Microsoft has tagged comedian and well-known Mac user Jerry Seinfeld (picture) to star in an “image rehabilitation” campaign for Windows Vista. The star is netted to make $10 million in the $300-million campaign, Microsoft’s largest to date. "You thought the sleeping giant was still sleeping? Well, we've woken up, and it's time to take our message forward," said Microsoft's VP of Windows Vista consumer marketing Brad Brooks. The campaign is a response to Apple’s popular and omnipresent “Get a Mac” ads, in which the corporate dork PC (John Hodgman) is constantly upstaged by indie geekster Mac (Justin Long), in a campaign that has increased Apple’s Mac sales while helping erode Vista’s reputation.

"We have to tell our story. You'll hear more about that versus where Apple is coming from," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The Seinfeld campaign, “Windows, not Walls,” is part of a broader effort to revamp Vista’s negative image. The campaign is being handled by Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky, most noted for Burger King’s creepy ads with the masked Burger King. Bill Gates will star with Seinfeld in some commercials. (Gates was genuinely funny at times in the video make for CES 2008, “Bill Gates’ Last Day at Microsoft," so the pairing might not be as bad as it sounds.)

This marks Phase Two of Microsoft’s recent efforts to rebrand Vista. The first, last month’s Mojave Experiment (view our coverage), came off as almost self-parody. Signing Seinfeld further proves that Microsoft just doesn’t get marketing.

Whether or not people think Vista is cool, few are switching to Mac or Linux because of it. Rolling back to XP is still reconfirming faith in Windows product. Instead of paying an exorbitant fee to an over-the-hill comic whose irony is not well suited to a rebranding initiative, Microsoft should cut their losses and move the public focus from Vista – clearly a loss – to Windows 7, slated to appear in 2009 or 2010.

Photo: AP/Evan Agostini

By Mark Alvarez