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Microsoft’s heart-warming holiday ad highlights the powerful potential of technology to bring people – and creatures – together, no matter what language they speak. As people become less trusting of large tech companies, the spot aims to allay concerns and regain consumer trust. We explore the insights behind this and why more large tech companies are keen to emphasise the human side of technology.

Microsoft's ad opens as a young girl watches her mother take part in a conference call to Japan, using her tablet to translate the conversation in real-time. Seeing a use for this software herself, she takes the tablet outside to make herself understood to a pair of reindeer. When she finds that she can, she reels off a long list of questions, like "How do you guys fly?" and "What does Santa do in the summer?" The ad concludes with the message:  “Happy Holidays in 60+ Languages. Reindeer isn’t one of them. Yet.” Both touching and amusing, the spot demonstrates technology’s ability to unite people, rather than create barriers. “I think the theme was really… what does technology do to make the world better for people, or bring them together?” says Kathleen Hall, Microsoft’s vice president of brand.

  Microsoft ad shows human side of technology Microsoft ad shows human side of technology
Microsoft | Youtube (2019) ©

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has used a tech-positive theme. In a previous spot, rap artist Common showed how Microsoft technology can help conservation efforts by using artificial intelligence to analyze camera-trap images for snow leopard sightings. The company's Super Bowl ad this year, called “We All Win,” also focused on the constructive uses of technology, showing how a child with a rare genetic disorder called Escobar syndrome, which limits physical movement, was able to use an Xbox Adaptive Controller to play with his friends. 

With trust in big tech at an all-time low, and more people making the link between online connectivity and loneliness, it’s hardly surprising that large tech companies are looking to depict technology as a force for good. A string of data breaches, concerns around election manipulation, and monopolistic practices have rocked perceptions of tech in recent years, to the extent that when asked which of the Big Four (Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook) people trust in 2019, 43% of Americans said "none." Amid so much techlash, an increasing number of ad campaigns are attempting to quell concerns by depicting technology in a positive light. Amazon attempted to do so through an advert produced in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in September, which spotlighted the crucial role that voice assistants can play in the lives of the visually impaired. In a similar vein, Apple’s tear-jerking Christmas campaign highlights the power of technology to console a grieving family during the Christmas period. 

Lottie Hanwell is a junior behavioural analyst. She loves travelling, reading novels, cuddling dogs and hosting dinner parties. A graduate of Engish Literature and Spanish, she’s adventured through South and Central America where she developed a taste for Argentine Malbec and dodgy Reggaeton. Now settled back in London, she hopes to translate her fondness of people-watching to her role at Canvas8.

Canvas8

05 Dec 19
2 min read

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