Sunday, December 03, 2006

CDW's Fred vs. Microsoft's Bill

For several months CDW has been running a series of commercials featuring "Fred", an IT guy that CDW's marketing team refers to as "a confident customer who can have a little fun with his coworkers because he knows CDW has his back".

I cringe when I see these commercials.

When I see Fred interacting with his coworkers, I don't see someone having a little fun. What I see is someone ridiculing his coworkers for not understanding technology. Fred knows that his coworkers are a bit techno-phobic, and rather than ease their fears he reinforces those fears with his antics and techo-babble.

Fred thinks that he is being funny, but from his victim's perspective he's just being a jerk. Without Fred's technical prowess, the coworkers are up a creek. Fred understands how technology works, and they don't. Fred has power... and his antics serve to make sure that everyone else knows it.

Fred is not popular with his coworkers. Fred is a necessary evil, and folks put up with him only because they have to... Sadly, Fred may not even be aware of this.

Contrast "Fred" with a series of commercials that Microsoft has begun to air. Microsoft's commercials feature "Bill" (coincidence?), a very pleasant IT guy who goes out of his way to spare his coworkers feelings of technical inadequacy. I can only wonder if a marketing guy at Microsoft saw CDW's "Fred" and had the same reaction that I did... "Bill" is the antithesis of "Fred". People want to work with "Bill".

Are the "Freds" of the IT world the source of friction between IT and business, or are they the result of IT/business friction? There's no way to know for sure... but either way the "Freds" aren't helping any.

I'm probably being hard on "Fred" because I've been guilty of the same antics. We've all got a bit of "Fred" in us. When our customers and coworkers ask the same "stupid" questions over and over again, we start thinking of the questioners as being as "dumb" as the questions. We fall into the trap of feeling superior, lose respect for our customers, and "Fred" takes over.

Maybe some day "Fred" won't be the stereotypical IT guy... Wouldn't that be nice?
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