Reading the Microsoft advertising tea leaves for 2010

Reading the Microsoft advertising tea leaves for 2010

Summary: Microsoft has a bunch of new consumer-centric ad campaigns coming in 2010, timed to hit with a variety of new products that are slated to launch this year. Although Microsoft and its ad agency partners aren't yet ready to divulge the actual ads, David Webster, the chief strategy officer in Microsoft's central marketing group, offered some insights about what the company is thinking about on the ad front for 2010.


Microsoft has a bunch of new consumer-centric ad campaigns coming in 2010, timed to hit with a variety of new products that are slated to launch this year. Although Microsoft and its ad agency partners aren't yet ready to divulge the actual ads, David Webster, the chief strategy officer in Microsoft's central marketing group, offered some insights about what the company is thinking about on the ad front for 2010.

On Office 2010 (the official launch of which is slated for May 12): Microsoft is continuing to work with agency JWT, which has been doing the current "Real Life Tool" spots for Office, for its upcoming Office 2010 ad campaign. (JWT is also the agency behind the Bing ads.) Given that most enterprises are already educated about Microsoft Office, Webster said, the new ads are going to have more of a consumer flavor to them.

"People are defining work pretty broadly these days," Webster said during a meeting I had with him this week, to include everything from volunteering at events, to creating needlepoint pattern designs, to preparing a PowerPoint toast for a friend's wedding.

Given Microsoft's current focus on users who want to use a single tool or set of tools to handle all aspects of their work/home lives, the Office 2010 campaign is likely to reflect a similar message. The new Office Web Apps and Office Mobile 2010 pieces of Microsoft's Office message -- coupled with the server-side cloud and on-premises products -- like SharePoint Server (and SharePoint Server Online), Exchange Server (and Exchange Server Online) and Office Communications Server (and Office Communications Online) -- also will be part of Microsoft's continued emphasis on three-screens-and-a-cloud, according to Office Senior Vice President Kurt Delbene (with whom I also had a meeting this week).

On Windows Phone 7 (the official launch of which is slated for "holiday 2010): Microsoft will be working with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky -- the agency that did the Laptop Hunters, "Windows 7 Was My Idea," and those confounding Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld ads for Windows 7 -- to create its Windows Phone 7 ads. Webster emphasized that the marketing and product planning teams for Windows Phone 7 have been working side-by-side, to devise the "story telling" for that product from the very start.

Microsoft wants the new phone ads to attract customers who may never have used (or didn't realize they were using) a Windows Mobile phone. "The 'people' focus was a big part of the (Windows 7) branding" and will be a continued emphasis for Windows Phone 7, Web ster said.

The messaging "needs to reflect customers we have and customers we don't," he said. It also needs to explain why Microsoft is opting for a different phone model with elements like hubs and Live Tiles, instead of the app-centric approach of its competitors, Webster said. Windows Phone 7 also is the perfect vehicle for Microsoft to highlight the interdependence and convergence of different Microsoft brands and technologies, since Windows Phone 7 devices will be running Bing, Office Mobile, Zune services, Internet Explorer, and Windows Live, Webster pointed out.

Smartphones are a lot like search, Webster said, in that users, when asked, say they are mostly satisfied with their phones but then actually have a litany of complaints (like they don't like having to come in and out of six different apps to perform a particular task). Other phone vendors are locked into certain models and messages, he said. "They're solving for a problem from four years ago," he said. Microsoft has the advantage of being able to come in with a new model and message because it is basically starting over with Windows Phone 7.

On Project Natal, Microsoft's gesture-based game controller (which is being showcased at E3 in June, but shipping in time for holiday 2010): Microsoft hasn't yet decided on the agency that will be handling these ads, Webster said; T.A.G. SF handled some of Microsoft's holiday 2009 Xbox promotion/advertising.

In holiday 2009, Microsoft's Xbox emphasis was on family entertainment. The company wanted to expand the Xbox audience beyond shooter game enthusiasts, to include casual gamers. With Natal "we can reach a much wider constituency," Webster said. "It's not just going to be mor eof the same."

