Microsoft Apps Come Alive in Windows Mobile Push

Microsoft, which has been firing on all marketing fronts this year with launches for its Bing search engine and looming launches for its Office 2010 software suite and its Windows 7 operating system, is now pushing Windows Mobile with a new TV campaign.

The campaign, which breaks today from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, aims to create an emotional connection between the product and consumers through metaphor. Todd Peters, vp-mobile communication marketing for Microsoft and the guy who created the “Easy” button for Staples, said the new ads draw on a common situation in which you’re trying to leave and your kids or your dog (or both) get excited because they think they’re going too. In the case of the ads, apps like Explorer and Twitter are anthropomorphized into Fruit of the Loom-like characters with arms and legs who look on forlornly as the hero gets into his car without them. Then he flashes his smartphone and the apps giddily spill into his car. All the while, a backing track similar to the Carpenters’ “Superstar” plays.

Other spots are variations on the theme, Peters said. The campaign will also feature POP at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint stores talking up the capabilities of various Windows Mobile phones.

The object of the campaign, Peters said, is to raise awareness for Windows Mobile and encourage consumers to buy smartphones with that OS that are being offered through Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint. Peters said that tests with consumers showed they preferred a phone with a Windows OS over competitors. “The perceived value was much higher,” he said. “Shame on us, we haven’t talked about it enough.”

The push comes as Windows Mobile’s worldwide market share fell to 9 percent in the second quarter of 2009 (the most recent figure), versus 12 percent in the same period in 2008, according to Gartner Group as Apple’s claimed more of the market. Google’s Android system, now only at 2 percent, is also expected to provide Microsoft with more competition.

Peters said the timing of the campaign is meant to coincide with the holiday season, but it also comes as Microsoft unveils Windows Mobile 6.5, which has gotten so-so reviews. Roger Entner, svp-communications sector for Nielsen IAG, said that Windows Mobile 7 will be a “huge step forward” in functionality, but Microsoft hasn’t set a release date yet. In the meantime, the company is smart to fight back against Google and Apple. “They can’t just be like a punching bag that takes it nonstop,” Entner said. He added that playing up apps is a smart strategy. “Look at all the iPhone ads, they’re all about apps. People aren’t using Windows for playing Solitaire and Notepad. They need apps.”