Microsoft and Jerry Seinfeld are breaking up after a brief but torrid love affair that produced two poorly received ads. Rumors from inside MS pre-campaign suggested that Seinfeld was only to appear in one spot, so I’m not surprised. The folks at Valleywag have a more cynical take.
Why did these multi-million dollar spots by Crispin Porter + Bogusky fail? The answer is simple and—thank god—post-advertising-y: Authority to publish. Authority to publish is the legitimacy a brand has to talk to its audience about a certain thing. To have authority to publish, a brand must have expertise and credibility when it comes to talking about said certain thing. For instance, Apple has the authority to publish about music due both to its deep experience with music through iTunes and iPod and its credibility with its audience when it comes to music. So, if Apple produced a quarterly music magazine about music technology and new bands, its audience wouldn’t balk.
On the other hand, MS certainly has expertise in computers and innovation and technology (some of the main brand messages that were to be relayed in the MS/Seinfeld spots), but because of Vista and Office 2007, MS lacks expertise in satisfying its customers (another one of the brand messages). MS also lacks credibility in all those areas because of its recent history in producing shoddy products. When the company says it’s thinking about the future and about making its customers happy, we don’t believe it. No authority to publish on the issue.
Can CP+B help MS gain some credibility with its audience when it comes to discussing its core competencies? Perhaps. But the best way for MS to establish credibility is by making better products.