In all of these campaigns, Microsoft is hoping one message comes through loud and clear: That the Redmondians are doing things differently and in an innovative way. With Office 2010's multi-device/multi-scren support, Windows Phone 7's new user experience and Natal's natural-user-interface, Microsoft is hoping folks see them as thinking outside the usual Microsoft box.

I was hoping Microsoft might have some kind of iPad counterstrike ad up its sleeves to launch later this week, but Webster said if there is any such campaign, it would come from Microsoft's OEM partners, not Microsoft itself.  Even without such a campaign, it sounds like the Softies' marketing groups are going to have their hands full doing more consumer ad outreach in the coming year....

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • What about Courier?

    I need to replace my aging Asus tablet and loved the teaser videos recently released showing off the Courier. I was thinking about buying an ordinary notebook and supplementing it with a Courier. Is that not a 2010? or early 2011, maybe?
    • a video

      courier is not even a prototype, it is a bunch of concept videos that
      contradict themselves (just look how one kind of input leads to different
      reactions). it is pure vaporware. it will never arrive. count on that. get
      real, man.
    • Courier will Fail

      What OS will Courier run? It's gotta run Windows Phone 7 Series. But that OS ain't finished. The thing is going to be released in an incomplete state. It is barely usable for a smartphone, with lots of missing features (such as copy paste), so how is it going to work on a slate device? It won't work. It's going to fail dismally. What we'll see is a myriad of Android slates competing with iPad.
      • riiiggghhht...

        Copy and paste is in the Windows CE 6 kernel; the overlaying Windows Phone
        7 OS just lacks an on-phone command to activate it. The CE 6 kernel
        exists, and Courier would have its own overlaying OS on top, if it uses the
        CE kernel (it probably will). It doesn't "gotta run Windows Phone 7." It
        really couldn't, actually. It's supposed to be its own device, and we
        still haven't seen an actual prototype; just concepts.
      • do you work for microsoft?

        How do you know so much?
        • Of course he doesn't work for Microsoft...

          He's just an ABM FUDster. Therefore anything Microsoft does must (in his eyes) fail. He doesn't know jack.
          • The title of your post contradicts its first sentence.

            Microsoft have stated that UAC is useless for security by default in Windows 7, and that Linux leads Windows in at least one significant market.

            That's more than what most people branded "ABMers" say against MS products in their lifetime.
    • Courier

      I still hear Courier is a 2011 or later product (if and when it ever moves beyond the marketing videos -- which I think it will. Though maybe not in the form we've seen it... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • Outstanding of Office 2010

    This is great news Mary-Jo. The beta I have been getting a total kick out of!
    Black Label Society
  • softie shill

    "I was hoping Microsoft might have some kind of iPad
    counterstrike ad up its sleeves..."

    why would you hope that? how can anyone hope for
    something like that? pure apple hatred? paid for "softie" love.
    i don't understand why people like her are allowed to write on
    tech sites. what is this? a prolonged arm of the microsoft pr

    oh, and by the way she loves to give cute nick names, too.
    she calls them the "softies". i have seen a lot, but mary-jo
    never ceases to amaze.
    • Dude...relax...

      Take a look at her Bio (link) and you'll see that this is her job on ZDNet, assuming ZDNet pays her to do it. Just like Ed Bott writes primarily about Microsoft and Christopher Dawson writes (more like drones on-and-on) about Linux.

      ZDNet has bloggers who focus on differnt perspectives, and just for the record, I don't believe that she coined the frase "Softies" for Microsoft employees.

      Keep in mind that you chose to come to ZDNet and you chose to read her article, and ZDNet nor Mary-Jo forced you to do either.

      <joke> It's like me coming to your job and complaining about the fries that you served me with my hamburger. You aren't forcing me to buy the fries, you are just being good at what your employer pays you to do. </joke>

      Seriously though, get your panties in a bunch about world peace or the climate or hunger in 3rd world countries.
      • Don't forget..

