MEDIA: Microsoft signs partnership deal with FT

Microsoft has struck a deal with the Financial Times that will see it run ads in the paper using actual headlines from recent FT news articles, as part of a £5m assault to woo businesses to its products.

The activity, the first of its kind, will make the FT the exclusive press partner for the campaign, which revolves around the software company's positioning of offering 'business agility'.

Breaking on March 1, the FT ads will feature the headlines of stories from the past few days and ask readers whether they are agile enough to adapt to news events.

"This creative demonstrates business agility to customers using real-life examples, bringing to life proof points that show how Microsoft software can improve versatility, which is key to the customer," said Microsoft UK marketing director Nick Barley.

The companies are looking to extend the partnership with a series of sponsored IT guides aimed at decision-makers.

The tie-up with the FT will support a TV push that reworks a campaign run last year (Marketing, March 28, 2002). The ads feature a split screen, one portraying 'desire', the other 'delivery'.

Microsoft last year committed an adspend of £20m for 2002 and 2003 on brand advertising activity targeting businesses. The decision reflected its bid to challenge competitors IBM, Oracle and Sun Microsystems. Microsoft has a much weaker hold on the business arena than its traditionally strong area of desktop consumer software.

The activity signalled an attempt by Microsoft to boost its 10% share of the market in the UK for business software and services.

Creative is by McCann- Erickson, with media planned and bought by Universal Media. It will be supported by online advertising by AKQA.

Microsoft hired Chemistry to its £10m UK below-the-line account earlier this month.