Brand: Microsoft corporate brand
Brief: Create a more positive and emotional connection with key target
groups. Influence their perception of Microsoft as a responsible leader
Target audience: "Core elites" - government and non-government
influencers, key corporate decision-makers and technology purchasers,
Budget: £5 million
Media: Universal McCann
Creative: McCann Erickson
Outdoor: International Poster Management
STRATEGY While Microsoft is admired for its vision, innovation and leadership, not all perceptions of the brand are positive. Varied relationships with business partners and an over-emphasis on a global brand have been issues outside of the US.
To counter these issues, communication needed to extol the positive virtues of Microsoft, while making the brand more tangible, relevant, liked and trusted by opinion-formers and technology decision-makers.
UK media needed to drive a warmer local brand relationship. Microsoft wanted to engage an audience of "core elites" so the key challenge was to deliver exclusive communications to an elusive audience.
A "bullseye" strategy was deployed. The principles supporting the strategy were core (target), consistency (relationship over time) and context (environment).
In reaching such a highly defined audience, Universal McCann research indicated the key issue was to identify opportunities that gave it permission to enter a dialogue and that the audience would be most receptive to.
PTelevision Universal developed an "intelligent programme" strategy that delivered consistent presence in hand-picked programmes. Series-linked opportunities in The West Wing and Six Feet Under were complemented by access to documentaries, news and sport (rugby, golf and Champions League in particular). Based on availability of desired programming, a maximum ABC1 men rating delivery of 40 TVRs per week was defined. In addition, the agency used in-flight TV on Virgin Upper Class, as the research identified this medium as a key route to the core elite audience.
PPress Research identified that while Microsoft's audience read business titles, it is receptive to messages through weekend consumer press. Therefore, in addition to the usual suspects of The Economist, Newsweek, etc, Saturday editions of the Financial Times and other quality press were used. Half-page multiple-colour copy was used to illustrate different ways to "realise potential" over time.
POutdoor Selected sites were used to reach key decision-makers in the most relevant environments. These included three key sites at Heathrow, a wall wrap at London City airport and the Texaco Tower on the M4.
The ground screen at Twickenham is now sponsored by Microsoft, ensuring that the audience is communicated to on match days. Preferential tickets for business partners are available as part of the deal.
Microsoft is committed to this strategy in the long term. The campaign broke in September and initial global research (including the UK) has shown that it has succeeded in reaching some of the key metrics. Consideration of Microsoft has improved, along with perceptions of Microsoft as a trustworthy and valued partner.
THE VERDICT - Simon Mathews founding partner, Rise Communications
Hardly a day goes by without some news story about Microsoft transgressing the boundaries of fair play. Maybe its only crime is to be too successful but regardless, the threatened sanctions are portentous. No doubt Microsoft has left no legal or philanthropic stone unturned and this campaign is the contribution of paid-for communication.
This is more than just a good effort - this is a premium service from Universal McCann. Much of this strategy is well researched and thought out but what makes it clever is that the entire campaign has been right-sized. Instead of a "one size fits all" media strategy for the centrally produced creative work, Universal has gone beyond just matching up the right media to the right message/consumer. It has instead ensured that the format works in the environment. It has covered off some key behavioural touchpoints.
However, if I think about the wider issues I get an uneasy feeling - good try, wrong strategy.
Any negative perceptions of Microsoft are reinforced by that steady stream of invective; journalists or politicians looking to make a name for themselves won't be easily convinced. Essentially the campaign asserts a truth that we know - Microsoft software enhances potential. Instead of this, surely what is really needed is proof, the evidence that Microsoft has listened and is responding. Proof moves mountains and changes the most hardened views; Gandhi and Martin Luther King proved that they were committed by meeting violence with non-violence and spells in jail were purposefully endured. Thus they galvanised a massive voice that turned two of the most intransigent governments.
Clearly Microsoft's issues are not of the same magnitude but surely the challenge of altering steadfast views is similar.
Ultimately, Microsoft needs a bigger communication property, maybe one that demonstrates change and altruism for less well-supported elements of its customer franchise. I suspect that the brief should have been about the core issue; make detractors trust and believe in Microsoft again. I bet Universal could have come up with some really original thinking to that brief rather than just optimising the advertising campaign.