Microsoft’s Mehdi Named to New Ad-Focused Unit

Microsoft has set up a new Online Business Group to house ad sales, business development and marketing for the company’s Live, Windows Live and MSN platforms, and has made MSN stalwart Yusuf Mehdi its chief advertising strategist.

The changes are part of a large restructuring of the company’s Platforms and Services Division. Three new groups have been created and several others were revamped to enhance Microsoft’s service offerings and its ability to capitalize on digital advertising growth.

In addition to the Online Business Group, Microsoft set up a Windows Live Platform Group to provide back-end infrastructure services and a Market Expansion Group for work on emerging markets.

The invention of the Online Business Group is only the latest in a series of moves by the company to expand and consolidate its media sales operation. A reorganization last fall brought MSN and Windows together under the same roof, following which Microsoft announced its Windows Live portal plans and promoted Joanne Bradford to oversee the whole lot as VP of global sales and trade marketing. Along the way, the adCenter ad management and tracking platform launched overseas and went into pilot in the U.S. It’s not clear how Mehdi’s appointment as chief advertising strategist will affect Bradford’s oversight of ad sales across the company, and Microsoft declined to comment on its announcement.

The Online Business Group will be led temporarily by David Cole, the departing SVP of MSN and the Microsoft’s Personal Services Group, until a successor is named. Also joining the new unit is Martin Taylor, formerly of the Server and Tools Business Group, as corporate VP.

“Expanding the capabilities of our Windows Live platform, extending our reach and impact with and to advertisers, continuing to enhance our search offering, and building out our operational infrastructure are critical to our long-term success,” said Kevin Johnson, co-president of the Platforms and Services Division.