Microsoft’s Bradford Urges Social Responsibility

Social responsibility can mean different things to different people, but individuals and companies should feel an obligation to use their resources and talents to help others, according to Joanne Bradford, corporate VP of sales and marketing and chief revenue officer of Microsoft’s Digital Advertising Solutions.

Speaking at the Panasonic Lecture Series at the Museum of Television and Radio Wednesday, part of the Advertising Week festivities in New York, Bradford challenged everyone in the advertising industry to go out and “give more than you take.”

“Remember the assets you have, and the toolsets you’ve been given. You can do something great for one individual, or for many,” she said. That could mean following the example of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, one of the world’s leading philanthropists, whose foundation has committed billions of dollars to organizations working for causes like global health and learning. Or it could mean something simpler, like committing time to make a difference in the lives of your children, and teaching them to do the same, she said.

For marketers, that means building products that enable individuals to make their lives better, which they in turn can use to make others’ lives better. Bradford pointed to Volvo’s decision to sponsor MSN Spaces, now Windows Live Spaces, as a risk that paid off and improved the quality of people’s lives.

Bradford shared the story of Kenny Salvini, a Windows Live Spaces user who was paralyzed in a skiing accident, but who found his Spaces blog to be an important vehicle for reaching out and interacting with people. When his blog, Typical Guy, Atypical Situation, was selected to MSN’s “What’s Your Story” page that highlights content from Spaces, he gained a level of minor celebrity and now is considering ways to use his Spaces blog to help other people in his situation.

“Social responsibility can be about fixing a situation for yourself, and then for other people,” she said. “The ad industry needs to trust the consumer; give people a voice and trust they’ll do the right thing.”

At another level, Microsoft is working with basketball star LeBron James to promote his “King for Kids” bike-a-thon event in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. Microsoft saw what James was doing in Akron, and decided to get involved and promote the event on Windows Live Local to help create more of these events nationally.

Bradford urged celebrities to follow James’ example, and to use the influence they have in positive ways.

In addition, Microsoft, like many media companies, donates ad space and creative resources to the Ad Council. Last year, it gave away $17 million in ad space on MSN and other properties. It also produced the “Small Steps” pubic service campaign, which urged Americans to fight obesity by doing little things like walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator, or going for walks at lunch. Microsoft is planning another Ad Council campaign, this one encouraging people to sign up to receive “Amber Alerts” by cell phone, so as many people as possible will be on the lookout when a child is abducted in a given area.

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