At once a marketing platform, a key seller of media, and a top online advertiser in its own right, Microsoft has a unique - and uniquely vexed - relationship to digital agencies. It makes near constant tweaks to its sales structure and ad offerings to boost its appeal to fickle ad buyers and creatives.
The fine-tuning continues this month with several developments that will impact agencies:
Microsoft Meets Publicis at CES
It's now been over a year since Microsoft sold Razorfish to Publicis. As a condition of the sale, Publicis pledged to spend as much as $2 billion on Microsoft media over five years. Some reports have suggested it's behind on that goal.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, eight members of the Publicis-Microsoft steering committee met to discuss the relationship. Among them was global sales chief Carolyn Everson (pictured), who tells ClickZ the dynamic has improved on several levels, including communication, collaboration, and spending.
"We are now going very deep agency-by-agency, client-by-client," said Everson. "It's part of a structural change" in how the spending agreement is handled.
"We're trying to get the deal to where Publicis at a high level knows that there is a benefit to the Microsoft relationship," she said.
New Ad Types
Microsoft developed four new ad formats in response to the Interactive Advertising Bureau's "Rising Stars" contest, the goal of which is to reinvent the palette for online brand advertising.
Calypso marquee: The ad unit is designed to ease the creative production burden on agencies. It lets agencies share assets and an ad design road map with Microsoft, which then spits out executions customized for a range of ad sizes, publishers, and platforms - including the iPad, TV, Xbox, and mobile.
Interactive filmstrip: This option attempts to visualize the whole purchase funnel in one long, vertical-scrolling ad unit. Users are served whatever cross-section of the ad is deemed most relevant to their place in the purchase funnel, for instance a branding ad for early-consideration shoppers or a promotional offer for late-consideration ones. They can then scroll up or down for more product information.
Page reveal: This is a user-initiated rich media format that can morph into a full-page ad.
Augmented reality: This unit allows mobile users to wave a phone over a Web page or printed material to see an altered image. But it's not part of Microsoft's contest submission to the IAB.
New Org Chart
A shakeout in Microsoft's ad sales organization could somewhat simplify the lives of agency media buyers. Everson, who joined last June as corporate VP of global ad sales, has combined the global agency and account teams -- which previously functioned separately. Both now report to her through Richard Dunmall. The agency team was formerly led by Marc Bresseel, who transitions to head marketing for Microsoft's ad products. The accounts team was led by Gregg Albright, who will now shepherd unspecified "strategic projects."
Dunmall previously led Microsoft's regional Asia and Americas team; he is replaced by Jason Scott in that role. Others were named to lead global strategy and consumer insights, as outlined in Microsoft's blog post on the changes.
The changes continue an aggressive push by Everson's predecessor, Robin Domeniconi, to reduce the number of contact points for agencies and clients.
An upcoming creative ambassador program will create a staff position within Microsoft's creative technology group, which is led by Stephen Kim. This person's job will be to visit creative agencies and work with account teams on custom ad solutions. Based on agency demand, more people may be appointed to work with creative agencies in a similar manner.
"They take Microsoft technology and have creative people and brand strategies bring that strategy to life," Everson said of the creative technology unit. If it's custom and it involves Microsoft properties, she said, Kim's group handles it. The division is responsible for many of Microsoft's highest-profile campaigns, including those for Discovery's "Deadliest Catch" and Chevrolet's Volt integration on Kinect.
Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
May 22, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT
June 5, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT