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The enigmatic language of the new Windows 8 ads
May 18, 2013 10:48 AM   Subscribe

"What was most perplexing of all to me was that, although I was certain that the ads contained Chinese phrases and sentences, every Chinese person to whom I showed them emphatically maintained that they could not understand a single word."
posted by roll truck roll (56 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's like the East Asian equivalent of Simlish.

The phonemes, tones, and phrasing sound exactly like Korean or Mandarin. But none of it makes any sense at all.
posted by Mercaptan at 10:55 AM on May 18, 2013


This sort of thing, kind of?
posted by dersins at 10:58 AM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Obligatory Prisencolinensinainciusol link.
posted by Xoebe at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2013 [14 favorites]


A spoken version of Xu Bing's A Book From The Sky used to sell me an operating system I don't want or need. Fascinating. Microsoft seems to be pivoting and shifting their corporate focus into conceptual art. I await google's aktionist performance art.
posted by Perfectibilist at 11:13 AM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm glad to see regardless of language or market that Microsoft continues it tradition of making ads that say absolutely nothing about the product they are trying to sell. You could change the card at the end of these spots to the logo of practically any product and it would be as effective or ineffective. Sure people are talking about the ads but it isn't raising windows 8 consideration or purchase rates.
posted by birdherder at 11:14 AM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Faced with a region with many, many languages, shoot a video, with obviously dubbed in speech, that vaguely sounds like someone else's language to each viewer. Voila! An all purpose video that seems to say something. What that example ad says is really beyond me ...
posted by njohnson23 at 11:15 AM on May 18, 2013


I agree with the commentor who notes that the actress seems to be reading from a coherent Manadarin script and that the nonsense is dubbed over - I mean, I don't speak any Mandarin, but it does seem like the actress lips don't line up with the dialogue we hear.

Is it possible that this is something like Creole or Singlish, a mishmash of languages from somewhere? It's always weird for me to listen to Haitian Creole because I can pick up weird bits of French in it, but never enough to get context beyond "Oh, he missed...something. On Tuesday."
posted by maryr at 11:16 AM on May 18, 2013


I would say the 'language' of this ad is designed to compel attention from speakers of any of the languages and dialects it resembles, as it tantalizes them and they strain to understand it.
posted by jamjam at 11:26 AM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, these sound perfectly clear to me. It's obvious that lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Not only that, But gravida felis sit amet est sodales convallis, I mean, duh.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:26 AM on May 18, 2013 [19 favorites]


Microsoft seems to be pivoting and shifting their corporate focus into conceptual art. I await google's aktionist performance art.


I don't know- their UI is still very "color field" and, while rooted in post-painterly abstraction, is still heavily reliant on an ideal of representation (even with its claims of austerity and evacuation of recognizable imagery).

Now Apple's new OS, on the other hand, will come in your choice of Basquiat, Darger, or a medium-sized dogfish preserved in aspic.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:33 AM on May 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's Putongwhaaa?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2013 [13 favorites]


jamjam, I think you're right that that's the intention. So it's interesting that, at least in the anecdotal examples the blogger uses, it doesn't "work" for native speakers but works for people who know Chinese as a second language.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:34 AM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: it tantalizes them and they strain to understand it.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don Draper smiles, leans back and opens another classic paperback...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:45 AM on May 18, 2013


I'm glad to see regardless of language or market that Microsoft continues it tradition of making ads that say absolutely nothing about the product they are trying to sell.

Recent example: those Surface ads with the dancing people that don't show anyone actually using the thing.

Compare to: Apple ads where there's only people using the thing, no mention of the product except its name.
posted by tommasz at 11:48 AM on May 18, 2013


Recent example: those Surface ads with the dancing people that don't show anyone actually using the thing.

In the ad agencies defence, have you actually tried to use one of them? Hint: it's not fun
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:52 AM on May 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing. I mean, take the Bing challenge? Do we really think that what users want is a greater level of contempt from their search engine? But these ads are hilarious!

I'm glad to see regardless of language or market that Microsoft continues it tradition of making ads that say absolutely nothing about the product they are trying to sell.

That's just a reflection of the maturity of the market for traditional personal computers. It's basically Coke vs Pepsi at this point.
posted by Slothrup at 11:52 AM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's basically Coke vs Pepsi at this point.

Hahaha no. Maybe that's Microsoft's view that fewer and fewer people want to buy their products because it's just "Coke vs Pepsi", but that's just blaming their problems on their users, which is a ridiculous thing to do.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:05 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mark Liberman in one of the comments likens the ad to doubletalk. See also this LanguageLog roundup of varieties of nonsense.
posted by kenko at 12:16 PM on May 18, 2013


Recent example: those Surface ads with the dancing people that don't show anyone actually using the thing.

In the ad agencies defence, have you actually tried to use one of them? Hint: it's not fun


The Pro is fucking amazing.

Also the keyboard coupling/decoupling is something well worth showing off.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on May 18, 2013


As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing. I mean, take the Bing challenge? Do we really think that what users want is a greater level of contempt from their search engine? But these ads are hilarious!

