Microsoft's Bach pitches 'user-driven marketing'

Robert Bach, head of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division, says new Web apps are "changing the world of marketing."Photos: Talking marketing at Mix '07
Written by Martin LaMonica, Contributor
LAS VEGAS--The intermingling of media-rich consumer devices and socially oriented Web services is opening up new avenues in marketing, according to Robert Bach, head of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division.

Bach spoke here Tuesday at Mix '07, Microsoft's conference devoted to Web developers and designers, an audience that Bach's group does not typically address.

But Bach argued that the capabilities opened up by Web applications, such as social-networking sites, and the close integration of media in software is changing the face of consumer marketing.

"The same technologies that are transforming the world of development are also changing the world of marketing," he said during his keynote speech.

At the conference, a handful of Microsoft customers demonstrated applications that were built with an eye toward combining online services with Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console or home PCs.

In one case, Burger King created three mini-games, priced at $3.99, for the Xbox 360 that featured the Burger King character. The company said it sold 3.2 million games in a six-week period, helping build its brand among game users.

In another instance, Microsoft contracted with a company to create an ad for its Gears of War game. The ad was quickly posted on YouTube and other media-sharing sites and remixed with different music and other features.

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About 700 different mashups were created with the ad, which was viewed more than 5 million times, helping make Gears of War the best-selling game on the Xbox 360, Microsoft said.

"The community took over and did the marketing for us. That, to me, is the excitement you get from using the software and services technology that Ray (Ozzie) talked about yesterday and bringing it to life in marketing," Bach said.

Meanwhile, the BBC showed off a prototype of a Web application that uses Silverlight, Microsoft's Flash challenger. The new Web application seeks to reach teenagers, an audience that the BBC has trouble attracting, according to Jason DaPonte, an executive producer at the BBC.

The application is designed to incorporate features common on video games and social-networking sites, he said. The interface lets people discover and share different media types, including audio and video files from the BBC's Web site.

"We know teenagers are in Instant Messenger all the time," DaPonte said. "Hopefully, what we're doing is bringing the BBC to where they are instead of having them come to us, which is very parochial."

In an interview with CNET News.com, Bach said Microsoft is looking at other areas where it can combine consumer devices with online services, such as its community site Windows Live Spaces. Later this month, it plans to let Xbox Live users share their "buddy" lists with people who use its Windows Live Messenger.

"Ultimately, the idea of us going to create one social community throughout Live services is a very powerful idea," he said.

Separately, Bach said that Microsoft is considering ways to offer video delivery services for its Zune media player.

He said certain video types, including TV shows, comedy and user-generated content, work well on small screens like Zune's, but not feature-length movies. Microsoft is contemplating which business models are best suited for these content types.

"Music (service) is first, but we do think video has a role to play," Bach said. "But I think people's early mistake was to take the linear experience they have on the TV and put it on the Zune. We don't happen to think that is the right approach."

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