Microsoft Tries to Win the Tragically Hip with Appearance on “Family Guy”

Microsoft was not happy with the first appearance of the company name on Family Guy, that natty little cartoon show that gets away with more than anyone ever thought possible on regular television. (Apparently the folks at the FCC are fans of the show – no huge fines have been handed down yet.)

Now it is revealed that another full length episode will appear featuring Microsoft, not as the butt of the jokes, but as the deliverer of computing nirvana, as the episode will focus on the release of Windows 7.

AllThingsD gives some of the details –

The last time Microsoft was featured in an episode of “Family Guy,” it was the butt of a Zune joke. Peter Griffin’s father-in-law asked Bill Gates to help him program his Zune and then taunted the Microsoft chairman, noting that he owns an Apple (AAPL) iPod “like the rest of the world” (see video below).

This time it’s going to be different. That’s because Microsoft (MSFT) is paying to make it so. The company has teamed up with Fox to sponsor a “Family Guy” special built around Windows 7. The show, dubbed “Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show,” after creator Seth MacFarlane and voice talent Alex Borstein, will air Sunday, Nov. 8, at 8:30 pm, EST and PST.

The new episode will be free of commercial breaks but presumably rife with “clever” references to Windows. Microsoft agencies Universal McCann and Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, which were tapped to weave the company’s marketing messages into the program, will make sure of that.

“You’ll see us deeply integrated into the content,” Gayle Troberman, general manager of consumer engagement and advertising at Microsoft, told Ad Age. “You’ll hear a lot about how Windows 7 can help you simplify your PC–it’s simple, fast and easy to use.”


Incidentally, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time MacFarlane has inked an advertising deal with a tech company. He’s currently working with Google (GOOG) on a project called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy,” which involves humorous animated shorts with built-in advertisements syndicated through the search giant’s AdSense advertising system.

Will this work for Microsoft? Will it work for Family Guy?

When I was young, things like this caused the core audience of some shows to go away, with people shouting that the creators were ‘selling out’. It cause a stigma that was not soon forgotten, or overcome.

I wonder if it will be good for Microsoft, as sometimes trying to be too hip ends tragically.  It certainly doesn’t seem as though Mr. Ballmer is using the soft sell anymore, does it?


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