It looks like Microsoft hopes that “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane will do what Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t: sell an operating system.
As part of the gargantuan rollout for Windows 7, Microsoft enlisted MacFarlane–who also created “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show”–and Fox to create a commercial-free show, “Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show,” which will air on Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m. EST and PST. The program will, apparently, feature “unique Windows 7-branded programming that blends seamlessly with show content,” according to a press release on the Microsoft Website.
The release draws a parallel between MacFarlane’s Windows-sponsored programming and the variety shows of the 1940s and ’50s, specifically Texaco Star Theater, which had a single sponsor.
“While the way people watch TV has evolved, their desire to be entertained, and marketers’ need to deliver compelling content, hasn’t changed,” the statement reads. “Microsoft and Fox are joining forces to showcase how the power and simplicity of Windows 7 can enhance the content Fox viewers enjoy most.”
As far as Fox cross-branding goes, I guess showing Peter Griffin host a Microsoft-themed party beats having Jack Bauer messily beating an interrogation suspect with a netbook pre-loaded with Windows 7 Starter.
Whatever final form MacFarlane’s evening takes, it’ll probably make a lot more sense to people than the Jerry Seinfeld ads for Windows Vista, which seemed to better explain Bill Gates’ shoe-buying habits than why anyone would rush out to buy a PC. I’m betting that MacFarlane, no fool he, will get busy “marrying Windows 7 messaging with content” (quoting the release, again) by lampooning Microsoft’s new baby; that way, he keeps his street cred as subversive while Redmond gets its brand in front of as many coveted 18-to-35-year-old eyeballs as possible.
But make no mistake: A MacFarlane-created show will do far more for Windows 7 than either the house parties or the sickeningly sweet “Kylie” ad campaign that ran during the premiere of the CW show “Vampire Diaries” in September. Those marketing moves felt–at least to me–like substantial missteps after Microsoft did so well nailing Apple with its “Laptop Hunter” ads earlier in 2009.
Microsoft and Fox will follow the show with a 12-week college tour that “gives students the chance to try Windows 7 for themselves and enjoy customized entertainment created by Fox Licensing and Merchandising,” including movie nights hosted by “Family Guy” characters, online videos and customized content. If they offer free swag or pizza, students will show up.
As for anyone arguing that the Microsoft deal marks MacFarlane selling out, well, that ship already left the proverbial harbor–note the ads he’s been doing for Hulu.
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