"Our job is to disrupt the category," said David Webster, Chief Strategy Officer for Microsoft's Central Marketing Group.
"There are lots of ads out there from other vendors and carriers," Webster acknowledged.
To attempt to rise above the noise, Microsoft is taking a different tact. Instead of focusing on how much time users can spend downloading apps, playing games on their phones and tinkering with their settings, Microsoft is planning to highlight the reverse scenario.
The goal will be to show potential customers that they can spend less time trying to find the information they want on their Windows Phone 7 devices, and get back to "real life" more quickly. Because of the Live Tiles user interface on the phones, Windows Phone 7 users will be able to get information faster and without having to intervene manually as much as they do with other smartphones, the Softies plan to argue.
"Because we're hitting reset on the brand and the business, we needed an alternative point of view," Webster told me in an interview by phone late last week. "We need to show that some stone has been left unturned, some need left unfilled."
When an early version of the Windows Phone 7/AT&T commercials leaked a few weeks back, a number of bloggers and company watchers wondered aloud about the wisdom of Microsoft's decision to build a campaign around the idea of using phones less. Isn't that the opposite of what vendors and carriers -- and many users -- seem to want? (Many iPhone and Android phone users seem to love nothing better than scrolling through their apps when they have a spare minute or two.)
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 campaign is aimed primarily at average users, not "enthusiasts." Microsoft is betting that the "use your phone less and enjoy life more" message will appeal to the majority of potential Windows Phone 7 customers. The idea is less glorification of technology for technology's sake will resonate with individuals who've had dinners, movies, and walking commutes interrupted by smartphone zombies. (Or sheepishly admit to being among those zombies themselves.)
Just as Microsoft and Crispin did (with varying degrees of success), the pair will be launching additional waves of Windows Phone 7 advertising over time. Future spots, which will air on the Web, TV and in print, will focus on how Windows Phone 7 devices work and how the devices will use "the cloud" for chores like backup, photo storage, lost phone retrieval and more.
But don't expect any kind of "Windows Phone 7 was my idea" ads, Webster said, even though that undercurrent may be there.