Novelty Company Sues Microsoft Over Windows Phone 7 Ads

Microsoft is being sued over its Windows Phone 7 ads that make fun of people so addicted to their cellphones that they can't get on with the normal things in life such as playing with their kids, or spending romantic time with their spouses. On the face of it, though, the suit looks groundless. Still, Microsoft should consider pulling them, because they're simply not effective.

Microsoft's so-called "Really?" ads are witty and cleverly done, and show situations such as a father ignoring his son and a husband ignoring his clearly willing lingerie-clad spouse, because they are so caught up in cellphone use. In one of the most memorable scenes, it shows a man reaching into a urinal to retrieve his cellphone, after he dropped it while using it while doing his personal business. You can see the ad, below.

Ad Age reports that the Florida-based gag gift company Cellrderm is suing Microsoft and Microsoft's ad firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky over the ads, saying that the ads violated copyrighted creative content. Cellderm sells a gag gift called Cellderm, a tongue-in-cheek product for "cell phone abuse intervention" that will get people over the obsessions with their cell phones.

Cellderm created two low-budget ads for its product, one of which shows a man in a bedroom ignoring a lingerie-clad woman dancing suggestively, and another shows many men in a bathroom, using their cell phones at urinals. One of them drops a phone into a urinal. You can see both ads, below.

Cellderm created the ads before Microsoft did their. The company claims in its suit:

"The Microsoft Commercials copy both the sequence of events and the character interplay found in the Cellrderm Commercials. The Microsoft Commercials also copy other copyrightable expression, including but not limited to clothing, gestures, character appearance, camera angles, and other visual elements from the Cellrderm Commercials."

It seems clear that two of the situations in Microsoft's ads are based on Cellderm's ads. But Microsoft's ads included numerous witty scenarios and go well beyond what Cellderm created. You would never confuse the two ad campaigns. It looks to me as if Cellderm is either looking for a quick buck or plenty of free publicity.

However, Microsoft should pull the ads for a different reason: They send the wrong message to potential buyers of Windows Phone 7 devices. The ads promise that with Windows Phone 7, you'll spend less time with your phone. But people want to spend more time with their phones, not less. They want plenty of downloadable apps. Microsoft should be playing up the nifty features of Windows Phone 7, not saying it's the phone for people who don't like cellphones.

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