New Microsoft Ad Push Touts 'Family' of Xbox, Windows Phone and Office

Massive Global TV and Web Campaign Will Begin During NFL Sunday

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Taking a page from Apple's playbook, Microsoft is planning to pitch its entire range of retail products -- from Xbox Kinect and Office, to Windows PC and Phone -- as a lifestyle portfolio for the entire household, starting during the pre-game of Sunday Night Football on NBC.

The campaign, under the tagline "It's a great time to be a family," marks a return to spendy TV advertising for Microsoft, which had dialed back spending on Windows Phone and its search engine Bing in recent months. The idea here is to take Microsoft's one very-hot consumer product, Xbox Kinect, and connect it to other Microsoft devices built to work seamlessly together.

It's the first time the company will be advertising four products at once, David Webster, Microsoft's chief marketing strategist, told Ad Age in an interview Thursday. The campaign is about technology that brings families together, rather than isolates people when they're together, he added. "Much like a family portrait rather than individual headshots," he said.

The same creative concept will run in 35 global markets, including the U.S. The ads themselves have no dialog, so many versions of the same ads will air around the world with actors of different ethnicities and local music. Some of the international versions -- such as those made for India and Japan -- will also air in the U.S. (Yes, Indian-Americans, you can definitely expect Bollywood references.)

Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the agency that launched Windows Phone, created the new Microsoft "family" campaign and Starcom Mediavest Group planned and bought media, which will include TV spots and pre-roll video online. Wunderman helped globalize the campaign and R/GA created website pages to display products on sale for global markets. Mr. Webster did not disclose Microsoft's total budget for the campaign, which spans many markets and includes high-profile TV inventory.

The campaign harkens back to Apple's digital "digital hub" strategy launched a decade ago that put the iMac at the center of a growing array of consumer devices like the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Apple TV. Apple co-founder and then-CEO Steve Jobs announced that strategy at MacWorld in 2001 as Apple's vision of the future of the PC.

That same year, Apple opened its first retail stores, which today merchandize its range of products from Macbook to iPad, iPhone and, less so, Apple TV together. Apple's hub strategy has definitely shifted over the years; most recently, that hub moved away from hardware and PCs to internet-based storage with Apple's latest release iCloud.

Microsoft retail partners such as Best Buy will also merchandize Microsoft products together, in step with the campaign, Mr. Webster said.

Of the products featured in the holiday push, Windows Phone is the major underdog. Sales for devices carrying Microsoft's mobile software have been less stellar than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would've liked, according to his comments from an analyst meeting in September. Some handsets now available free with contract in a bid to goose sales, while sales of phones with Google's Android operating system, as well as the iPhone, are accelerating.

Windows, similarly has been lagging, with revenue from the Windows and Windows Live division declining 1% for the fourth-quarter and revenue for the full fiscal year ending in June decreasing 2%.

Thanks to the gesture-controller Kinect and internet service Xbox Live, Xbox is a best-seller and buoyed overall revenue up 12% from the year-prior to nearly $70 billion. Office 2010, too, continues to break Microsoft Office sales records with more than 100 million licenses sold.

Microsoft has traditionally been a big ad spender; it was a top-50 U.S. advertiser in 2010 with $926.3 million in spending, according to Ad Age Data Center. Of that , more than $400 million went behind the Microsoft brand, more than $100 million behind Bing and almost $60 million for Xbox and its games.

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