Microsoft blitz pushes server

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Touting a theme of rock-solid reliability, Microsoft Corp. on Jan. 4 debuts a print and outdoor campaign for Windows 2000 Server that constitutes its largest-ever push for server products.

The campaign, created by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, features visually arresting creative that flags Windows 2000 Server's ability to stay up and running 99.999 percent of the time, a critical performance measure for Internet-based businesses. Targeting business decision-makers and information technology professionals, print ads use the "Five Nines" theme to underscore Windows 2000 Server's reliability.

"In the world of enterprise computing, the most important attribute that the IT guy is looking for is that the server is always up," said Michael McLaren, exec VP-director of client services on the Microsoft account at McCann. "It's a very powerful statement about Microsoft that we are meeting and exceeding the reliability requirements of today's modern operating system."

Microsoft began its Windows 2000 ramp-up in late 1999 during corporate concerns over Y2K issues and is counting on 2001 to deliver strong sales.

However, some analysts believe Windows 2000 adoption rates will be slowed by the softening economy and a spate of year-end 2000 corporate profit warnings. A slowdown in commercial PC sales is also damping adoption rates. Ironically, in one new print ad, Microsoft criticizes the Windows 95 operating system as a way to get companies to upgrade to Windows 2000 Professional. The ad features a blue computer screen and the copy: "Goodbye blue screen, hello reliable Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional."

"We would like adoption to be radically faster, sure," Mike Delman, general manager-advertising, events and packaging for Microsoft, said. "I know a lot of companies that are in big evaluation cycles right now."

The ads emphasize that using Windows 2000 Server, companies experience less than six minutes of unplanned downtime per year.

Single-page and spread ads will run in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, along with business and information-technology trade magazines. One execution shows a businessman walking past a wallscape emblazoned with five number nines. Copy reads: "The Mythical Five Nines. 99.999 percent. As close to perfect as you can get without breaking some law of nature." Copy drives potential customers to Microsoft's Web site for information and case studies of customer experiences with Windows 2000 products. Microsoft's creative approach on this phase of Windows 2000 advertising represents a departure from earlier efforts.

"We've noticed there's a definite lack of clarity in the category," said Mr. Delman. "The look, tone and feel of the ads is fairly different from what we were doing before."

The company's most recent enterprise-oriented ad blitz began Dec. 4 with a push for Windows 2000 Professional desktop products. Those ads, Gap-style portraits of young knowledge workers, offer messages such as "I won't let you down," to emphasize that given the best tools, Microsoft software businesses will succeed. The core message to decision-makers: "Change what your software is doing and you change what your people are doing," he said.

In another departure, Microsoft adopted a new tagline for its most recent crop of business advertising: "Software for the Agile Business," dropping "Where do you want to go today?" Microsoft continues using the six-year-old "Where" tag in other advertising, including efforts for its consumer businesses.

"The tag was dropped for this campaign because we wanted to focus on Microsoft as a relevant and credible enterprise player," Mr. McLaren said.

Mr. Delman declined to specify the budget for Microsoft's latest business advertising effort, but said it's smaller than last year's spending for the launch of the Windows 2000 product family, an estimated $100 million. Microsoft spent about $60 million in measured media to support Windows 2000 products from January-August 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Copyright January 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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