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The woman behind Microsoft's in your face ad strategy

The woman behind Microsoft's in your face ad strategy

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.

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 MSN.com 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 CIO.com 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?

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