by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft Shows Business Smarts with People-Ready Ad Campaign

Jan 20, 20093 mins
Data Center

Microsoft’s newest chapter of the People-Ready ad campaign—covering online, print and TV and reportedly costing $200 million—provides a somewhat comforting tone for struggling businesses. The message: Times are tough but it’s still ok to take some risks and invest in the future. Our software and services can help.

The tagline of the ads, developed by ad agency JWT and now running regularly on TV, is “Because It’s Everybody’s Business.” The line evokes many timely themes: transparency (everybody should know if sneaky deals are being made), regulation (everybody should know if sneaky deals are being made), collaboration (everybody should work together), recession (it’s everybody’s problem), profit (everybody deserves to earn some money).

It’s Everybody’s Business. A lot is said in a few words.

By God, Microsoft may have gotten this advertising thing right! It sure beats the hell out of Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates talking about shoes.

The Seinfeld debacle and the subsequent “I’m a PC/Life Without Walls” ads targeted consumers, but the “Because It’s Everybody’s Business” ads have business users squarely in its sights.

Microsoft’s People-Ready TV commercial spotlighting Quicksilver surfboards.

The TV ads, which debuted on Jan. 12, acknowledge the grim economy up front, using real interviews with real business users. The spots have a nice clarity and humanity as they combine the audio of what sounds like a reporter interviewing a company executive about his or her business plan with corresponding animated visuals providing a bouncing ball effect.

There are three TV spots that I’ve seen: one featuring a small company (Method Soap), one featuring a medium company (Quicksilver surfboards) and one featuring a giant global brand (Coca-Cola).

Again, I like the humanity. The people sound authentic. The marketing lingo is kept to minimum as the executives discuss how they are using technology to keep their businesses moving in a bad economy. No specific technologies are mentioned, but unified communications and business intelligence software are alluded to. No Microsoft products are named (No Vista, no Office, no SharePoint, no nothing). It took me until the second viewing of the TV ad to realize the spot was even for Microsoft.

The strategy with this iteration of the People-Ready campaign runs deeper than selling specific products. It’s about Microsoft turning the recession into a general business opportunity. It is framing itself as the affordable vendor for the struggling business.

Of course this is absurd given all the cheaper open-source alternatives out there, and makes me wonder why we’re not hearing more from Google about it’s FREE apps in these cash-strapped times.

Microsoft is not the most affordable option for businesses, but now that the software giant is playing Apple’s game of changing perception through advertising, that may not matter.