Microsoft Canada laying low

Spin control. That's what software giant Microsoft has been busy doing in the U.S. market over the past several weeks, in the wake of a widely publicized antitrust ruling. When it comes to the Canadian market, however, analysts argue that a...

Spin control. That’s what software giant Microsoft has been busy doing in the U.S. market over the past several weeks, in the wake of a widely publicized antitrust ruling. When it comes to the Canadian market, however, analysts argue that a "business-as-usual" strategy may well be the best way to go.

On the whole, Canadian consumers probably couldn’t care less about Microsoft’s legal troubles, says Kevin Restivo, software analyst with Toronto-based International Data Corporation (Canada).

"Their image hasn’t been damaged in the consumer’s eye," he says. "Certainly a lot of attention has been turned toward the case, but as long as consumers’ software is working and it’s on their desktops, I would have to say that [Microsoft's] image is just fine."

On April 3, a U.S. District Court ruled that the Redmond, Wash.-based company had used its monopoly power to block rivals from marketing operating systems or emerging technologies that threatened its market dominance.

The ruling sent shares tumbling, and left Microsoft officials south of the border scrambling to minimize the fallout. A corporate image-building campaign featuring chairman Bill Gates hit U.S. airwaves in the aftermath, as part of the company’s effort to muster public support.

Not a word, however, has been heard from the Mississauga, Ont.-based offices of Microsoft Canada (whose representatives, Strategy was told, were unavailable for comment).

That silence isn’t actually surprising, Restivo says.

"This is still a U.S.-driven issue – it’s important to remember that," he says. "On the Canadian side, I’m not sure they would do anything to counter it. It’s simply a matter of all systems go."

Microsoft’s Canadian operation is currently gearing up for the launch of the Windows 2000 operating system, as well as the database product SQL Server 2000, and the groupware product Exchange 2000.

While the recent legal turmoil hasn’t yet translated into a loss of sales, there’s no question that the company’s overall image has been tarnished, says Richard Morochove, president of Toronto-based computer consulting firm Morochove & Associates. And in the long run, this may have a direct bottom-line impact.

Indeed, he says, there are many people now who refuse even to consider a Microsoft product as long as there’s an alternative.

"There’s a growing ‘anybody-but-Microsoft’ attitude," he says.

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.