Microsoft usually gets its way. But when
they messed with California's namesake monarch butterflies to
advertise a new Internet service, someone blew the whistle on
their 'Better with the Butterfly' campaign.
By George Wolfe
PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — The population
of California's Monarch butterflies took a mysterious drop this
winter, and experts were confused about the cause— until
It turns out that while California grew ever
more anxious about a 65 million population dip of its namesake
butterfly, Microsoft was reeling in the bucks as part of a $300
million marketing ploy to introduce its MSN 8 Internet service
featuring a colorful butterfly as its centerpiece.
At a factory here in the heart of Monterey County,
south of San Francisco, just down the road from the Friends of
the Monarchs association, an assembly line of migrant workers
were discovered painting over the orange and black Monarch butterflies
to resemble the ubiquitous, rainbow-colored butterfly that is
the software behemoth's new marketing critter. The marketing campaign
is officially titled "Better With The Butterfly."
Confronted by town officials, the group —
wearing Microsoft baseball hats, sweatshirts and Birkenstock sandals
— smiled and muttered phases such as "Windows es numero
uno!" and "Billy es mi amigo!"
California Monarch-lovers became suspicious
when Microsoft's new butterfly mascot crashed the annual Butterfly
Parade and handed out life-sized butterflies covered in a thick
paint. One parade attendee, Hal Lemley, happened to peel off some
of the paint and discovered a real albeit dead Monarch butterfly
"I was totally shocked," said Lemley.
"If we don't clamp down on them now, will they embed tiny
chips in our poor Monarchs to make them only replicate with other
Area residents were unanimous in their condemnation
— not surprising in a town that made it a city fine of $1,000
for anyone who molests a Monarch. There was little doubt as to
who had the greatest motive and physical resources to pull off
a scheme of this magnitude.
"Will they embed tiny chips in our
poor Monarchs to make them only replicate with other MSN butterflies?!"
— Hal Lemley, Pacific
Still, Microsoft was quick to deny the charges. Mamouk Yafti, a
corporate vice president at MSN, said in a statement that "Just
because we share a common insect and these strangers happened to
be wearing our logo does not mean we committed this horrible crime."
But later, away from the glare of TV camera lights, Yafti quipped,
"What's it matter anyway? They're all a bunch of Mac-lovers
down there anyway!"
RAINING ON THEIR PARADE: MSN Butterflies
crash the annual Monarch butterfly parade.