Under the new structure, the marketing team works horizontally across all campaigns to build the Microsoft brand, and it takes a more collaborative approach with its agency partners.
“The old model was, we would brief the agencies, then cross our arms, sit at the table and wait for them to come back and impress us. Long term, that is not the smartest way to get the best outcome from your creative partners,” Webster said.
“Now, we will brief them, then have a series of workshops at the agency so that, when they come back into the room to present their ideas to the decision-makers at Microsoft, we are there in an advocacy position. We have been in the tent. We endorse the work, and we welcome the work.”
Microsoft has used this approach with Crispin Porter+Bogusky, Boulder, Colo., which handles the company's consumer campaigns; JWT New York, which works on b-to-b efforts; and Agency-TwoFifteen (formerly T.A.G.), San Francisco, which handles Xbox advertising.
“Now, we jointly brief the agencies and work with the [Microsoft] business groups to identify the business goals and Microsoft goals,” Webster said. “It gives us a chance to step back and learn about how individual perceptions of Microsoft as a company are formed.”
One of the first big campaigns with which Microsoft took this new approach was “I'm a PC,” created by Crispin Porter for the introduction of Windows 7 last year. While the formal announcement of Microsoft's new organizational structure was made in February, roles had been evolving over the past two years, Webster noted.
“Windows 7 is a consumer- oriented campaign, but we know from interviews with IT pros and [business decision-makers] that the advertising has had a significant impact in their perception of Windows 7 as a consumer product as well as a product for their business,” he said.
“There are specific kinds of conversations and specific kinds of engagement you have to have with b-to-b customers; and, if you overlook the impact that consumer advertising has on the audience, you are not seeing the complete picture.”
Rob Reilly, partner-chief creative officer at Crispin Porter+Bogusky, said the new marketing organization has proved beneficial to the client and its agency partners.
“When we pitched the business (more than two years ago), they had a reputation of "Big, bad Microsoft.' Initially, everyone walked in with kid gloves. One of the most surprising things is how collaborative they are and open to different opinions and points of view. In their new roles, they are very much more of a partner. It has worked out to be a very good relationship.”
Reilly said that in developing campaigns for Microsoft—beginning with its first “I'm a PC” campaign that debuted in September 2008 in response to Apple's “I'm a Mac” campaign, and later for Windows 7—Webster, Troberman and Mathews have taken an active role in the strategy and creative work, as well as providing collaboration with other agency partners.
“We have a very good relationship with JWT and T.A.G.,” Reilly said. “We all collaborate, and we've all been in the same room with David and Mich, and talked about common themes. You still have separate brands, but you try to have consistency across the brands.”
Reilly said the collaborative relationship allows the agency to take risks and not be afraid to try new things.
“The notion of having someone like David on the bat phone when we may be struggling a little or trying to hone it even more allows us to be freer,” he said. M