windows-7-family-guy Seth Macfarlane

So this week, Windows 7 launched. For a Mac owner like me, it was not the sort of thing that was on my radar, until I read the TechCrunch column from old school chum,  now author (it’s a good read) Paul Carr. His typically provocative article highlighted the tie up between the most strangest of bedfellows. Seth MacFarlane, the iconic Family Guy show and the launch of Windows 7. On November 8th, the Family Guy show will be commercial free, apart from the one big commercial running all the way through it. The launch and promotion of the new Windows 7 OS. On first glance this is a strange tie up. Family Guy has always played up to it’s outsider status, pushing the limits of taste on TV and savaged many a critic with it’s unique brand of humour. I love Family Guy for this approach it’s this attitude that keeps family guy fresh while the Simpson’s wanders into a cosy establishment endorsed middle age, lauded, for it’s past, not so much it’s present. Windows (and by proxy Microsoft) are still seen as the establishment, the stuffy older brother of the Mac. Which makes the appropriation of the show by Microsoft a real surprise and depending on your point of view, either a stroke of genius from Microsoft and Crispin Porter Bogusky (who are well versed in generating ideas that generate their fair share of controversy) or a total disaster, damaging the carefully crafted outlaw attitude that is intrinsic to the Family Guy backstory.

A pre-release clip of Stewie and Brian (both voiced by MacFarlane and using a long running Family Guy joke for extra effect) does not exactly bode well for the full 30 minuter

Ad-Age has the whole story here, and confirms my some of my assumptions about how this has gone down. And as much as it pains me to say it, I can understand the approach. It’s a classic piece of thinking from CPB. Family Guy has a die hard audience, probably of the perfect age group and demographic that Windows 7 is trying to reach. These age groups are always, always the hardest to reach and ‘connect’ with. A social media channel would already be highly tuned into the launch of a new Windows OS system, so a ‘campaign’ around there would be relatively benign. That means you have to go somewhere different, somewhere where maybe the Mac user hangs out, a place that is more attuned to that brands philosophy (and if there is a show on TV that is ‘Mac’ then Family Guy surely is it) to bring the product to a new audience. And it seems that Seth MacFarlane seems more than willing to fill that role. Put in context with the rest of CPB’s work on the Microsoft brand that itself has generated it’s fair share of press, from the bizarre Jerry Seinfeld ads to the cleverly concocted ‘I’m a PC’ ads. However, it will/could only work if the Microsoft team have handed over editorial control to MacFarlane and CPB, and the only way we will find out if they have will be to watch it. Which is sort of the point in the first place. It might not be pretty for a lot of people, but this is where the agencies increasingly reside.

Pencil it in, it certainly isn’t going to be dull, no matter how it plays out!

UPDATE: Ad Age is reporting and (Gawker is gloating) that Microsoft has pulled out of the show, having been made aware of the content of the show, a Mircosoft spokesman said…

“We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of ‘Family Guy,’ but after reviewing an early version of the variety show it became clear that the content was not a fit with the Windows brand,”

Well THAT’s a big time fail, and if I were CPB, probably a bit disappointed in their clients willingness to do due diligence and put itself on the line.

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