with this commercial ending on the "give me a sign" note where Gates does some ridiculous action at Seinfeld's behest. We also see Gates continuing to break in the shoes he purchased in the prior ad.

The result of this particular episode is much more welcoming than the first, which was too quickly paced and too awkward. As an introduction, it was a sweaty-palmed handshake. In this installment (which actually has to be broken into two to fit broadcasting constraints), the ad has gotten comfortable with itself and moves at an agreeable pace.

In this comfort, however, it drags on for too long, and still fails to get to the point. There remains no mention of product, and scant reference to Microsoft at all. Additionally, the juxtaposition of the two rich men against the "real world" continues to make them look like hapless aristocrats. Microsoft still comes off looking like Wodehouse's famously out-of-touch Bertram Wooster.

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