Microsoft’s Multilingual Microsite Fail

Microsoft, like most globally-oriented corporate entities, run advertisements for products and services in countries all over the world. In many instances their advertising campaigns promoting business applications and consumer IT software are virtually identical in terms of messaging, visual tone, and call to action mechanism.

However, while this strategy may be employed to convey brand attributes in a consistent light, a certain level of differentiation (e.g. imagery articulating race/culture, gender, age) may be required among advertisements appearing in one country to the next if such a campaign is to be relevant to an audience on a local scale.

Microsoft’s Business Productivity Web site – A Case Study in Failed Execution
Consider a recent online advertisement appearing on one of Microsoft’s U.S. corporate Web sites (see images below).  Unfortunately the manner in which the focal imagery appearing on the Polish language corporate site had been repurposed and doctored leads one to believe the individual(s) signing-off on this creative work: a) had no knowledge of the U.S. site’s existence, or b) were perhaps out to lunch at the time.

While this Photoshop-hacked advertisement was clearly intended to appeal to the ethnic and cultural background of the Polish speaking audience (consider Poland has an overwhelmingly white population), the advertisement not surprisingly has stirred up a bit of controversy and has been ridiculed by groups online most obviously for its odd image compositing.

By crudely removing the black man’s head and replacing it with a white man’s head and retaining essentially all other elements in the composition including the two other business people in the same setting, the ads take on a less than professional tone when viewed side by side to the un-doctored image. -Why wasn’t a new stock image sourced for the Polish Web site?

Unfortunately Microsoft failed to realize in this case that visitors to their U.S. Business Productivity Web site would also access other languages including the the Polish version of the site, thus uncovering this debacle.

Granted, executing digital online ads in multiple languages, across numerous international sites can be challenging. Budgetary or timing constraints can undermine quality; perhaps this error was imposed arbitrarily by an individual through a CMS?
Nevertheless Microsoft fails on this particular work simply because such a freakish, frankenstein-looking ad could have been avoided.