Microsoft Using Avatars for College Student Advertising

Microsoft knows how it wants to connect with today’s college students. It wants them to make and share digital avatars singing along to Lionel Ritchie’s song, “All Night Long.”

Microsoft’s just-launched The Ultimate Steal campaign promotes a price-reduced version of its Office Ultimate suite for students. To make sure students are spreading the word about the offer however, the company has partnered with Oddcast to use its Voki talking avatar platform and created two “playgrounds” where users can create an avatar to tell their story for them. Titled the “Ultimate College All-Nighter” and the “Ultimate College Idol,” the playgrounds challenge students to not only create the avatar to tell their story or sing along with their voice, but invites them to share it by placing a copy of the avatar on their social networking site or Web page.

“With The Ultimate Steal we’ve been trying a lot of standard marketing tactics, but this time we said we want to do something viral that can grow dynamically,” said Prasid Pathak, student lifestyle marketing manager for Microsoft. “We’re really hoping that the students get engaged with us and put it on their Facebook [profiles]; that’s more powerful than me putting a banner ad somewhere.”

Microsoft has been running the Ultimate Steal campaign since September, but had gotten feedback that students didn’t understand how to take advantage of the promotion or that they could download the product online. To qualify for the special price, students need a valid .edu e-mail address.

Additionally, students who create an avatar on the sites will be entered to win prizes, including a Microsoft Xbox 360 and games for the system. The Voki avatars will be available on the site until January 31, though the broader Ultimate Steal campaign will continue until April 30.

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