Microsoft “shoe bending” advert, in all seriousness, please…

A recent Microsoft advert, brought to my attention by Colin, is somewhat odd, cool, weird, memorable, etc. Ian then replied to Colin with 1938media‘s response. I was going to prepare a video response to Loren’s video, however I decided to put it into writing instead (largely due to a noisy household, a shortage of production time and toothache).


Gates and Seinfeld spend their time inside a shoe store called Shoe Circus. This is an advert loaded with one-liners many of which have a deeper meaning. For example, in the opening scenes Seinfeld introduces viewers to the shop slogan “Quality shoes at discount prices – why pay more?” and the fact that Bill Gates is inside being fitted out for a pair of shoes. Viewers are free to read into this whatever they like, however the message is obvious: if Shoe Circus is good enough for Bill…then it’s good enough for the rest of us. The analogies with software should be obvious to viewers.

With Seinfeld taking over the role of shoe fitter, he asks Gates’ “is that your toe?” Gates’ response is nothing short of inspired, “no, it’s leather”. Of course it’s the leather that Seinfeld has just touched. Appearances can be deceptive, sheep can hide in a wolf’s clothing, Gates’ is being open and honest with the brevity of his response.

We learn that “the left one’s is a little tight”. Gates does not say much in this advert, this sentence is his longest. Viewers may find themselves feeling that Gates and Seinfeld are actually portraying McCain and Obama with this political reference. However, the opposite is actually true: there is no room for politics in global product development.

Viewers are invited to consider the statement “he’s a 10”. Seinfeld makes this point very clearly with little in the way of semantic fluff and verbal distraction. He is careful to repeat the statement “that’s a 10”. The point that he is making is also clear: there’s no 11 here, we don’t need to be one better than anybody else, we can be as good at 10. These three words have deep roots in the wise words of Spinal Tap whose amplifiers are better than the competition because they go one louder.

Outside the store, the Spanish-speaking family are not interested in Gates and Seinfeld, they are interested in the Conquistador, the shoe itself. This is a clear indication to the viewer that big brand names should not be the primary focus, it is the product that exhibits the quality and usability. Indeed, we can induce some meaning from the definition of conquistador – the explorer or adventurer – products do not develop themselves, exploration and risk are essential in order to move any product development forward.

We have already seen Seinfeld demonstrate the flexibility of the Conquistador, which sends home the a message that products should be flexible and able to meet all your demands, even if wearing leather shoes in the shower is one of your demands. Viewers may initially have thought that the shoe bending was a direct reference to Yuri Geller’s spoon bending activities of the 1970’s, however the producers very quickly put us off the scent with the vision of Seinfeld wearing his clothes and shoes whilst showering.

During the closing of the shoe purchase we learn that Gates has a platinum card for the store. The card itself has a picture of Gates that pre-dates 1980 (readers are invited to work out a more precise date for this photograph on their own). Of course the message that the producers are hoping to convey with this hark back to the late 1970’s is that of stability and the desire to produce quality products since day one. The irony of the loyalty card being called a Clown Club should not be missed – this is a laser-guided “direct hit” against anybody who believes that Microsoft cannot hit the mark with whatever they set their cross-hairs on.

The secondary message suggested by the Clown Club card infers that there are other folks in the club. One might think that members of the same club should play fair, as happens in traditional sporting clubs. Gates’ smirk as he announces that he is a platinum member suggests that other members of the same club may not be playing fair, although this is a statement that is never made directly. The Clown Club card itself rewards holders with Big Top points. These are probably worthless, however this is sending a clear message to the other club members that team work and playing fair are essential in today’s world, points do not always mean prizes. Scoring points against your opposition is not something club members should be entertaining.

During the penultimate message, as Gates and Seinfeld leave the store and the shopping mall, Seinfeld comments that Gates has “mind-melded his Magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft”. We see here yet another reference to the need for team work, the need for the creation of a global playing field, there is no room for a disconnected organisation. Gates short but subtle response, “I have”, drums this point home. A question left unanswered at this point is “where did Gates get his churro from?” The viewer is left to make up their own mind about the origin and meaning behind the introduction of this random and spurious churro.

The closing message sees Seinfeld, a clear thought leader in this field, ask Gates the ultimate question, a question that would normally result in the answer 42. Readers of this piece and viewers of the advert are invited not to panic at this point, as what follows is merely one interpretation of this particular message.

Seinfeld, as we have witnessed throughout the advert, plays the lead part with the most vocal content. However it is Gates’ with his “man of few words” responses that are the most emotive and carry with it more meaning than wordy sentences can come close to achieving. This is a hidden message: quality over quantity.

We may believe that there are take-aways in Seinfelds closing message: “I’m just wondering, are they ever gonna come out with make our computers moist and chewy like cake so we could just eat ”em while we’re working? If it’s yes, give me a signal, adjust your shorts.” Viewers are then either shocked or surprised to see Gates adjust his shorts (for the benefit of UK readers/viewers, we must imagine these to be boxer shorts, as worn under the trousers). Gates’ action allows the advert to close somewhat rapidly, leaving us with the message “The Future…Delicious” and the Windows logo.

The advert’s primary message is clear: Windows 7 will be a product oozing with quality, usablity, flexibity, style and it will integrate with the way you do things. Gates still is still associated with Microsoft, certainly in the eye of the viewing public, hence the choice to use him as part of this advert for future Microsoft products and hence this author’s direct reference to Windows 7.

This advert says so many things about the Microsoft product development process and their products, surely so much is obvious?


A YouTube version of the advert can be found here.

Thomas Lee’s post on the same topic.
An alternative ending can be found here (provided here for reference, not endorsed)
The deal behind hiring Seinfeld

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3 thoughts on “Microsoft “shoe bending” advert, in all seriousness, please…”

  1. Genius! Pure genius! FX: Doffs cap. You should be working for an ad agency (you knew there’d be an insult in here somewhere, didn’t you?! ;-))

    Still can’t make my mind up about 1938Studio. Sometimes I think he’s hilarious and inspired. Sometimes I think he’s just too mean, jealous (of Scoble) and hypocritical (maybe that’s the joke). Whatever he is/turns out to be I’m kinda addicted. Which I guess is the whole point.

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