Microsoft Vies For Hip Image Via Stunt

Consumers tend to associate “creative” with Mac and “corporate” with Microsoft, a brand position which Apple has brilliantly and consistently fostered since the infamous 1984 commercial. Now, with a new social media PR campaign, Microsoft aims to change that perception.

Here’s the break down:

It’s an online movie-making contest called Ultimate Video Relay aiming to improve Windows Vista’s reputation, particularly for the higher-end version of Vista Ultimate.

Director, Kyle Newman began the story with a six minute clip called “The Cube” that some are calling a cross between The Matrix and The Office.

The clip has an abrupt and incomplete ending. Contestants are supposed to finish the story by creating a second and third act using Vista Ultimate and site visitors will judge the best submissions.

To execute the campaign, Microsoft partnered with TriggerStreet, the online production company owned by Kevin Spacey. TriggerStreet and Microsoft were brought together by Omelet, a Los Angeles advertising company that focuses on entertainment-based campaigns.

Of course, it’s always risky to invite consumers to create content around your brand. Remember Chevy’s 2006 call for consumers to create a new online spot for the Tahoe? Most of the ads people created highlighted the Tahoe’s fuel in-efficiency and subsequent damage to the environment.

Clearly Microsoft is hoping by starting the story, consumers will pick up where they left off. I assume they are also counting on the association with Spacey to lend credibility and spark interest from genuine aspiring screenwriters and filmmakers who want their talents noticed. Of course, talents can get noticed in a well-done negative piece too.

“One of the things that makes me feel O.K. about this,” said Barry Goffe, director for Windows client product management at Microsoft, “is that we’re not asking people to write a script that says ‘Windows Vista Ultimate is great’ or romances technology.” Rather, he added, the idea is to create content that in its tone would mirror the lighthearted approach of Act I of “The Cube.”

Given the number of complaints and reports about Vista glitches, it’s definitely a risky move. But, at least Microsoft is transparent in their goals and it is a clever way to tell consumers that Windows has movie-making apps too — something I certainly don’t associate with the brand. So, we’ll see how it shakes out. I will keep you posted, and if you hear of anything new, please let me know!

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