Ask most marketers these days to name the top three companies bringing in advertising revenue and they will likely say they are Google, Facebook and Amazon.
While Microsoft doesn’t appear in the top three, S4 Capital Founder Sir Martin Sorrell said “you underestimate Microsoft at your peril.”
“The company is much more focused,” he said. “Much more integrated and horizontal in its thinking. The Walgreens Boots win is a significant moment.”
Sorrell cited Microsoft’s data partnership with Walgreens Boots Alliance as being very strategic. The recently announced partnership was set up to develop new healthcare delivery models, technology and retail innovations.
Microsoft’s aggressive strategy, when it comes to building its data platform capabilities, aligns the business with Adobe.
“There’s a big question on whether at some point Microsoft will get together with Adobe to form a commercial relationship,” Sorrell said. “The odds are that will probably happen. And that’s a very powerful competitor … it raises the ante significantly.”
Microsoft needs the boost. When it comes to advertising, Microsoft sits among the top 10, but not in the first three.
Google, Facebook, and Amazon are the top three, Sorrell says. Tencent and Alibaba join in the top five. Apple and Microsoft make up the “seven sisters.” And Adobe, Salesforce, and Oracle round out the 10 companies in the advertising ecosystem.
Amazon’s strength, along with Google’s and Facebook’s, resides in supporting small businesses.
“As an engine of growth, [search] is phenomenal and that’s where Amazon will go,” Sorrell said. “The small business is where Amazon will take business from Google and Facebook.”
Sorrell cited a number that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg threw out to the audience earlier this year at the conferences Digital Life Design, and then at Davos, saying there are about 91 million small businesses on Facebook.