It is not the end of the world as we know it. Microsoft caused a bit of an uproar last week when it announced plans to sponsor a full episode of FOX's "Family Guy." (TechCrunch called it The End of Television.) But the software giant hadn't quite thought that plan through. Or, you know, watched Family Guy.
After seeing a preview of "Family Guy Presents: Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show," Microsoft decided it would not promote Windows 7 with its proposed sponsorship. FOX still plans to air the show on November 8th and is looking for another sponsor. So who's the biggest loser in this situation?
It makes sense that Microsoft would pull out of the sponsorship. The good news for brand partnerships going forward is that Family Guy's content was never in danger of being compromised to keep its advertiser. (Apparently, Microsoft took offense to the fare that typifies much of the show: namely jokes making fun of the deaf, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest.)
Part of the reason the announcement was initially met so critically is because there is little brand overlap between Family Guy and Microsoft. And Microsoft came to this realization after seeing the episode.
A spokesperson from Microsoft described the decision:
"We initially chose to participate in the Seth and Alex variety show based on the audience composition and creative humor of 'Family Guy,' but after reviewing an early version of the variety show it became clear that the content was not a fit with the Windows brand."
But Microsoft is not turned off of similar deals in the future:
"We continue to believe in the value of brand integrations and partnerships between brands, media companies and talent."
FOX is currently looking for another brand to sponsor the special, and it's important to note that brands have a history of sponsoring variety show programming. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez famously shilled for products (including cigarettes) during their shows. The key is creating brand and content integration that makes sense. It's unclear who at Microsoft thought Windows 7 would dovetail with Family Guy, but it may be similarly hard for FOX to find a new advertiser that can handle having their product be so closely tied to controversial jokes.
Today, Philip Morris could never get a primetime star to smoke its products on air, but here it's the opposite problem. What brand wants to be associated with incest?
And it's not all bad for Microsoft. By pulling out early, the company achieved some of the buzz that accompanies Family Guy without any of the baggage of putting its products next to jokes about the Holocaust.