        ..<a href=>psychic super soldiers</a> with <a href=>painrays</a>.
  • Do it like Bing and Windows 7

    Has shown that Microsoft can definitely create brand awareness, while re-defining an existing product. They need to keep pushing massive marketing and using the product-placing power that they have implemented so far. Office 2010, Windows Phone 7, and Natal are all innovative products that deserve marketing, but Microsoft needs to push them hard, real hard down the media tubes.
    • I agree! (NT)

      Black Label Society
    • Bing advertising was god-awful

      Person mentions something, and then other
      person starts robotically deadpanning
      information unrelated to the thing mentioned. I
      felt like I was watching reruns of Ask Jeeves
      and Alta Vista ads from 1996.

      It's difficult to develop a good opinion about
      a product when the ad makes you talk back to
      the TV, "what do you take me for?"

      The laptop hunters ads were just as bad. They
      were obviously a way for Microsoft marketing
      personnel, (and the dead weight in the CEO's
      suite) to assuage their pain from being
      mercilessly ridiculed for years by Apple. They
      played fast and loose with facts, hyped POS low
      end computers as desirable, and celebrated
      cheapness ?ber alle.

      As then-congressman William McKinley once
      quipped; "Cheap is not a word of hope... it is
      the badge of poverty; it is the signal of

      Did the ads work? Certainly there are marketing
      research firms who can be paid to tell you
      whatever you want to hear. But Apple has only
      gained Mac market share, and continues to
      command premium prices in the high end laptop

      Laptop Hunters was marketing to the Microsoft
      marketing department.

      On the one hand, you'd think a company with
      unlimited financial resources would be able to
      field the most innovative and effective
      marketing out there.

      But as man learns over and over, the battle
      goes not always to the strong nor the race to
      the swift, and being too successful can be

      As a great captain of industry once said,
      "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart
      people into thinking they can't lose."
  • RE: Reading the Microsoft advertising tea leaves for 2010

    I am still holding out on the release of the MS Courier, which looks like a really cool if it is real. Based on the recent chatter, it does appear MS is hiding something big and they are trying to stop any leaks until the official announcement. Just hope it is not to pricey and you can write .Net/Silverlight application to run on it and it is not just an expensive eReader/Journal.
  • Will people go along?

    Again, Microsoft is trying very hard to tie new (their version of new) products to their OS and Office. The reason for this is obvious to anyone giving it more than a few seconds thought, those are the two cash cows.

    Home users I know use Office because their work place provides them a copy, not because they think its critical to their needs and they use it because they have it. I don't know if Microsoft can change that view regardless of how much they market it.
    • They "have to" use Office?

      You make it seem that people are "forced" to use Office, when usually it is the converse... Try to take Excel out of the number crunching people, and you'll see.

      And, why won't Microsoft try to do an "ecosystem" that includes the OS and Office? That is the power of the combination. Just as an Android phone would take advantage of Google Search and mapping technology, or Apple with iTunes ecosystem (or Oracle with Sun?). You, as a customer, would expect integration and not a hodgepodge of incompatible systems.
      Roque Mocan
  • Office focusing on needlepoint in Excel?? Huh?

    I read about the example of someone creating needlepoint patterns in Excel and thought... that person is using the wrong tool for the job. Why on earth would they want to highlight fringe use cases for Office?

    I know they do a lot of research about market trends and whatnot, so I'm sure they know something I don't. However, I think by far their biggest threat is from losing their existing customers for the *core uses* of Office. They should fight to keep those folks, not go after casual users using examples of people who picked an Office app for some task simply because they already owned it. I don't think anyone doing needlepoint went to Best Buy and thought, gee, Excel is really what I need.
    • Sure enough, you won't be buying Excel for needlepoint

      But if you have it there, and it CAN be used for that purpose (I cannot fathom how...), then why not? I used Excel for drawing a refugee camp (You make the cells almost square to have a drawing grid and you can then choose to snap the drawing elements to the grid) - surely I wouldn't BUY Excel just for that. We had the names of displaced people, etc. etc. on worksheets too.
      Roque Mocan