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Microsoft Uses “Half-naked” Women ('Meter Maids') to Promote Its Products

Microsoft employees -- not Free software proponents-- are the sexist ones

Statue



Summary: Microsoft marketing goes awry and the company is pressured to issue an apology; a look at the Edstrom (PR) and Gates family affairs

Microsoft boosters or Free software opponents love to pretend that Free software proponents are sexist, but often it just turns out to be the very opposite. A few months ago we saw Microsoft's "boob" incident (large advertising campaign it later "apologised" for) and earlier this year we learned about Microsoft allegedly offering female prostitutes/orgies to business partners [1, 2]. Those sex-related incidents are not a rarity, especially in advertising. Going further back we could give many more examples.



The latest Microsoft "apology" (everyone seems to put it in quotes, even Microsoft boosters) has just arrived. The Register says:

Microsoft gets Speedos in a twist over half-naked 'Meter Maids'



[...]

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that Microsoft had hired the women to appear at its TechEd conference on the Gold Coast.


Keep it classy, sweaty Steve. Here is more coverage of this incident (and photos):



How could they be so tactless and not foresee the backlash? It's probably one of those cases where in a very large organisation the left hand did not communicate with the right hand. To Microsoft, this is a serious PR problem. All those years promoting the image that it's respectful to women (we gave examples of this PR line last week) sometimes go down the drain, but Microsoft keeps choosing female faces to represent the company while giving that whole "equal opportunity" and "cultural diversity" feel-good sensation. Steve Ballmer is even married to one such PR person. She worked for Waggener Edstrom. Speaking of which, Pam and Jennifer Edstrom came up again because this PR-related blog post linked to Techrights some days ago.

It was also the video that saw Microsoft tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion. In minutes, the hard work on building Bill Gates’ reputation put in by Pam Edstrom (first as Microsoft’s director of PR and then as a senior executive at Waggener Edstrom) was eviscerated. This was when the fear stopped.


This links to an old article from the New York Times and it's about Waggener Edstrom. It turns out that this AstroTurf/marketing firm of Microsoft was by no means pleased by the work of Jennifer Edstrom.

In the acknowledgments of her new book, ''Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft From the Inside,'' the author, Jennifer Edstrom, thanks her mother for encouraging her to write, ''even though this isn't particularly what she had in mind.''

Since 1982, Ms. Edstrom's mother, Pam, has helped shape the public image of the Microsoft Corporation's chairman, first as a Microsoft employee and then as an executive of the public relations firm that represents him. When she learned about preparations for her daughter's book, a behind-the-scenes account co-written with a former Microsoft software developer, Marlin Eller, she tried, the daughter said, to dissuade her from writing it.

''My mother had commented in Fortune in January that it put her in an awkward position,'' Jennifer Edstrom said from her home in Portland, Ore. ''She made it completely clear she wanted no part of it.''

Parental disapproval did not carry the day. ''It's hard enough to control Gates,'' the elder Ms. Edstrom said, ''much less your daughter.'' She responded with a terse ''no comment'' when asked about the book.


Waggener Edstrom currently works on Gates' lies and image-shaping (not just Microsoft's). It's a lesson in why such agencies do not deserve a place in society. Waggener Edstrom bribes bloggers with laptops, for example. What we found interesting is that Pam Edstrom disregards the truth and follows the money whereas her daughter has some dignity for a change. She chose not to seek spin but to seek some truth, instead. Maybe lack of ethics is not hereditary after all. Maybe Bill Gates' children (now enrolled in the Khan Academy) will not end up being parasites of society, unlike their father. It is too early to determine this (the children are all too young), but Bill appeared with his son at the Hanford site recently. It is a "mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, operated by the United States federal government," according to Wikipedia. As a reminder, Gates and fellow patent trolls have nuclear patents which he is marketing in public events and in the US government (lobbying).

"By May of 1994, Gates's patience was growing so thin that not even a public relations pro like Pam Edstrom could muzzle him."

--Jennifer Edstrom

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