an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Microsoft Kin: Justifying Online Stalking

Posted by Rosepixie on June 12, 2010

This is an ad for the Microsoft Kin, a smartphone aimed at young customers.

This ad really bothers me.  While the social experiment element of the whole thing is an interesting idea in theory, the reality of sending a young woman out to actually meet people she knows very little about for certain (if anything) is a very dangerous prospect.  And why they chose this particular meeting to showcase their experiment is just beyond me.

Here’s the thing – Rosa explains pretty well why Matty’s behavior towards her online is problematic without getting into the dangerous and triggery possibilities of it.  She says that it’s creepy and sounds as if she sort of regrets having accepted his friend request.  Matty clearly doesn’t have any idea why his behavior is problematic, or even that it is.  He seems to think it’s a great thing because it means it easier for him to “pick up girls” without any risk to him – he can sit at home “half naked” and he believes that he has the “magical words” to start a conversation and get to know someone in a way that he couldn’t do in person.  But is it a “nice” conversation if it’s begun by objectifying the girl (and clearly creeping her out) and has pretty much exclusively the purpose of “picking up” the girl?  He doesn’t mention getting to know her until he’s talking to her in person, which he clearly never expected to actually happen!

When she walks up to him and confronts him about the behavior, he clearly still doesn’t get it.  He justifies it and says it’s just a way of getting to know someone.  He also accuses her of cutting off the contact without giving him a chance and of inviting it in the first place by accepting the friend request.  He says “how else am I going to meet you?”  And you know what, she seems to accept responsibility for it.  He doesn’t.  At all.

And that’s how rape culture works.  That may sound extreme, but if you go back to early in the ad when she was describing Matty before they met you’ll hear that she said he was the online equivalent of a construction worker hollering at a pretty girl walking by, and that kind of thing is very recognized as part of rape culture.  Check out HollaBack if you don’t know what I’m talking about here.  It’s also very indicative of rape culture in that the person performing the action here (the guy making the overtures) is not determined to be at fault, but rather the girl is determined to be at fault because she somehow “invited it”.  But she didn’t ask him to hit on her this way – he did it under his own power.  He could have approached her in conversation many other ways that would have been not creepy and more likely to invite her to get to know him (and to let him get to know her).  But that doesn’t seem to have even occurred to him.

This is just such a problematic ad.  They could have done so much with this concept that could have been interesting and appealing, but instead they came up with this ad which mostly taught me that people are scary and Microsoft thinks that’s a good thing.  Sorry, but that doesn’t encourage me to buy your products.  I think this is a horribly irresponsible ad and am pretty disgusted that Microsoft came out with it.

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