With the first Windows Phone 7 devices actually hitting stores today after being unveiled last month, one question that strikes me is, "Where are the ads?" Sure, Microsoft previewed the initial TV spots for the campaign for Windows Phone 7 created by Crispin Porter and Bogusky, and ads had already been generating buzz after getting leaked onto YouTube.
What's more, Microsoft touted its promotional effort for the new platform as "the biggest TV marketing campaign in the history of the mobile business," with ads to formally debut in the U.S. on Oct. 25 and air during the World Series and shows like "Hawaii Five-0," "Bones" and "Saturday Night Live." Overall, Microsoft is said to be spending $100 million on the marketing blitz, which carries the counterintuitive theme of getting people to spend less time with their phones.
Maybe I haven't been watching enough TV (I did skip the Yankee-less World Series), but I really haven't noticed the Windows Phone 7 spots on TV, online or in print. And it's not because the creative is lame. The ad dubbed "Really," showing a series of scenes of people more engrossed in their phones than their immediate surroundings, for instance, is clever and amusing. The same goes for the no-dialogue spot featuring a crowded streetscape where everyone is oblivious to the carnage caused by their phone fixation.
In connection with the launch of Windows Phone 7 handsets today, Microsoft released research from a Harris Interactive poll it commissioned, which found that although 72% of people said bad phone behavior was one of their top pet peeves, only 18% admitted to engaging in such behavior themselves. And nearly half of mobile users surveyed said they'd walked into something because they've been looking down texting.
OK, there's another press release and some kind of promotional concert tie-in with Katy Perry for Windows Phone 7. But where's the ad carpet-bombing we've come to expect after the marketing push Microsoft put behind Bing? I would've expected page takeovers at least on NYTimes.com, Yahoo and AOL on the Windows Phone 7 launch day.
After that first pair of ads, Microsoft has said it will introduce six other 30-second commercials spotlighting particular Windows Phone features such as Xbox Live, Bing and photos. But those don't promise the kind of brand impact the initial spots are supposed to deliver, "breaking through the clutter" of other smartphone ads, according to Microsoft. That hasn't happened yet, as far as I can tell.
The success or failure of Windows Phone 7 won't rest on its ad campaign, but given the ground Microsoft has to make up against Apple and Google in the smartphone space, you would think the company would've been pushing harder on the hard sell already. After all, subtlety isn't something Microsoft is known for.