Microsoft Office’s “Child of the 90s”

Microsoft Office began a campaign in 2012 called “The Browser You Loved To Hate” in order to introduce a new and positive brand message.  Microsoft launched a Tumblr dedicated to telling the story of the browser’s comeback and circulating the campaign.  In January 2013, Column Five created “Child of the 90s,” the third advertisement of the campaign, which became a viral hit within five days of its release.  It currently has more than 47 million views.  The campaign intended to reintroduce a new version of the browser people were not always happy with, and hoped people would have fun with the campaign and possibly give the browser a second chance.

Microsoft Internet Explorer’s “Child of the ‘90s” commercial was one of the most viral ads of 2013 walking people down memory lane.  All different ‘fads,’ gadgets and trends of the 90s get a small feature in the advertisement, including the now out-dated Internet Explorer.  This commercial is extremely clever in its use of nostalgia to bring back consumers’ favorite things of a very well known decade, including Microsoft.  This advertisement is clearly targeting those consumers who grew up in the 90s, which is essentially my age, 18-28.  Microsoft is looking to bring those consumers back to their childhood and remember what it was like to open Internet Explorer.  Many young adults feel that the media favors the taste of the baby boomers and Generation X, which it did, but this advertisement is clearly targeting Generation Y.  Young people want to distinguish themselves, and their symbolic words, from the ‘boomers.’  This advertisement succeeds in doing just that.

The advertisement had a lot of signs and language related to semiotic analysis.  The objects that flash on the screen are the signifiers, which is simply the form that an image or word takes. The signified is that concept that the signifer refers to, which in this case would be the YoYo or Lisa Frank folders.  We, however, unconsciously add meaning to the signifier in order to create a sign.  There are two types of meaning that can be attributed to signs: denotation and connotation.  Denotation, the most basic or literal meaning of a sign could be a toy or folder.  Connotation, the cultural meanings of signs that are used for secondary meaning, could be a fun, solitary game or a popular, colorful folder for school.  It also emphasizes nonconformity because it is encouraging users to move away from the usual Chrome, Safari and Firefox for the moment and try Internet Explorer again, which is not the common browser anymore.  This also fits into one of the discourses of ideology according to Robert Goldman and Stephen Papson.

I think this advertisement would be ideological, according to Goldman and Papson, in the sense that it disguises and suppresses inequalities, irrationalities and contradictions.  This advertisement is suppressing and disguising the inequalities of Internet browsers today, meaning that people have moved off of Internet Explorer quite some time ago and into Chrome, Firefox and Safari.  This ad is trying to tell people that the browser has changed, as have the consumers, so they should give it a try again.  With that being said, I absolutely love this advertisement and it was fun to take a trip back to the 90s, but I would never switch back to Internet Explorer because of it.  I have a feeling that Microsoft knows it will never rise above the Apple browsers, and most likely will not succeed despite its great attempt to rebrand Internet Explorer.  Consumers like being brought back to their childhood, but they would not necessarily go back and use the products or follow the trends of that time because things change, as do people, and this ad acknowledges that.

By reminiscing on fascinations of the 90s and reintroducing an Internet browser, the ad utilizes intertextuality in that it references other cultural texts or media and expects the audience to understand them.  This advertisement references things that only Millenials would really know about, or care about, because it is targeted directly to that group of consumers in their 20s.

This advertisement fits in perfectly with the 1960s idea of the “creative revolution,” which was a time when advertisements shifted from scientific and bureaucratic productions, to creative, passionate and dysfunctional ones.  Ads acknowledged mass society critique to appeal to the public’s fear of conformity, powerlessness and manipulation.  Rules were ignored, and the power was placed in the hands of the artistic and creative people in order to create convincing advertisements.  This ad was successful because it told a story before selling a product, and this was one of the major shifts from the 1950s and 1960s advertisements.  The “age of accelerated meaning” was all about transitioning from product-focused ads to image and brand-focused ads.  People, especially youth, want to be entertained, and if they are interested they will look into the product further on their own.  They did not manipulate consumers here, but rather inflicted an emotional appeal through nostalgia by putting Internet Explorer in the same ballpark as all the other things Millenials remember clearly about their childhood.  Youth are also the factory of ‘cool’ and are most likely to undertake cultural innovation in order to produce ‘cool.’  They are more willing to experiment with new consumer goods and form brand preferences.  I think this ad plays into the idea of ‘cool’ because 90s nostalgia is a big thing right now, especially because the desired consumers grew up in the 90s.  People enjoy listening to 90s music, watching 90s shows such as Boy Meets World, which is also making a comeback now, and sharing 90s childhood memories all over social media.

I think this advertisement would appeal to spectators who may be skeptical about advertising because the consumer can identify with this ad.  The genius slogan, “You grew up. So did we. Reconnect with the new Internet Explorer,” makes this ad that much more enticing for the target audience; it is authentic, relatable, creative, well-targeted and clever.  These are all features that young adults look for in advertisements because they feel entitled to be entertained.  People want representations in advertisements to match their values, which this ad does with its targeted audience.  They want producers to forget about products and prove intriguing story lines instead.  The youth are entitled to be entertained; this advertisement entertains to say the least.  The point of the ad is that the consumers grew up, and so did Microsoft, so its time to give Internet Explorer a change again.  Whether or not consumers choose to use the product is irrelevant, because the campaign was a great success even if it just resurfaces the brand.

-Alexis

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