A Microsoft television ad that debuted Sunday night is the beginning of a new campaign that aims to connect and boost the company’s major retail products — Windows, Office, Xbox and Windows Phone — in the minds of consumers.

It’s one of the largest campaigns in Microsoft’s history, a global initiative running in 35 countries and regions.

Timed for the holiday shopping season, it comes as Microsoft’s consumer technologies face strong competition from Apple, Sony, Google and other major tech brands in stores around the world. Windows and Office are trying to overcome the sluggish economy, Xbox 360 is looking to maintain its momentum, and Windows Phone just needs people to know it exists.

For Microsoft, the campaign is unique for the way it will bring together those multiple products, aiming to create a halo effect.

For example, the little-known Windows Phone could benefit from an association with the “trust and credibility” of Windows and Office, which in turn could benefit from the “energy and excitement” of the Xbox, said David Webster, the company’s chief marketing strategist.

“We think of it as a family portrait, if you will,” Webster said. “Instead of looking at individual products, we’re seeing the group shot.”

That concept of family has double-meaning. The tag line for the campaign is “It’s a great time to be a family.” As reflected in the first ad, Microsoft will use the commercials to offer a positive take on the influence of technology on families, in contrast to the “alone together” syndrome in which people sit in the same room but interact with their screens rather than each other.

David Webster, Microsoft chief marketing strategist

“Technology is just a tool. It’s like fire. It can heat your house. It can burn your house down. It’s all in the manner of how you end up using it,” Webster said. “In our case, we really strive to make products that excel at bringing people together.”

The fact that Microsoft doesn’t have a major consumer product launch this holiday season, apart from the Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” update, is another reason the company decided to take the multi-product approach.

The company has produced hits and misses on the advertising front in recent years. Microsoft’s “Laptop Hunter” ads successfully highlighted the price advantage of Windows PCs over Apple Macs, while an offbeat series of ads featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld mostly left people scratching their heads.

Microsoft isn’t saying how much it’s spending on the latest campaign. But it’s easily one of the biggest ever rolled out by the company — considering the global scope, the multiple products and the focus on TV ads and online video. Using past campaigns as a benchmark, that translates into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Webster said he doesn’t exactly have a scoreboard in his office ranking Microsoft campaigns historically, but he acknowledged that it’s “a significant investment on our part to tell a story this broadly.”

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  • Anonymous

    Mr David Webster SUCKS at his job, he should be fired….seriously. Is that the best he can come up with??

  • Waheed

    Whoever was in charge of coming up with this ad should be fired along with the head of marketing who approved it.

  • Yawn

    Pretty weak. Perhaps they get better deeper in the campaign.

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com/ JimmyFal

    Ballmer can and SHOULD stay, UNLESS he is responsible for keeping Webster around. Because WEBSTER needs to go! Sorry guy, pick up your things and LEAVE. The products are WAY TOO GOOD to NOT have the support they need. If anyone thought MS wasn’t cool before, they really aren’t cool now.

    • Guest

      Of course he’s responsible for keeping Weber around. And he probably approved this moronic set of commercials as well. Or worse, he didn’t bother with the details and left it up the people involved, which is consistent with his entire decade+ of leadership and one of the reasons MS comes across as being disjointed and unfocused.

  • Guest

    Absolutely terrible. None of the scenarios in either commercial are even remotely plausible.  They could have shown a dozen useful, logical, interesting scenarios that would have shown off the products and their integration to advantage. Instead, they do this. I’ll assume this is more Crispin work, because it has the same dumb unfocused feel.

    Mitch Matthews was pretty bad. Bad so far Weber looks even worse.

  • Dhseattle59

    To the people on the post… give it a rest. The ads are not focused on the pencil neck geeks that sit in there closet and code. They are focused on the family unit you idiots and and as I was watching the game with 16 family members and friends they all commented on how nice it was to see a family using the products.

    Everything in the commercials are completely doable and as for being disjointed, that laughable. The campaign is “It’s a great time to be a family.” not it’s a great time to sit in my room, put my iPad, iPhone, iPod in my ear and escape reality. I swear some people just don’t get it.

    • Guest

      “I swear some people just don’t get it.”

      Yeah, and those people are called the target audience.

    • Eli

      Dh you are a marketing moron..this ad is a continuation of a litany of pitiful Microsoft ads we have been seeing for the past ten years and if it continues there won’t be a Microsoft in another ten. Microsoft marketing is an oxymoron..the company simply doesn’t get the consumer and should stop trying to mimic Apple and instead focus on what it does best..enterprise

  • Guest

    This clearly illustrates the difference between Apple’s and MS’s marketing philosophies and why Apple is crushing MS or at least gaining share in every head-to-head battle the two companies are engaged in.

