It took a classic children’s book to humanize a

It took a classic children’s book to humanize a tech behemoth. Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon helped executive creative directors Walt Connelly and Dante Lombardi figure out how to illustrate the idea that Microsoft allows people to realize their dreams. The team’s solution worked for both TV and print executions: Show real people in their work environments and superimpose white line drawings—similar to Harold’s crayon, which tracks his adventures—to depict the potential of each person.

“We wanted to put something out there that felt human and got an emotional response,” says Connelly. “The crayon is so childlike and sort of where you start off on all these ideas.” Plus, the primarily visual concept would allow the campaign to translate globally.

“Lipsky,” one of 12 print ads tagged “Your potential, our passion,” shows a man pushing a mail cart down an office hallway. The line drawing over it imagines him addressing a theater full of people, his name a part of the company’s. “We wanted to show the reality of a guy at the bottom of the rung—you have bigger thoughts,” says Connelly. In another ad, the line drawing over two kids in a treehouse shows the pair flying a plane.

To achieve a more perfect image, photographer Kirau Master shot each element in the photos separately, then composited them digitally. Animator Miles Flanagan, who also worked on the TV spots, did the line drawings, adding his own flourishes to the concept. “He brought a lot of imagination to it,” says Connelly.

“We wanted to show what Microsoft might imagine for people,” says Lombardi, “even though it’s only a picture.”