Gates appears in TV spot following Microsoft antitrust ruling

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If Microsoft Corp. is suffering from battle fatigue, you wouldn't know it from company Chairman Bill Gates. Mr. Gates takes to the airwaves on April 6 in a 30-second TV spot, in the wake of a federal court judge's antitrust ruling on Monday, to remind the U.S. public that Microsoft's innovations are improving people's lives. The spot, titled "Innovation," was created in a hurry by McCann-Erickson/A&L, New York and San Francisco, Microsoft's agency of record, and will run for a week on all three major networks during national news broadcasts and in prime time. In the spot, Mr. Gates appears in a simple setting with computers, and speaks directly to TV viewers. He doesn't specifically address the ruling or Microsoft's plans to appeal. Instead, Mr. Gates notes that "25 years ago, my friends and I started with nothing but an idea - that we could harness the power of the PC to improve people's lives. Since then, it's become a tool that has transformed our economy and had a profound effect on how we live and how our children learn. Now our goal at Microsoft is to create the next generation of software, to keep innovating and improving what we can do for you. The best is yet to come."

"Given all the recent coverage of the company, we wanted to talk directly to our customers and demonstrate that Microsoft is focused on innovation and building great products," said Mark Murray, Microsoft's public affairs director. "There's no better person in the world to talk about innovation than Bill Gates, so we thought given the issues in the news, it was a great time to talk to the American people directly."

In addition, print ads have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and other key newspapers as an open letter to Microsoft's customers and partners from Mr. Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer.

Corporate brand advertising executives said no changes in the company's brand and image advertising strategy are afoot. "From a corporate image TV standpoint, we feel the direction we've been taking is appropriate," said John Carter, director of corporate advertising. "The overall direction of corporate advertising is unchanged," Mr. Carter said, adding that the Gates spot is "very complementary" to image advertising currently running.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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