Microsoft’s Bing, “Smartphone”

JWT is back with the latest installment in its “Search Overload” campaign for Microsoft’s Bing search engine. You’ve seen the ads—with people driven to rambling nonsensical search-term monologues by rival sites, whose overabundance of cluttered information is apparently too much for the human brain to process. The criticism of the campaign from the start has been that “search overload” simply doesn’t exist—that it’s just another bogus malady invented so the advertiser can offer a cure. That’s a legitimate gripe, but the real issue is one of tone. The ads exaggerate the problem for effect, presenting the sufferers as blithering idiot-drones while solemnly framing the issue as a threat to society (e.g., “What has search overload done to us?”). In the end, the viewer doesn’t know how seriously to take the hyperbole. On the upside for Microsoft, the rapid-fire monologues are undeniably memorable (annoying or not), and set Bing apart. (It helps that the search engine’s very name is like a little light bulb of uncluttered revelation.) This latest spot, though, is a bit underwhelming. In it, a girl tells the story of her father researching cell phones for her—a journey that has addled his brain, and sent him into full search-overload crackpot-rant mode. He manages to name-check both Arnold Horshack and Cee Lo Green, which is impressive, but the monologue is somehow not quite as amusing as it should be. And the cell-phone theme itself is a bit confusing. The ad is meant to highlight the experience of shopping for things like cell phones, but viewers at first might wonder if it has something to do with a mobile version of Bing. As a whole, the campaign still seems to have legs, but soon we might be looking at “Search Overload” overload. —Tim Nudd