Business / Public Relations / Technology

Our Privacy: Microsoft Doesn’t Care All That Much

Being an avid Gmail user I have written and read countless emails but I never see ads. Sure, this is entirely because I use AdBlock Plus in my browser to make my internet experience virtually ad free. This is great and I love it but then every so often something gets my attention and reminds me that there is advertising all over the web. I recently  heard about Microsoft’s attempt to convince Gmail users to switch to Microsoft’s web-based email services.

There have been many smear campaigns in business and politics over the years but Microsoft’s ‘Scroogled’ campaign is one of the lousiest. Apart from being a smear campaign, arguably the lowest form of marketing, I found it ineffective. In fact, it made me question Microsoft’s level of public concern and made me even less likely to stop using Gmail.

Smear Campaigns: Underestimating Their Public

The whole point of a smear campaign is to make the target public fear or question the quality of the campaign’s target. These are so easy to see in politics. In Canada we have had a litany of anti-Liberal and anti-NDP ads from the Conservatives like this one aimed at dissuading voters from trusting former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

What these campaigns do is underestimate their audience’s intelligence. Do these organizations really think we will just take their messages without challenging them? Microsoft is a business and is in direct competition with Google. So, clearly they are unbiased, right? Personally, I’m far more likely to listen to the argument of a public interest group on Google’s privacy policies.

Sloppy Ads: Sloppy Quality

Microsoft has invested in a couple of ads that are poor examples of what good ads should be.

One ad involves a couple, one of whom enjoys pie just a little too much. This ad just comes off as cheap and does not seem like a natural conversation. The dialogue is forced, the colour scheme is too bright and polished, and the punch use of physical comedy is sure to make Chaplin roll in his grave.

The other ad is more like a typical attack ad with its use of fear instilling images and words. We see a human being stalking some poor Gmail user’s email as the text scrolls. The ad even points out that Google’s “creepy” practices don’t always get it right. This made me realise that Microsoft was sloppy in the making of this message. They point out their own error by stating that if a person was reading the email they wouldn’t mistake the contents – they would know that Fluffy was put down. So, Google employees don’t read your emails like those creepy blue eyes in the ad suggest.

Microsoft’s Concern for the Public: Questionable at Best

Can you name one online company that has been consistently viewed as not respecting users’ privacy? That’s right, Facebook. Boy are they ever creepy. So, logically they should be starting a petition and attack campaign against Facebook, right? I think so but they aren’t. In fact, they have a good thing going with Facebook.

Google is synonymous with online searching and is the leader in online maps. When Microsoft released Bing in 2008 and Bing Maps in 2010 they had quite the mammoth to compete with. Part of their strategy was to integrate both of these products with Facebook.

If they really want to protect the interests of the public and try to stop other companies from invading the public’s privacy then they should not be partnering with Facebook.

Whether you are a Gmail user or not, don’t let Microsoft’s lame Scroogled campaign worry you. Do some more research into how Google actually generates the personalised ads. Then when you are ready, make an informed decision.

Check out this article from a former Microsoft executive for more information about this campaign.

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