IT Guys Are the Heroes in Microsoft Servers Effort

Information-technology people get squeezed from above and below, struggling to keep one eye on the computers and the other on costs. In a global campaign breaking this week for its Windows Server 2003, Microsoft positions IT professionals as business heroes—particularly when it comes to the bottom line.

The estimated $70 million-plus effort is the largest server launch in Microsoft’s history, according to the client. Overall, the Redmond, Wash., tech marketer spends $200-250 million annually advertising business products. The client declined to comment on spending, but sources said at least one-third of this year’s budget is earmarked for Server 2003.

In the first of two launch spots from McCann-Erickson, San Francisco, an IT worker runs through an office announcing that he has saved a nickel, much to the annoyance of his co-workers. Once he reaches the CEO, he explains that it’s a nickel saved on every business transaction. The executive’s expression changes as he calculates what that means over millions of transactions.

The second spot opens with IT people dancing to music at a party. The suit walks in, looking quizzical and stern. One IT person explains that a server upgrade will save the company $2 million per day. By the end of the spot, the CEO is seen dancing the electric slide with the IT staff.

Microsoft’s tagline for business products remains, “Software for the agile business.”

“A lot of campaigns you see make the tech people look like they’re being deceptive,” said Mike Delman, general manager of advertising for Microsoft. “This features the tech person as a hero. We don’t mean to show a conflict between IT and the decision maker. We just show they’re not communicating right now, but by the end of the project or initiative, the IT guy is going to deliver the platform and save money. It’s all about productivity.”

Marketing support for Server 2003 includes a worldwide launch event Thursday in San Francisco with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. In all, the company is hosting 173 launch events around the product. Integrated shop Eleven, San Francisco, handled marketing for the launch and preview programs.

The campaign will run for at least six months and include a total of three or four spots, eight to 10 print executions and online ads.

Microsoft faces competition from companies such as Sun Microsystems and IBM in the server market, but analysts say its biggest challenge may be convincing users of its two existing servers, Windows 2000 and Windows NT, to switch. “It’s a hard sell,” said Thomas Bittman, an analyst with Gartner in Stamford, Conn., because upgrading is costly and time-consuming, especially for large companies. Still, Bittman predicted that at the end of 2004, when Microsoft phases out NT, there will be significant movement to the new platform.