Microsoft Launches Global Review of Marketing Services

Company spends some $1 billion on media annually

The timing of Microsoft's global marketing services review is curious, given that the company is still searching for a new global CEO.

Sources expect the new chief executive to have a hand in marketing, which could trigger changes in the those ranks. Still, Mark Penn is the marketing chief at the moment, and certainly Microsoft always aims to deliver better advertising more efficiently. Also, a pitch like this gives corporate and divisional marketing leaders a chance to prove their worth before a new CEO arrives.

Microsoft spends upward of $1 billion globally on media each year and roughly half of that spending is in the U.S. In 2012, for example, domestic media spending approached $510 million, according to Nielsen. And through the first nine months of last year, U.S. spending exceeded $540 million. Those figures don't include online outlays, however.

The big players on Microsoft's roster of agencies include Publicis Groupe's MediaVest, which plans and buys media in North America; sister shop Razorfish, which creates digital ads; Interpublic Group's UM, which handles media responsibilities outside of North America; and WPP Group's Wunderman, which handles direct marketing globally. Wunderman also functions as Microsoft's network for distributing ads around the world.

Ad agencies on the roster include MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky, independent Omelet and WPP's Young & Rubicam, which recently landed a business-to-business assignment Interpublic's Deutsch previously handled. Omelet produced the ongoing "Honestly" campaign for tablets.

Given the scope and complexity of the review, Microsoft has contacted select holding companies about putting together teams to pitch the business, including Publicis Groupe, Interpublic, WPP and Dentsu, sources said.

The review has just began and and a request for proposals is expected later in the month. Joanne Davis Consulting in New York is managing the process, according to sources.

The consultancy referred calls to Microsoft, which acknowledged the review. Microsoft aims to complete its search in the second quarter of the year.

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