Is there a culture, an approach that enables all this fluidity?
I think what that all represents is that there is an amazing close partnership with our agency McCann and a lot of clarity around our vision, and a lot of freedom to tell the stories we need to tell. There’s not a lot of bureaucracy around “can this happen or not.” If we believe in it, Chris [Capossela] our chief marketing officer is going to go with it. There’s a lot of trust. It’s not just marketing, of course. It’s the alignment of marketing and management. Satya [Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO], is an amazing supporter and he himself is a great storyteller, understands the value of great storytelling and the emotional connecction with consumers. Those two giant streams came into alignment over the last 10 years, which is what’s driven a lot of this success.
How do you ensure a productive, fruitful relationship with your agencies? You've worked with a number of them over the years, CPB and Blk-Ops—which led to the "Empowering Us All" platform, and McCann, which has been behind many of the big Cannes winners.
It’s like a people relationship. There’s a lot of honesty. They make fun of me. From a creative standpoint, directness and clarity are paramount. You can’t be equivocal about your strategy. It’s not magic. It’s not an epiphany. We’re miners and we’re down there, digging and inhaling a lot of crap, and then, eventually, we uncover the diamonds. With the agency, it’s like a good marriage. If I have a problem, I pick up the phone and call Sean [Bryan, co-CCO, North America] or I would call Rob [Reilly, former McCann Worldgroup creative chairman, who has since moved to WPP]. There’s an openness. Rob was a believer before I came on board, and he’s never wavered from his belief in the company’s greatness and that it deserves to be recognized for it.
What are your plans now that Rob’s taken the creative helm at WPP?
We’ve been working together for a lot of years and Rob’s love for, and commitment to, the Microsoft brand was bar none. But the opportunity he had to move on is a fabulous one and you never want any of your friends to limit themselves to your benefit. But I think the good news is that Rob passed on his love for, and knowledge of, Microsoft to a really strong team, so we have a really super strong team in place carrying on his tradition. But, personally, I’ll miss him a ton.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you approached marketing over the past year? From you, we saw a lot of interesting ideas, specifically around a product, Teams, that became more relevant because of lockdown.
The first week of March we shut down, and we had a shoot schedule the following Monday for Teams, so we were like, what do we do? Right away we went to—oh my gosh, maybe the medium is the message. We could actually shoot over Teams. It seems so obvious now, but back then, no one was doing it yet. Some of it was a nightmare. We used real people, it was raw and down and dirty, but what we learned was good idea is good messaging. You don’t always need high production to get them across.