Microsoft will be adding to March Madness this year with some advertising madness of its own. The maker of the Windows Phone operating system is reviving its "smoked" campaign.--
The original campaign was spun from a promotion Microsoft ran at CES 2012. In it, Windows Phone evangelist Ben Rudolph rushed around the exhibit floor, challenging smartphones made by competitors to throwdowns.
As a sweetener, Microsoft promised to pay $100 to the owner of any smartphone that could complete common tasks--finding a nearby restaurant, posting a photo to Facebook, and so on--faster than a Windows Phone handset.
Microsoft didn't have to pay out the $100 often--although on one occasion, it wasn't the best of losers. On that occasion, the smartphone owner had his handset specially configured for fast access to weather information and had disabled the phone's lock screen so the unit went directly to the home screen on power up. As a result, he clearly smoked Windows Phone with his Galaxy Nexus. After the phone owner wrote on the Internet about winning his smoked throwdown but being disqualified by Microsoft store employees, a wave of adverse publicity about the incident persuaded Redmond to reverse its position on the matter.
The new smoked campaign--it's called the Windows Challenge now--is aimed squarely at the Samsung Galaxy S III. In one spot, Microsoft's Rudolph shows how a Nokia 920 smartphone running Windows Phone 8 produces a better photo than the S III in low-light conditions.
In another ad, the old "find a nearby Mexican restaurant fast" challenge is revived, with the same results--a triumphant victory for Windows Phone and the Nokia 920.
Ironically, in targeting the Galaxy III in its ads, Microsoft is picking on one of its handset partners, Samsung, which was in the first wave of Windows Phone 8 smartphone makers.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Nokia heaped praise galore on the first smoked campaign. It produced a number of online videos that took the smoked format to the streets of London and dubbed the campaign the Lumia Challenge.