The negative shit never works and will never work, it just makes people hate Microsoft move - that'd be my key point as an outsider. The Scroogled shit is like they are crying out for an intervention.

Also, videos that are not supposed to leak? They will leak always. Just assume that from the start and if it's something that should not leak do not make it.
posted by Artw at 12:22 PM on May 18, 2013


Though, TBH, and I say this as a frequent defender of the good parts of MS in MeFi, they've basically reached the point where they are shooting themselves in the foot so often that I don't see them lasting another five years.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on May 18, 2013


Maybe that's Microsoft's view that fewer and fewer people want to buy their products because it's just "Coke vs Pepsi", but that's just blaming their problems on their users

I certainly don't speak for Microsoft. But *I* say "Coke vs Pepsi" because the market for personal computers is basically not growing, because the only way to gain market share is at the expense of a competitor, and because the products are largely interchangeable to the average user.

Oh, and because Windows 8 feels a lot like "New Coke" ...
posted by Slothrup at 12:27 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the language log comments they have a link to a prank performer youtube which is pretty damn funny. Durwood Fincher also known as Mr. Doubletalk.
posted by bukvich at 12:27 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing about the Scroogled and the dancing Surface ads and the fake Chinese is Microsoft is a giant, massive company with an annual operating revenue somewhere around the GDP of Paraguay. So if it seems that these ads are all coming from different places with different agendas, it's because they are. The Surface guys aren't on speaking terms with the Scroogled guys who think the fake Chinese guys are weird.

Only Steve Jobs was enough of a control freak and a strong enough, smart enough design personality to enforce a cohesive brand on a massive scale with a company like Apple. Ballmer is not Jobs, to say the least.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:35 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Don Draper smiles, leans back and opens another classic paperback...

Don Draper is now 87 years old. If he's doing Microsoft ad campaigns, he's tougher than we ever thought. Probably still smokes, too, and is carrying on, or trying to, with the nurses in whichever assisting living facility Sally checked him into.
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing. I mean, take the Bing challenge? Do we really think that what users want is a greater level of contempt from their search engine? But these ads are hilarious!

I took the Bing challenge! And chose Google five times out of five. The mildly chastened follow-up offer to participate in bribery Bing Rewards was amusing.

At this point Google's fuck-ups are more effective advertisements for Microsoft than Microsoft's own ads (*cough* Reader *cough*), but MS has so far proven unable to take advantage of this increasingly juicy target.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:56 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mandarin speaker here. The "language" spoken in the videos sounds Chinese to me - I would have guessed Shanghainese or one of the dialects in the Zhejiang area. At any rate, it's impressive they created a gibberish language that sounds just Chinese enough to be "someone else's" dialect. I don't think it sounds Korean at all - the intonation is completely different, which to me is the most identifiable part of Korean speech (along with almost every sentence ending in "-ssuh" or "-yo".) Korean and the Scandinavian languages have the most recognizable intonations of any languages, I think.
posted by pravit at 1:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it's interesting that, at least in the anecdotal examples the blogger uses, it doesn't "work" for native speakers but works for people who know Chinese as a second language.

That is a truly excellent point, roll truck roll, and the phenomenon itself is kind of astounding.

I hear (often comprehensible) voices in noise of various pastel shades all the time, more when any of my autoimmune problems are kicking up, though so far I don't seem to have slid very far down that slope toward the pit of schizophrenia I fear may await me at the bottom, and the apparent fact that native speakers of Chinese (and other related languages according to your Language Log link) cannot hear even the distorted versions of familiar words that were evidently deliberately inserted into these commercials when non-native speakers can, must have some deep significance, I think.

It's making me wonder, for example, whether Chinese schizophrenics hear voices as often as their Western counterparts do, and how funny puns, which involve a willingness to recognize resemblances in the sounds of words which are far apart in meaning, can possibly be in China.

Hard to blame Microsoft for this particular stumble, though maybe they could have avoided it with more assiduous outsourcing of their advertising.
posted by jamjam at 1:47 PM on May 18, 2013


this particular stumble. Stumble? Seems to be working quite well for them.
posted by Nelson at 1:52 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Before the movie I watched today, they had a "behind the scenes" look at a Windows 8 phone commercial that said nothing about the product, but was mostly a fight between Apple and Android users at a wedding. The promo lasted maybe 9x longer than the actual ad and told me nothing about the product other than it won an award that I didn't care about. Also a bride swinging on a chandelier, because that sells phones.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2013


So the ad is even less disacoverable than Win8, then?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:38 PM on May 18, 2013


It's like they're embracing and extending spoken language. A set of certification courses for understanding the ads will no doubt soon be available. This modern, high performance language is necessary to meet all your pressing business communication needs.
posted by ceribus peribus at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The negative shit never works and will never work

You sure about that?
posted by asterix at 3:02 PM on May 18, 2013


The negative shit never works and will never work

You sure about that?


For Microsoft, yes. For anyone else: your mileage may vary.

Which may or may not seem fair, but thems the breaks.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on May 18, 2013


Chinese "Lorem Ipsum" Text Generator
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first time I listened to them, the ads sounded as though they contained elements of some Wu topolect...

