Microsoft Calls Holding Company Review for 'Cloud'

Omnicom, Publicis Approached; JWT Still Overseeing Bing, Office Brands

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NEW YORK ( -- Microsoft has reached out to Omnicom Group and Publicis Groupe to pitch marketing ideas for its cloud-computing business, also known as its commercial account, according to multiple executives familiar with the matter. The incumbent is WPP-owned JWT, and it along with other WPP resources have been asked to participate in the pitch.

"We have decided to put our all-up Microsoft commercial campaign into review to ensure we're getting the freshest thinking in how we talk to our customers about a wide range of commercial products around the world," said a spokeswoman for Microsoft. "JWT remains an integral part of our world-class agency roster and will remain agency of record for the Bing and Office brands."

Representatives for the three agency holding companies could not be immediately reached.

Some say the move is viewed as a sign that Microsoft's marketing team, in particular, Mich Mathews, senior VP-Central Marketing Group, is displeased that JWT hasn't moved fast enough to name a North American chief creative officer to replace Ty Montague. Mr. Montague left earlier this year along with JWT North American CEO Rosemarie Ryan to start their own venture.

That displeasure has been made clear not just at JWT -- which in addition to the cloud business handles major chunks of Microsoft's advertising account, including Bing and Microsoft Office -- but also to WPP CEO Martin Sorrell. The two are said to have held meetings during the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June.

Recently, Ms. Matthews recently reached out directly to Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom Group CEO John Wren, tasking each to put forth their best agencies, or a combination thereof, to pitch creative ideas for Cloud, executives say.

It's not clear which agencies will be presented.

Omnicom shops Goodby Silverstein & Partners and TBWA Worldwide work with Yahoo and Apple, respectively, so it's unlikely those could be tapped. Microsoft already works with DDB Worldwide, and BBDO seems like a possibility.

Meanwhile at Publicis, Fallon was the runner-up for the $300 million consumer account that Crispin Porter & Bogusky handles, while Saatchi & Saatchi is also a possibility. Microsoft continues to work with its former digital agency entity Razorfish, which now belongs to Publicis.

Earlier this week JWT, New York, announced it hired Bill Oberlander, most recently chief creative officer at Cossette, New York, to oversee the Microsoft commercial business. Now his first task will be to defend the account in an agency review.

The account includes Microsoft's cloud-computing services for businesses. It recently announced a cloud-computing platform called Windows Azure, but it is also testing a consumer product. In what appeared to be a stepped-up attempt to compete with Google's services, in April, Microsoft launched a cloud tool for consumers in partnership with Facebook called "Docs" that allows Office documents to be shared with Facebook friends completely online.

It's hard to put a number on the value of this particular segment of Microsoft's advertising account, which leans heavily on business-to-business services. But it's likely to be significant considering the marketer's hefty budget. It spent more than $1 billion on advertising in the U.S. last year, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, which ranks Microsoft as the 32nd-biggest national advertiser.

Calling upon Omnicom and Publicis shows Microsoft is eager to spread the love amongst agency holding companies, much like Google has done by striking partnerships with Interpublic, Omnicom and Publicis.

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Contributing: Michael Learmonth, Kunur Patel

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