Let's face it: WordPerfect is the software equivalent of Jimmy "Dynamite" Walker: hot at some time in the distant past, but nobody can remember exactly why. A has-been who it is always a surprise to learn is still alive.
But anonymity has its upside: it does allow for experimentation without risking an embarrassingly high-profile marketing mistake. It opens things up to a throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks type approach to marketing without a big downside if things blow up. I mean, does anybody still remember the company who shot gerbils from a cannon during its million-dollar Superbowl ad a few years back? Personally, I don't. But if someone were to bring up their name today and remind me, the first words out of my mouth would be: Oh, yeah, they're the dumb asses who shot their wad shooting gerbils from a cannon during the Superbowl.
Well, Corel's not making that mistake: I found these campaigns on a small newsletter called Government Computer News. My guess is that you could run just about any campaign on GCN and not worry about the ripples extending beyond a handful of bureaucrats living within the beltway.
And on May 11, WordPerfect ran an ad in the GCN newsletter with messaging consistent with what you'd expect for a publication geared toward a bunch of Washington wonks with a budget:
"Corel and ASAP Software are pleased to invite you to a complimentary breakfast seminar, 'What's New on the Desktop?' on May 20, 2004. You will learn how you can realize significant savings and overall lower total cost of ownership by harnessing the power of both WordPerfect Office 12 and CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12.
Add a couple of tepid graphics of a guy in a shirt and tie giving a serious stare toward a bank of computer monitors and a "register now" link, and you are set to go. So far, so good."
And then came May 12... In probably one of the ugliest banners to come from a company that makes graphics software is a tiny ad that simply states "CHECK OUT" and a link to SeeWhoGotFired.com.
That's it. No branding. Just the "CHECK OUT" message and the link.
So I went over to see "SeeWhoGotFired.com."--and I suggest you do to if you want to see an interesting exercise in surreal marketing that is a day away and light-years removed from our simple Breakfast Seminar messaging in the previous day's GCN newsletter. Here we find Corel, in all its viral glory, trying to be BMW Films via a bad Crispin Porter + Bogusky aesthetic. On the once again unbranded site, we are able to experience four films illustrating different ways to get fired by not choosing WordPerfect's Office Suite programs. In a sort of Glengarry Glen Ross homage, two workers are given the job of typing up some report by their boss. The one who comes in last is going to be fired. While one types worry-free, without a lot of "annoying features" to get in the way, the other is plagued by a nebbish personification of Microsoft's "paper clip" help--Mr. Clip-it, who is slowing her down. She gets the pink slip, of course, while the tag line "Some Features are Just Plain Annoying" scrolls across the screen. Maybe, but Corel seems to have forgotten that without feature upgrades, there is very little justification to purchase new copies of WordPerfect. In fact, if I didn't care about features, I could probably still be using my WordPerfect circa 1989 program. In a unintentionally humorous line, at one point Mr. Clip-it says to the beleaguered word processor: "A formatting Macro would be good right about now." I'm not sure who in the last 10 years has used a "formatting Macro," but obviously, the Corel folks still think this is an issue for today's Microsoft Word users.
To illustrate the ephemeral nature of today's reality TV shows, it took me a while to realize that all of the films took "The Apprentice" as their inspiration. Which makes Corel seem like the boring guy at the party using last year's buzz words. Hey, I've got a slogan for their next campaign: "WordPerfect ...Wazzup!"