Microsoft Bows ‘IdeaWins’

NEW YORK Microsoft launched its “IdeaWins” contest for the best small business concept in New York’s Time Square today.

Supporting the launch of Microsoft Office Express Accounting 2007 software, the Times Square event kicked off the “Ultimate Challenge” van tour, which will stop in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago and Atlanta, to collect consumer ideas.

The campaign, created by StrawberryFrog here, began in late October when 2,000 copies of the software were dropped by parachute over what the agency calls “an average American town,” Willow Springs, Ill. Local radio and newspaper ads explained the contest, which will accept submissions through the end of January. The winner will receive $100,000 and free retail space in New York City for a full year.

Colorful TV spots ask “What is your big idea?” with graphics of possible products such as an electric spinning fork, a four-sided TV and fruit-flavored coffee. Ads urge consumers to “Make it happen” by downloading Microsoft’s free software.

“Rather than talk about the software, we wanted the brand to stand for something. We believe that the most powerful thing right now is a great business idea,” said Kevin McKeon, executive creative director at StrawberryFrog. “We are going to be a brand that is going to help you bring your ideas to life. That’s what the accounting software does.”

The national advertising supporting the effort also includes print, radio and online ads.

Judges will include maternity clothing designer Liz Lange, former Apprentice host Carolyn Kepcher, Rupert Jee of Late Night With David Letterman fame (his Hello Deli served as backdrop to today’s event) and the public, who will vote on finalists’ ideas on the ideawins.com Web site. The finalists will make their pitches on a network morning show, said the agency. The winner will be announced in March, and visitors to the site will be able to track the business’ progress via a reality show-style online series.

“This is a traditional campaign supported by traditional media,” added McKeon, explaining that the goal is to drive consumers to ideawins.com, where they can download the software and enter the contest. “It all leads to the online experience,” he said, which will also include blogs about the contest.