As Microsoft sees it, we're all wandering around in a daze, heads tilted downward and eyes on our smart phone screens. We bump into strangers and ignore our loved ones. And the solution? Another smart phone, of course.
That's the premise of Microsoft Corp.'s first batch of commercials promoting its newly launched Windows Phone 7 software. The company and phone handset makers unveiled some devices Monday; the first one will go on sale Nov. 8.
In one ad, people jog, ride bicycles, sit on the beach, stand stock-still in a dance club and take showers while staring at their phones. A masseuse kneads a client with her elbows while pecking out a message; when the client notices, she spits out a sarcastic, "Really?"
The word becomes an exasperated refrain throughout the rest of the spot, which was created by Crispin Porter and Bogusky, the agency responsible for Microsoft's broader Windows marketing campaign.
"'Really' is the word that we used to sort of poke fun, put a name to the moment we all know so well ... when you do get lost in your phone and you miss something _ tripping because you're looking down, or walking into someone," said Gayle Troberman, chief creative officer at Microsoft.
This isn't the first time Microsoft has used advertising to offer a diagnosis and a cure for our technological ailments. Ads for Bing, from the agency JWT, informed us we were suffering from something called "search overload."
As with Bing, Microsoft's new phones are facing off with established competition _ namely Apple Inc.'s iPhone and devices using Google Inc.'s Android system. Troberman said the company needs to explain to people why the solution they have isn't meeting all their needs.
Troberman said Microsoft's smart phones give people more information at a glance than competing gadgets do. When smart phones are idle, the screen locks up so people don't accidentally make calls or hit buttons. On Windows Phone 7 devices, the next appointment in the user's calendar shows up on that "lock screen" display, as do notifications for text messages and missed calls.
Other phones require people to first unlock their phones and launch applications.
Does that "really" translate into people spending less time staring at their screens? Er, not necessarily.
"It's up to consumer to decide when to use their phones more and when to use them less," Troberman said. "We're no one to tell people how to use their phones."