I posit that there is no software application in the entirety of computerdom less sexy than Microsoft Office. While, yes, Office does fill a number of vital roles for the modern employer, it’s a suite of programs that reeks of the most soulless aspects of corporate America. Microsoft Office is itchy nylons and uncomfortable shoes and oyster-grey cubicles and the knowledge that no matter how things change on the surface, the system will remain as clunky and ill-designed as ever. Microsoft Office is the Sanka of the workplace — it gets the job done, but no one likes the taste.
Commercial director Dennis Liu, therefore, had a heck of a challenge when approached by Microsoft to hype the upcoming release of Office 2010. But Liu rose admirably to it with the film trailer spoof Office 2010: The Movie. “My idea was to treat [Office] like the most exciting thing ever,” he said via phone. “And what’s more exciting than an action movie?”
Framed as a cop revenge drama with hints of corporate espionage and car chases, Office 2010: The Movie, which involved three months of development and seven days of shooting, manages to fit fight scenes, stunts, and multiple locations into two minutes and 15 seconds, with room for plenty of in-jokes for the loyal Word user (my favorite being the protagonist’s determination to avenge the deletion of his partner Clippy). And in Liu’s words, “As funny as it is, people don’t realize we fit in [mentions of] nine products” — the Office brand being tightly fused with the slightly goofy tongue-in-cheek comedy at work.
The director behind several viral videos, including a cleverly post-modern Miller High Life Superbowl ad, Liu first collaborated with Microsoft for the fun short Pretending to Work: Microsoft Office for Mac, which didn’t spread widely but gained a lot of positive buzz. For Office 2010, he worked closely and collaboratively with the Microsoft team, who “definitely have a good eye for how they want the brand to be perceived.” Given that Microsoft isn’t shy about pulling ads they don’t like, no matter how successful, it was probably a wise choice. Liu had declined to comment on the budget he was given but did remark that “We put every penny on screen.” If that’s the case, then he probably got good value for his dollar — the production values make Office 2010 look like a million bucks.
According to Liu, there was zero media buy made to support the video, which got major viral traction after tech blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo picked it up — supporting TubeMogul’s findings about how blogs drive video discovery. It’s now reached over 660,000 views (an early teaser picked up close to 150,000).
One of the ad’s unusual touches is that Liu gets screen credit for the piece — an on-screen credit announces that Office 2010 is “a Dennis Liu film.” “I wanted to defend this work, and put my name on it, so that people might understand that Microsoft isn’t just a faceless corporation,” he said. “There are people are behind this advertising.” Such an approach unquestionably jazzed up the ads. Whether the actual product is as exciting remains to be seen.