Microsoft has hired what could be devastatingly effective new pitchmen to bash Google's Chromebook - the cast of "Pawn Stars." The show, which debuted on the History Channel in 2009, remains one of the network's highest-rated shows and its cast enjoys considerable popularity outside of the show.
An online video ad released Tuesday mimics an episode of the show, with the setup of a customer coming into the shop, a woman wanting to turn her Chromebook into a ticket to Hollywood. Rick Harrison, co-owner of the shop with his father, chuckles like he always does and declares it worthless unless you are connected to the Internet. "When you’re not connected, it’s pretty much a brick," he declares.
The ad is the latest in Microsoft’s "Scroogled" anti-Google campaign, with the term dropped a few times in the ad. Microsoft has also made reference to being "Scroogled" in relation to privacy issues around Gmail and other Google services.
Now, Rick is not telling the viewer anything new. Google isn't hiding what the Chromebook is. They acknowledge it as a Web-only device that doesn't run pre-loaded apps like Office, and sales bear that out. IDC said sales this year will be about 3 million units, which is paltry.
But Microsoft really picked up a great pitchman in Harrison. People may complain the Pawn Stars guys often low-ball their customers, but that doesn't mean they have to take the offer. Harrison is in business to make money, and he makes no bones about it.
More importantly, Harrison has some gravitas because the items highlighted on the show are mostly related to American history. Harrison has said that about 60% of his business is gold and silver sales and pawns, but that it is also a store that features art from everyone from Picasso to Denny Dent, sports memorabilia that includes two Super Bowl rings, and rifles used in the Civil War. The show is far less crass than "Hardcore Pawn," set in Detroit, and Harrison and his father are eminently more likeable than the "Hardcore Pawn" cast.
Even if you are cynical of the show, it has a viewership of around 7 million, putting it second to "Duck Dynasty" among reality shows. USA Today readers recently voted the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop the top tourist destination in Las Vegas, which must have made Steve Wynn's blood boil, especially given the neighborhood where the shop is located.
This is a good score for Microsoft. The only thing I see wrong with it is that they should use the Harrisons for something positive and to sell a Microsoft product, rather than try to knock down a product with even punier sales than BlackBerry.