Microsoft's advertising business encompasses everything from Bing to Xbox Live to ads on Windows Mobile phones. Yet the division is often so closely associated with the MSN portal that Carolyn Everson (pictured), its global ad sales leader, is making several organizational changes to highlight the company’s marketing and media prowess.
Everson’s also thrusting the company deeper into the creative arena—as she attempts the tough task of associating the software giant less with technology than with "magic," as she put it.
To hone Microsoft’s marketing image, Everson has elected to combine two of company’s divisions: Global Agencies, which focuses on top ad agencies; and Global Accounts, which focuses on top clients. Richard Dunmall has been tapped to serve as the new vp, global accounts and agencies, reporting directly to Everson.
Meanwhile, Marc Bresseel, who had been leading the Global Agencies group, is now in charge of Microsoft’s global marketing team, a role Everson likened to a CMO. Bresseel’s No. 1 task will be to change the company’s perception in the ad and media world. “[Too many clients] refer to us as the MSN sales team,” said Everson. “We’ve got to do a lot of work on what our story is. We can’t just be doubling down on technology and exchanges. We have to be about magic.”
Another untold story, and undersold resource, according to Everson, is Microsoft’s research potential. To better unearth that potential, Everson has hired Natasha Hritzuk, a marketing executive from General Mills who will focus on Microsoft’s ability to share insights with clients on their customers. “We know so many things about what young moms are doing online, for example,” said Everson. “We need to make that part of our job, rather than just selling media.”
Microsoft will continue to sell media, of course—and the company wants to throw its hat into the ring when it comes to targeted brand dollars with bigger, bolder ad creative. Everson listed creativity (or the lack thereof) as one of six universal concerns among the nearly 200 global clients she has visited with over her first six months in her new role.
“We are still slapping print ads on the Web in some cases,” she said.
To change that, Microsoft has built three new brand-friendly ad units, which have been submitted to the Interactive Advertising Bureau for review. In February, the IAB will present new creative placements it hopes the industry will adopt.
The new MSN ad units include a placement dubbed "Calypso Marquee," which officials claim can be utilized on multiple screens and should dramatically reduce the need for creative resizing. This will come along with a placement called the “Interactive Filmstrip," which is designed to automatically change its creative focus from branding to direct response, depending on the site environment in which it appears.
Like AOL, which is in the midst of rolling out Project Devil, Microsoft is hoping to nudge the industry to raise its standards—and utilize its ad units. But Everson said there is no competition involved in this case. “We are very open to working with AOL on this,” she said. “The goal is to get the creative industry excited.”