Have they consulted the RZA or the GZA?
posted by Renoroc at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2013


The messages seem really off; the first and third ads, especially, seem to imply the products (what are the ads selling, she asked rhetorically?) only work by smashing with inappropriate body parts.

It's obvious they were dubbed, too. The language use reminds me of people who think Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, etc. are somehow 'all the same', and makes me think someone said that during the production.

So wow, a failure on multiple fronts.
posted by jiawen at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2013


Before the movie I watched today, they had a "behind the scenes" look at a Windows 8 phone commercial that said nothing about the product, but was mostly a fight between Apple and Android users at a wedding. The promo lasted maybe 9x longer than the actual ad and told me nothing about the product other than it won an award that I didn't care about. Also a bride swinging on a chandelier, because that sells phones.

I saw that ad. It manages somehow to offend me just because it exists. It's so dumb it manages to be offensively dumb without actually being offensive in a concretely explicable way. This is a thing I did not know was possible before viewing it. I guess that is something.
posted by winna at 4:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


The lack of a coherent sentence intonation and the syllables that sound like they've had their initial consonants chopped off (the whole things sounds choppy) makes me believe that they chopped up some recorded Chinese dialect and reassembled it into a nonsense language (a bit like the circus organ montage in Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite). It does sound like it starts off with dzai jian (goodbye), which is kind of weird. Strange that Chinese speakers thought it was Korean, as it sounds way more Chinese than Korean.
posted by jabah at 4:16 PM on May 18, 2013


Don Draper is now 87 years old. If he's doing Microsoft ad campaigns, he's tougher than we ever thought.

Did you see how that guy drank Ted Chaough under the table? He's a Terminator sent from the future. A sexy, sexy future.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on May 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's odd that they asked Korean and Japanese speakers about it. It doesn't sound, to my ears at least, the least bit like either one.

As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing.

It is weird, isn't it? So consistently terrible, for years now.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:16 PM on May 18, 2013


The Goons come to mind...
posted by islander at 6:51 PM on May 18, 2013


The negative shit never works and will never work

You sure about that?


When I first started in advertising a Don Draper like exec at the agency gave a talk about advertising. In that talk he said that that market leader should never mention the competition. Then he mentioned how you never hear about Burger King in a McDonalds ads. In the Coca Cola universe, Pepsi never exists. Budweiser doesn't mention Miller. McDonald's ads are about people having fun eating food at McDonalds. Burger King spends a lot of money saying their food is better than McDonalds.

With the Windows 8 campaign, the problem to me isn't Coke vs Pepsi. (or Windows vs Mac). Windows 8's biggest competitors are Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. Tell me why I should get a new PC when the airwaves are full of Apple and Samsung ads telling me to get a sexy tablet instead.
posted by birdherder at 7:48 PM on May 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I remember my Murders in the Rue Morgue correctly, the fact that nobody can recognize the language means that it's actually dubbed over with an ourang-outang.
posted by ckape at 8:16 PM on May 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's like verbal Lorem Ipsum text.
posted by ErikaB at 8:09 AM on May 19, 2013


Slothrup: "As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing. I mean, take the Bing challenge? Do we really think that what users want is a greater level of contempt from their search engine? But these ads are hilarious!"

I took the bing challenge. I used searches that I had recently done in research (so the google version's links were marked as previously viewed) , and I'm pretty sure that bing *actively* lied to me when tallying the points.

That said, I really enjoyed the wedding ad.
posted by stratastar at 2:50 PM on May 19, 2013


As a Microsoft employee, I find that our advertising generally ranges from embarrassing to mindbogglingly embarrassing.

That's quite an understatement. Sometimes their advertising inspires a whole new genre of mockery.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:08 PM on May 19, 2013


This is obviously the language of Yi Ti by the Jade Sea, which will feature in the next instalment of ASoIaF.
posted by destrius at 11:01 PM on May 19, 2013


Oh, and because Windows 8 feels a lot like "New Coke" ...

Yes! It's like that scene from Flight of the Navigator where the boy gets pulled into the future and asks for a Coke. "New Coke, Classic Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Coke...?" "Look, I just want a Coke!"

Sometimes you just need "Windows", not "Windows Home, Windows Premium, Windows Home Super Deluxe, Windows Ultimate, Windows Really Actually Ultimate, Windows Really Actually Ultimate Professional".... I just want Windows!
posted by xedrik at 7:21 AM on May 20, 2013


I watched the videos, and I'm pretty sure it's just Cocteau Twins lyrics in Mandarin.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:15 PM on May 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I watched the videos, and I'm pretty sure it's just Cocteau Twins lyrics in Mandarin."

Cool, they must be working with Wang Fei again!
posted by jiawen at 7:18 PM on May 20, 2013


Sigh...
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on May 23, 2013


Lying Microsoft Advertising

From the comments, MS caught Photoshopping in 2012.

This is almost as good as Microsoft used pirated music software
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:35 PM on May 23, 2013


TBH giving Apple Timecube guy there and opportunity to count the pixels is the least of the problems with that approach.
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on May 23, 2013


True, artw. But when your ads are a fight for second place, you should probably avoid giving any hard evidence you're desperate to be #2.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:22 AM on May 24, 2013


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