Microsoft enlists Seinfeld for ad campaign: source

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Jerry Seinfeld will star in a $300 million marketing campaign for Microsoft Corp aimed at burnishing the image of its computer operating system, a person familiar with the effort said on Thursday.

Jerry Seinfeld poses at the premiere of "Bee Movie" in London December 6, 2007. REUTERS/Anthony Harvey

The centerpiece of that campaign, to debut next month, is a series of television advertisements in which Seinfeld, 54, best known for his eponymous NBC sitcom, will appear with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, the person told Reuters.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported details of the marketing effort, said Seinfeld will receive about $10 million for his work.

Seinfeld’s representatives were not immediately available for comment and Redmond, Washington-based computer software giant Microsoft declined to discuss the matter.

But the source who knew of the ad campaign said an immediate goal of the commercials is to counter public perceptions that Windows Vista, Microsoft’s latest PC operating system, is clunky and hard to use compared with rival products from Apple Inc.

The overall objective of the campaign is to rejuvenate the brand image of Windows generally, the source said.

Devised by the Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the spots will employ some variation of the slogan “Windows, Not Walls” and the theme of removing barriers that prevent people and ideas from connecting, the person said.

The ads will begin appearing September 4. The Wall Street Journal said the $300 million marketing campaign is one of the largest in the company’s history.

For now, Seinfeld is the only celebrity, other than Gates, taking part in the campaign, although others were considered, including comic actor Will Ferrell, the source said.

The attempted image overhaul comes in the wake of Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ads featuring a geeky PC guy who vaguely resembles Gates being unable to keep up with a better-looking, hip Mac counterpart.

Those ads, painting Windows as stodgy and unreliable, have reinforced criticism about Vista’s performance, stringent hardware requirements and lack of support for other software and devices such as printers.

Despite selling more than 180 million licenses since its launch in 2007, Vista continues to suffer from the perception the release was a dud, although Microsoft has said early problems with the operating system have been resolved.

The Windows operating system is the crown jewel of Microsoft’s $60 billion software empire. It sits on more than 90 percent of the world’s computers and profits generated from Windows bankroll the company’s ventures into new businesses such as Xbox video game machines and Zune music players.

Additional reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi in Seattle; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Andre Grenon