MICROSOFT ADS ZOOM IN ON THE HUMAN COMPONENT: EMPLOYEES TAKE SOFTWARE GIANT BEYOND FACE OF BILL GATES

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Microsoft Corp. lets employees do the talking in its new TV campaign, making the pitch that Microsoft's goal is to improve the world through better software.

Director of Advertising Eric Koivisto said the concept of using employees (AA, June 1) is part of ongoing efforts to "humanize" the brand. He said it's coincidence Microsoft is putting smiling faces and appealing personalities in the annual brand campaign just weeks before its Justice Department antitrust case goes to trial.

"This is not in response to anything," he said. "This is more of an evolution of where we've been."

WEALTH OF TALENT

Microsoft in a way already is superhumanized: It is singularly associated with Bill Gates. The new spots spread the wealth of people talent around by showing there's more to Microsoft than its omnipresent chairman.

Ads broke Sept. 5 and will run through the fiscal year ending June 30 as Microsoft and Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., enter the fifth year of the "Where do you want to go today?" campaign. Print starts this week in The Wall Street Journal. A Web version will run on www.microsoft.com.

Microsoft will spend an estimated $130 million this fiscal year on the network and cable brand campaign, and millions more on brand print ads. The bulk of the TV money will be spent in the U.S., though Mr. Koivisto said the campaign will extend into some global markets.

There are periodic and recurring reports of stress between Wieden and Microsoft, which recently shifted some key product work to roster agency Anderson & Lembke, putting that San Francisco shop's Microsoft billings ahead of Wieden's for the first time. Microsoft executives, however, have publicly stood by Wieden.

Mr. Koivisto termed Wieden's new work "a smart campaign [that's] very true to who we are."

FOCUS ON COMMUNITIES

The new iteration of the brand campaign is built around "communities." It consists of one :60 -- "Inside Microsoft Anthem," featuring diverse employees talking about what they do -- and five :30s, each focusing on one employee.

The anthem spot plays off the slogan. "Why is our company tagline a question?" asks the voice-over. "Well, you can't make software better till you know what people want to do with it."

The spot cuts to employees asking their own questions and explaining their passion.

Commercials feature a mix of employees working on practical software today and visionary ideas for tomorrow.

Next month, Microsoft will rotate in a series of spots showing how software brings together communities of customers: the residents of Lusk, Wyo.; a school; and a business, which Mr. Koivisto noted in effect is a community bound by technology.

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