Published on .

May 23, 2001

By Tobi Elkin

NEW YORK ( -- The majority of personal computers in the world run a version of Microsoft Corp.'s Office software program, so why is the

But do people really want to upgrade their Office software?

company taking pains to hype the latest upgrade?

The software giant's estimated $50 million to $70 million ad and marketing campaign for its latest version of Office, called Office XP, breaks in issues of Business Week and Forbes hitting newsstands Friday. The new print and online effort, by Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, targets businesspeople and knowledge workers who appreciate software tweaks designed to boost their productivity and save time.

Major challenge
Despite the nifty enhancements and Microsoft's deep pockets, a campaign for a nearly ubiquitous software product poses a major challenge.

"The key with Office XP is it's one of those products that people feel they know everything there is to know about it," said Michael McLaren, executive vice president on the Microsoft business at McCann. "The big challenge is inertia, and the creative challenge is encouraging people to think about Office in a new and different way by showing things you are able to do with it that you weren't able to do with it before."

By flagging new productivity features, Microsoft hopes to lure consumers by infusing creative executions with a certain amount of empathy and informality. One feature touts Office XP's "Integrated E-mail" function, which collects a person's e-mail from multiple accounts and organizes the messages in one place.

New features
Another new feature, "Send for Review," allows users to forward Power Point files in order to collect comments from a group. The software automatically puts all the feedback from individuals into one document, making collaboration among far-flung virtual colleagues much easier. The "Document Recovery" function automatically saves work in the event of an application crash or power outage.

Other new features include "Sharepoint," which enables users to create their own Web sites to share information and "Smart Tags," which identify names and data that have been typed in during previous work sessions. The feature allows users to retrieve a name, check the status of a meeting set up on Microsoft Outlook, or confirm an e-mail address.

Four-page insert
Microsoft and McCann have created six print executions for Office XP, plus a four-page insert that will break in national newspapers May 31, followed shortly thereafter by local newspapers. Ads also will run in business and new-economy publications.

The use of multipage inserts borrows from IBM Corp., which has deployed them to explain its e-business initiatives over the past couple of years. WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, handles IBM's advertising.

Handwritten copy
The insert shows a guy sitting behind a desktop PC looking skeptical. The copy reads: "All technology promises to change your future. New Microsoft Office XP will change your present. Today you are an information manager no matter what your business card says." The ads take a decidedly casual approach, employing handwritten copy.

"It's a very personalized message that we can relate to your frustrations," said Scott Lennard, the advertising director in Microsoft's chief marketing organization, who led the effort.

The ads also try to lure readers to the Office XP Web site, where they can take an interactive tour and test drive new features. A monthlong online viral marketing effort kicked off in late April as a momentum builder. Created by Shepherdson Stern & Kaminsky, Seattle, the campaign poked fun at "Clippy," the annoying and incredibly obtrusive paperclip wizard that pops up frequently during Office sessions to offer usage tips. "Clippy" doesn't appear in Office XP.

The Office XP campaign represents the company's most important business advertising expenditure in the June to September period after the global "Agility" effort. The "Agility" campaign, touting Microsoft's overall prowess in business software, has had a more or less constant presence on prime-time TV since debuting earlier this year. It will be refreshed with new executions this summer.

New Windows XP
But a much larger campaign looms as Microsoft prepares to release Windows XP, a major overhaul to the Windows operating system, Oct. 24. The company has said it will spend $400 million on a global blitz to market the new operating system, which is the foundation for all of its software programs. Windows XP is expected to help Microsoft segue into its .NET strategy, announced last year, of delivering software and other services via the Internet.

Office XP goes on sale May 31. Retail pricing at launch is expected to range from $399 to $429. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft president and CEO, has said he hopes to sell at least 50 million copies of the upgrade.

Copyright May 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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