Wieden Wins The Nike Of Software

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Microsoft Corp. and Nike, two Pacific Northwest corporate upstarts that have come to dominate their respective industries, share more than an ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, Ore.

Since Wieden's selection June 23 to handle Microsoft's first-ever global image campaign (AA, June 27), observers have noted the similarities of the software giant, the athletic shoe and apparel marketer, and the agency that serves them.

"Now Microsoft has the chance to do something great-creatively and strategically," said Michael Hoffman, 45, exec VP at Borders, Perrin & Norrander. "Strategy is ... where W&K is underestimated."

Mr. Hoffman said he thinks Microsoft's choice of Wieden was laudable if risky.

"Certainly, Leo Burnett [the other Microsoft finalist] would have been the safe choice. I'm positive they felt very safe with Ogilvy & Mather," which resigned Microsoft's $50 million product account for IBM Corp.'s $500 million worldwide business.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft's product account remains in review.

Nike's ads capture the Portland area company's "life and spirit," Mr. Hoffman said, and he expects the same for Microsoft. "It sort of permeates their work. W&K has the ability to create an intangible feeling about a company."

Wieden has handled some part of Nike's $250 million-plus account since 1982.

Nike veterans on Wieden's Microsoft team, to be led by partner Jim Riswold as creative director, may find the same ingredients at the software company. Many find Microsoft founder/Chairman Bill Gates as intense and charismatic as Nike founder/Chairman Philip Knight. Both foster casual and youthful, yet highly competitive, work environments, and believe passionately in their products.

Many outsiders and competitors find both Nike and Microsoft arrogant, the flip side of their intensity. For some, the true-believer atmosphere at both companies appears almost cultlike. The $180 million shop with 165 employees also has some of those characteristics. All three companies share a devotion to the Pacific Northwest, its lifestyle and independence.

Some 14 Wieden creative teams worked on winning the Microsoft account. Microsoft and its new agency wasted little time getting to work. Wieden principals, in Europe to accept Nike's Advertiser of the Year Award at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes last month, met in London with Microsoft's European marketing staff and key headquarters executives, General Manager-Corporate Marketing Liz Welch and Director of Advertising Greg Perlot.

But before heading for Europe, Wieden Director of Account Services David Luhr stopped in New York for a full day of interviewing Madison Avenue job candidates for the Microsoft account.

Tim Clark contributed to this story.

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