Microsoft woos decision-makers with empathy message

In a year that has seen just about every other major bodily fluid seep into mainstream advertising, we were probably overdue for some vomit....

In a year that has seen just about every other major bodily fluid seep into mainstream advertising, we were probably overdue for some vomit.

Thankfully, Microsoft Canada is on the case. There’s more than a soupçon of spew in the first instalment of the software giant’s new e-solutions television campaign.

Not that there’s any intent to imply a causal link between Bill Gates and gastric distress. Rather, the purpose is to underline Microsoft’s ability to help businesses meet challenges and solve problems through information technology.

Caroline Breton, manager of corporate communications and strategy with Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada, says her company saw a need to build stronger awareness among business decision-makers.

‘These people are continually challenged to reinvent the way their companies operate, in order to stay competitive in the new economy,’ she explains. ‘So our goal was to talk to them and create awareness that we can help translate their ideas into reality. So that when they are charged to come up with business solutions, they will put Microsoft on the consideration list.’

The key, Breton says, was to make this message relevant to people in the target audience – most of whom are not IT guys – by speaking to them in their own terms. Rather than focus on the glories of Microsoft technology, the campaign needed to emphasize what that technology can make possible.

‘We’re trying to empathize with what they do,’ she says. ‘It’s definitely a very human approach. We’re saying, ‘We understand what you’re facing, what your needs are. We know that you always have to think of business innovations and transformations. And we’re here to support you.”

The campaign, which features the tagline ‘Ideas at Work,’ was created by Microsoft’s domestic agency of record, Toronto-based Publicis Canada. The first spot takes place on an airplane that’s going through heavy turbulence on a night flight. In one row sits a middle-aged man furiously pondering some fiendishly complex business problem. So absorbing are these thoughts that he’s completely oblivious to the distress of his female seatmate, who’s looking decidedly green about the gills.

Suddenly, inspiration strikes. He whips out a pen, and reaches for the first piece of paper he sees – the airsickness bag that the woman has been clutching in her lap. Just as he finishes scribbling down his idea, she reclaims the bag and puts it to its intended use (with appropriate sound effects). The spot concludes with a shot of her handing the now quite full bag back to him. ‘Where you get your ideas is your business,’ a voice-over says. ‘Helping you make them work is ours.’

Breton says the spot humorously evokes an experience familiar to many business decision-makers. ‘People think about their business problems all the time, and they get inspired in places other than their desk. We really want to celebrate ideas. We’re saying, ‘If you have an idea, a vision, we’ll help make it happen.”

The airplane spot will run heavily during prime time in shows such as Friends, Frasier, The West Wing and Will & Grace. Two more spots with the same theme have recently been completed, and are set to air shortly.

Breton says the low-key, comical tone of the TV campaign reflects a general realization within the industry that many business customers find the process of making technology decisions extremely intimidating, and don’t want to be pressured by a hard sell.

‘More and more, we’re focused on the customer instead of ourselves,’ she says. ‘We want to listen to their needs and present a friendly, helpful voice.’


Client: Microsoft Canada

Agency: Publicis Canada

Creative Director: Duncan Bruce

Copywriter: Brent Choi

Art Director: Mark Tawse-Smith

Director: Vadim Perelman

Producer: Angela Carroll

Media: Television

Start Date: November 3