Microsoft's "New Busy"; Sounds a Lot Like the Old Tone-Deaf

The new ad campaign for Hotmail identifies the pioneering free e-mail service as "the New Busy." This exercise in tone-weirdness, this ball of syntactical confusion, has started showing up on billboards, buses, banner ads, radio shows, and the signature lines of Hotmail users everywhere.You might think "the new busy" wants to be a concept, like "the new black." For example, you've perhaps seen the following auto-generated tagline at the bottom of recent messages from your Hotmail-using friends: "The new busy is not the old busy."Most of us can understand that. We used to be busy accomplishing things; now we're busy watching cat videos sent to us on Hotmail. So maybe "wasting time" is the new "busy." Maybe. Microsoft never actually says what's the new busy.Elsewhere, it appears that The New Busy are actually a group of people, like The New Avengers or The New Pornographers (except without the plural noun that allows the phrase to make sense). As described in the ads, these New Busy are pretty career-focused, but watch out, they've got a bit of a wacky side! Despite their "full calendars," they find time to "make pancakes into exotic animal shapes."The campaign, currently running in just three other cities, is the brainchild of a local boutique agency called Creature. Matt Peterson, one of the creative directors at Creature, says his task was to "wake people up to Hotmail." Many a Hotmail address has "gone dormant," he says, its owner relegating it to the status of "spam collector." "We want to address that."First, though, Creature will be convening focus groups to see if the ads are achieving the "perception change" Microsoft seeks. "[We'll] ask [people] about 'The New Busy,' if that's something that resonated with them," Peterson says.It has certainly resonated with a few of us, such as Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, who last week called the ads "gibberish." But the next time an ad campaign comes along that strains to be zeitgeisty and manages only to be inscrutable, at least we'll know what to call it: "the new 'New Busy.'"

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