    Apple’s marketing is simple. It focuses on the product almost exclusively. If it shows scenarios, they’re realistic and things people either want to do or are aspirational in nature. MS marketing is complex. It sometimes doesn’t include a product demo at all (e.g. many of the early WP7 ads). And  when they show it “in use”, like here, they choose use cases that are absurd. The objective seems to be to win an award for quirkiest commercial or recast MS as hip and out there, rather than do what an ad is meant to: generate buyer interest.

    MS’s marketing has sucked for a very long time. The only group who manages to do anything well is Xbox. How hard is it to put out decent commercials? Not great even, just not awful?

    Sorry to Ballmer apologists, but his unwillingness or inability to fix something this basic is yet another reason why he’s unfit to be CEO.

    • Matt Hidinger

      This is one of the best “Guest” comments I’ve ever read. I love many Microsoft products but damn it if I’m not embarrassed by most of their ads. At least the closing scene has a Metro/tiles feel. That’s basically the only thing I liked.

  • Guest

    Now they need Xbox to try and increase the appeal of Windows to consumers? I guess iPad is hurting them even more than we knew. This smacks of desperation. Maybe they should have stayed focused on the tablet and continued to innovate instead of allowing Apple to destroy their decade head start and then have two years uncontested to solidify that lead?

  • Eli

    Family advertising just doesn’t work..you have sell the individual products and it they are successful in their own right, a company like Apple will enjoy the synergistic benefits of a family of products..ecosystems evolve over time..they can not be forced on to the consumer..this ad is a double loser..bad strategy and awful execution..

  • http://twitter.com/orcuna orcuna

    Two words: Cheezy – Weak.
    1 word sums it up: Fail.
    MSFT is full of smart & creative people. Who is coming up with these low level ideas? Unbelievable…

  • Guest

    ugh… is Msft trying to market Powerpoint presentations for home use?  Holy cow, what moron came up with this?  

  • lucien

    Realy? It is too fast (I can’t see the products), the scenario is stupid (a 7 year old doing PPT, or a stupid dada laying with his teenagers), the music is boring, the tag line inexistant.

    Balmer, Chris Capossela should read the comments: Fire DAVID WEBSTER asap.

  • Pieere

    This kind of advertising makes me shameful of loving Microsoft

  • Guest

    i am just a “guest” but i am a marketer and a microsoft fan, and i think this discussion is way out of control. the ads don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as the people in this forum. the average consumer will simply see a fun little scenario involving the use of microsoft products. they won’t overthink it. it might even work.

    with regard to microsoft marketing in general, whoever is in charge of bing marketing has been nothing short of brilliant. the choice to make it a consumer brand, versus selling on technology like market leader google, is inspired. and you know what? my kids like the pictures on the homepage. yup, its that simple: bing is part of popular culture (check out jay-z “decoded”), and the bing pictures are pretty. as a consumer, i don’t overthink it.

    xbox, too, is often inspired and award-winning marketing.

    microsoft has employed some of the world’s great agencies to do their advertising. i have no affiliation with crispin or agency215, but i admire them. they do effective work, and i suspect this campaign will be effective, too.

    so there. a positive post. 

    • Eli

      guest if you are a marketer I suggest you find another line of work..cause you have absolutely no glue of what you are talking about..will agree that xbox and bing ad overall have been among MS best work creatively..but ads need to sell product and guess want xbox is a cumulative $ 7 billion in the whole over its lifespan and bing has not touched Google and has losses of about $2 billion a year..I don’t blame the agencies but as a former head of an agency I can tell you clients get what their deserve..

    • Eli

      guest if you are a marketer I suggest you find another line of work..cause you have absolutely no glue of what you are talking about..will agree that xbox and bing ad overall have been among MS best work creatively..but ads need to sell product and guess want xbox is a cumulative $ 7 billion in the whole over its lifespan and bing has not touched Google and has losses of about $2 billion a year..I don’t blame the agencies but as a former head of an agency I can tell you clients get what their deserve..

  • Drsburtis

    Same ol same ol… make fun of incompetent fathers.    Doesn’t this angle get boring.   Imagine the uproar if it showed a mom going to the dad after the son’s successful “dog” campaign and shwoing “Why I need to (fill in the blank) on Sunday… you would have created an uproar!

    Try being origina!!   Show a family bonding emotionally based on the connections!

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