If you watched TV this weekend, you likely saw the new Microsoft ad about the father grocery shopping. (If the embedded image above doesn’t work, watch it here.)
This is the most interesting and important ad Microsoft has done since perhaps Windows 95. For professionals, it matters for three reasons.
First is that it’s spot-on, if you’ll forgive the pun. Microsoft has been unable to develop ads that resonate with professionals the way Apple ads have done since the original iPod ads. “I’m a PC” was interesting for computer geeks and helped employees feel better about the beatdown Apple was laying on them with their “I’m a Mac” ads, but it didn’t have the light touch that I think this spot does. If Microsoft can come up with two or three more ads that nail it for the public — not computer-oriented folks — the way this one does, I believe, their stock will finally start climbing again.
(Should ads make a stock go up? In an ideal world, probably not, but here it will be seen as evidence that Microsoft is picking up its game.)
Second, it shows Microsoft’s vision of a connected world, without ever saying anything directly. Microsoft has had this vision for at least a decade, but this is the first time they’ve found a way to connect it with real people, sans “Microspeak.”
By the way, this ad shows something you can do today — with the best app that no one knows about. In fact, you likely already have the application shown, OneNote. I can’t say enough about how OneNote can boost productivity, even if you don’t use it to update your shopping list on the fly.
Third, and here’s where I think it’s really interesting, step way, way back from the ad. Consider how it tells a story. Nowhere does it talk about being connected, “the cloud,” OneNote, or anything else. In fact, the tagline is “family.” Even the name of the spot, “Keep Shopping,” is unrelated to what they’re really showing.
What they’re showing is a vision of the future.
I talk in classes and in my books repeatedly about the need for vision. Every project can benefit from a clear, simple vision — a picture of the desired future state. It’s not about how you get there; the project team will work that out. Rather, it’s all about the “there,” and only about the “there.”
This ad is a project vision in graphical (video) form. It’s a picture of the desired future state — not that the kids will keep updating Dad’s shopping list, but that we will someday not think about what are really artificial separations among our systems. There are the office (and Office) apps. There’s the phone, the PC, the tablet. There’s home and work. There’s Facebook and the browser and mail.
Microsoft is positing a vision where all of these distinctions disappear beneath the work itself. These distinctions are crucial to programmers, who need to make it all work, but they should and could be irrelevant to users. We think now of Facebook and Outlook and such because we have to. Imagine a world wherein we didn’t have to; we could just somehow, in some magic way, make it all work and play together.
The beauty of the ad is that Microsoft is showing that vision, without hitting us over the head with it, without even speaking its name.
On your next project, consider developing a vision along these lines. It doesn’t have to be slick, let alone a video (!!), but it shouldn’t be mundane, pedestrian.
It should move people.
It should demonstrate the hoped-for future state.
It’s not simple, but it’s not terribly hard either. It will pay big rewards. All it takes is a bit of thought and a little effort.
Now go buy the coconut. And do your homework.
(And maybe start playing with OneNote, which is included with Microsoft Office. It really does the stuff shown in the commercial, including the automatic synchronization, and a whole lot more besides. And no, I never worked on the OneNote team.)