NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Microsoft has moved up the release of the next round of ads touting its new search engine, Bing, because it "realized that the market would be receptive to our product messages sooner than expected."
Though the first TV commercial broke only yesterday, consumers can expect to start seeing follow-up spots airing as soon as tomorrow. The next batch of ads -- collectively dubbed "Syndrome" -- continue the theme of "search overload" but present the idea humorously, a far cry from the overly dramatic "Manifesto" spot that kicked off the estimated $100 million marketing campaign from WPP agency JWT.
A spokeswoman for the Redmond, Wash.-based giant said "Manifesto" was designed "to introduce people to the idea that online search could be more effective and get them talking, and clearly it accomplished that."
"As such, it was time to move onto the next phase and highlight ways that Bing can help people make decisions about some of the most commonly searched topics," she said. "We realized that the market would be receptive to our product messages sooner than expected."
In a new 60-second spot, viewers will see two women chatting over breakfast when one begins sputtering factoids, almost uncontrollably: "'The Breakfast Club.' A 1986 cult classic." Puzzled, and a bit annoyed, her friend says: "What?" Then we see a young boy shopping for TVs with his father when all of a sudden the youngster exclaims: "Plasma is an ionized gas." And so on the scenes go, with folks spouting off data that would typically turn up on a search-results page.
The commercial closes with this: "Find the cure at Bing.com. It's not just a search engine; it's the first-ever decision engine, from Microsoft." The ad will be supported by a slew of 30-second spots that drive home the same point of search overload.
Competitors won't take it lying down
The effort is meant to come off as a clever swipe at the likes of Google and Yahoo without actually naming them. But whether the costly marketing blitz will help Microsoft increase its stake in the search market remains to be seen (witness Ask.com). One thing's for sure, though: Microsoft's competitors won't take the attempt lying down.
Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz publicly criticized Bing while speaking at a conference yesterday, saying any interest it spurs will be short-lived. "It's interesting but not over-the-top interesting," she said. "People will keep the same habits."
"Yahoo has a bright, bright future, probably cleaner and simpler without even thinking of any Microsoft connections. ... We'd be better off if we had never heard the word Microsoft," she added.
Meanwhile, Microsoft says its plans for marketing Bing are on track.
"We didn't have firm dates for the progress of the Bing ad campaign, but expected the first phase to run roughly a week," the spokeswoman said. "From the start, our strategy was to put out the first ad to start a conversation, and then shift to ads that speak to the product features directly. We're making this shift a little more quickly than we expected as we realized we'd met our goal, but in essence moved forward as originally planned."
The "Syndrome" spots don't directly address Bing's features, so consumers will have to wait to see when those ads will hit.
Success with similar strategy
The idea of using an "icebreaker" spot is something Microsoft experimented with when it launched its consumer brand campaign with an ad by Crispin Porter & Bogusky that saw comedian Jerry Seinfeld yapping away with Microsoft founder Bill Gates in a shoe store.
That campaign abruptly switched gears, and since then has taken various iterations, from a celebrity-packed series of ads to the docu-style "Laptop Hunters" ads now airing.
It's not a surprise that Microsoft is trying to duplicate the overall strategy, as the campaign has helped it gain some ground in the Mac vs. PC battle.
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