A Bold Campaign For XP

by , Oct 30, 2001, 12:00 AM
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Much has been written about the way the terrorist attacks have transformed advertising, from the amount actually being bought to the advertising messages being communicated.

So it is somewhat extraordinary that the advertising for the Microsoft Windows XP campaign, which broke Oct. 25, has been practically unaffected by the terrorism. Michael McLaren, executive vice president of McCann-Erickson/San Francisco, Microsoft's lead agency, downplays reports that the advertising had to be changed to remove images of flight, reminiscent of the hijacked planes. In fact, soaring is still the main theme of the campaign. "It raised some questions, but it's not really changing what we're doing," he says.

He speaks of a bold campaign that remains bold despite the tragedy. "We have to put our best foot forward and demonstrate what a great product it is, then it's up to the consumers to decide what to do. It's still aggressive and confident."

Confidence comes from having $200 million to spend on a campaign, which is what McLaren says Microsoft will spend. Total expenditures for the campaign come to $500 million, the rest coming from Microsoft's partners, computer manufacturers and retailers who work with Microsoft to run campaigns that push their own and Microsoft's products.

The campaign is multidimensional, with a variety of offline and online components that will combine to reach virtually everyone. Indeed, one of McCann's media buying strategies is road blocking, buying TV commercials across all major stations at the same time so everyone will see them. A similar strategy is being used online, with Web home pages solely advertising XP, so all browsers will see them.

McLaren calls TV the broadest aspect of the campaign, with ads bought across the board: prime time, sports, early news and late afternoons. He calls it "a combination of times to talk to business and homes." The TV campaign will utilize a variety of spots, from 60s to 30s to 15s.

The print element includes a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. Ads appear in magazines from Rolling Stone to Business Week to reach a varied audience. National and local newspapers are being used, from The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal and USA Today to San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle.

Radio ads will come from the partners; such are retailers like Radio Shack.

Besides the mainstream media, a variety of other components will be used, from cinema advertising to outdoor. Microsoft is partnering with Sony on a cinema campaign that will advertise XP and Sony Vaio computers. Outdoor advertising includes everything from bus shelters to taxi tops. "The media goal is to hit them where they are," McLaren says, explaining why so many different elements are being used.

Exile on 7th, Microsoft's interactive agency, which worked closely with McCann on the campaign, is running ads on four sites -- CNet.com, AskJeeves.com, MSN.com and USAtoday.com. Beyond the banner might be putting it mildly to describe the campaign, which is using "dramatic media units, customized creative or new debut units," according to a spokesman for Exile, who requested anonymity. USAtoday.com, for instance, is using a rich media unit that interacts with its masthead on the home page, the first time that's been done.

The online advertising uses the soaring theme, which comes from the offline campaign. Online advertising has often picked up offline themes, but it frequently doesn't. "Clients use different agencies who do things differently and you don't have enough time to work in a way that allows you to carry it through, but we came up with a core idea and executed it through all media," McLaren says.

McLaren refers to a lightened demand for computer products that is "outside the control of communication." But the advertising campaign will proceed in an effort to stimulate demand. The campaign will extend into 2002, then "we'll see how the business is tracking and make adjustments accordingly," he says.

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