Microsoft to refocus its advertising

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Microsoft Corp. is rushing development of an ad campaign to show that what's good for Microsoft is good for customers.

The campaign, the next phase of an ongoing brand effort from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., probably will take several months to develop, though "we'd definitely like to get out there with some strong messages about Microsoft and the brand as soon as possible," said Jon Reingold in his first extensive interview on Microsoft's branding plans since being promoted in March to VP-corporate marketing.

The clock is ticking toward the September start of the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft, so the software company may in the interim expand a tactical TV campaign launched May 17 in Washington. That campaign was created by Bozell Sawyer Miller Group, New York, which also has done print ads to counter the antitrust case.

EMPLOYEES IN ADS

For the upcoming brand campaign, Microsoft is considering a Wieden proposal to feature Microsoft employees, a concept that could show Microsoft has personalities beyond its omnipresent and overcharged chairman, Bill Gates.

"We really want to get across to people that our agenda is simple: creating products that help people," Mr. Reingold said. "We've done a lot of product advertising at Microsoft. ... What we need to do, though, is give people a better glimpse of the company behind the products."

Given all the heat on their client, Wieden and Anderson & Lembke, San Francisco, Microsoft's other main agency, are under pressure to deliver.

"They're in the midst of re-evaluating everything," said one agency insider.

Said Mr. Reingold: "We're always evaluating all of our communications."

ASSIGNMENTS SHIFT

Some assignments are shifting: Microsoft chose Wieden, not usual online shop A&L, to do online promotion for Windows 98. A&L executives said they recommended Microsoft consolidate all Windows 98 work, and Wieden already was doing the product ads.

A&L, meanwhile, may get the Microsoft Network assignment now at Wieden, clearing A&L to handle the launch of Microsoft's new Start Web portal site.

A&L also is doing its first Microsoft TV spot, part of its ongoing assignment targeting a technical audience.

Mr. Reingold declined to discuss the status of the agency relationships.

For its brand ads, Mr. Reingold said Microsoft is not seeking a "softer side of Sears" campaign.

"It's got to be true to who we are," he said. "We can't just go out and say we're this non-profit organization that's just here to sort of be just these very nice, warm, friendly, fuzzy people. What we are is very high-energy, passionate, focused people [who] are trying to bring the benefits of technology to the people.

"We are a leader, and we are playing a leadership role in this industry, which is playing a leadership role in the economy and in society. We need to speak as a leader--as a responsible leader," Mr. Reingold said.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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