by Shane O'Neill

Meet the Woman Behind Microsoft’s In Your Face Ad Strategy

Jun 22, 20096 mins
Computers and PeripheralsData CenterSmall and Medium Business

What's up with the current tidal wave of Microsoft ads? Gayle Troberman, Microsoft's GM of Advertising, talks about hunting down the competition with the "Bing" and "It's Everybody's Business" commercials, scoring Jack Welch for Microsoft's new reality show and preparing for the next stage of the ad war with Apple.

It’s hard to miss Microsoft’s myriad ad campaigns on television and the Web right now.

Between the “Laptop Hunters” dissing Macs and the Bing decision engine ads popping up on primetime TV, to smaller Web campaigns plugging Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft is spreading the word more aggressively than ever. And consumers can expect even more TV ads as Windows 7 inches closer to launch in October.

The company’s recent “It’s Everybody’s Business” TV and Web ads, which started in January, feature audio interviews with business executives of Coca-Cola, Energizer and others over lo-fi animated visuals, pushing the message of technology’s simple necessity in a complicated business world.

“It’s Everybody’s Business” TV commercial featuring Coca-Cola.

You’ve probably seen these ads on TV and in banner ads on the Web, perhaps without knowing that they are for Microsoft. Yet the “It’s Everybody’s Business” ad campaign has been such a success that it has spawned a Web-based reality show with former GE honcho and business legend Jack Welch and his wife and co-author Suzy. On the show, featured on starting last week, the hard-nosed Welches coach execs from a variety of companies grappling with technology and business conundrums.

Gayle Troberman, Microsoft’s GM of Microsoft Advertising, discussed Microsoft’s ambitious advertising strategy of targeting both the consumer and the CIO. The following is an edited version of the interview with senior writer Shane O’Neill.

There’s been an obvious surge in Microsoft ad campaigns lately on all fronts. Why now?

We’ve certainly increased our focus on consumer brands. There have been two big drivers lately: the Windows brand and PCs and the new Bing decision engine.

A lot of our advertising investments reflect when we have product launches. So bringing the Bing brand into the marketplace required investment in advertising to make consumers aware of the new product and the value it can add to their lives.

We’ve also focused on business customer and the IT audience. There we do traditional media like television and some niche publications. We do a lot of targeted print and digital ads. The IT audience is very digitally active so we can engage a lot with them on the Web. I think the perception is that we’re only invested in TV because it’s more visible to us as consumers. But we’re incredibly invested in online as well, where we can appeal to some of the less mainstream segments.

The “It’s Everybody’s Business” campaign falls into both categories of mainstream television and niche Web. How was the low-budget, animated aesthetic of these ads developed and what’s the message to businesses?

The “It’s Everybody’s Business” campaign has been about having real customers and real thought leaders in business and IT talk about how people and software come together to drive results. Each of the spots talks about this subject in different ways.

You have a CMO talking about collaboration and how technology plays a role in that. Then you have a CEO talking about virtualization and reducing costs

What I love about the campaign is that it’s all digitally produced. Even the interviews are done over the phone and you can hear the crunchy audio. It’s a real interesting technique and we can produce the ads very quickly based on what’s happening in the marketplace.

The ads seem to drive home the idea of using technology for long-term planning and to reduce inefficiencies. Was the economic downturn a factor in the how the ads were crafted?

They were definitely designed to be rapid response, and the all digital, low-fi production enables that. Compare that to doing a massive shoot with lots of actors and fancy editing to produce two or three messages and run them for a year.

It's Everybody's Business with Jack & Suzy Welch
Jack Welch “works out” the kinks with Hertz execs.

When things starting changing dramatically in the economy we were able to quickly call some of our business leaders back up and re-record them and produce new creative in a matter of days, to talk about how they were making changes and thinking about investments in technology to save money.

It’s been a really versatile marketing tool for us, and we think the reality show with Jack and Suzy Welch will be the next level of that dialogue with business and IT people.

How did the idea for an “It’s Everybody’s Business” reality show come together?

From the beginning of the “It’s Everybody’s Business” campaign, JWT [the campaign’s advertising agency] thought it would make a fascinating business show. We began working on the ads, but we kept asking, should we really do a show? Should it be a TV show or Web-based?

Given where our audience was consuming content we figured we could amass a sizeable audience of business people on the Web interested in how a “Work Out” [business problem review] with Jack Welch works and hear how other enterprise companies struggle with the same issues they do. [The first episode features rental car company Hertz, and subsequent shows will feature other companies].

It’s also a good platform to talk about Microsoft’s role and how our technology can bring people together to make good business decisions across the different parts of a company.

What specifically can CIOs and IT professionals take away from the show and apply to their jobs?

One of the top requests of our IT customers is that they want Microsoft to educate them about what’s happening in technology and business. We do a lot of that through traditional means such as publishing white papers and case studies about how a certain company used Microsoft software to reach a certain business outcome. But this show brings the white paper to life. It’s like a white paper with a pulse.

Instead of reading the case study about how Hertz went at this business problem, you actually get into the boardroom and you can watch someone legendary like Jack Welch question and challenge the Hertz team. You can learn as much from this work out process as from the actual final decisions made by Hertz.

Switching gears slightly to the consumer space: What does the future hold for the “I’m a PC” campaign? Will you continue to attack Apple on price?

We’re seeing great results from the “Laptop Hunters” campaign, so we think there’s still some room to go with that. And then obviously we’re building toward the Windows 7 launch. So expect us to be talking more about Windows 7 the product as we get closer to launch.

We’ll continue to keep evolving the campaign and “I’m a PC” is core part of our message, whether we’re talking about what you can do with Windows like in our “Rookies” campaign or about PC choice and value as we’re doing with “Laptop Hunters.” And soon we’ll start shifting our ads more to the power of Windows 7, the operating system.

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