THE SELL: Microsoft to profile its way to the bank

19 May 2015

“We didn’t get it right with Windows 8, but we think we’ve now got it right with Windows 10,” Microsoft Advertising’s corporate vice president, Frank Holland, tells AdNews.

It’s the admission of a man on a mission to tell the marketplace that Microsoft has well and truly reformed its ways.
Holland was recently in the country as part of a regionwide sales job, telling advertisers and agencies in Australia that it had simplified its game plan and was ready to reap the rewards of a revamped Windows platform.

He says the dream for Windows 8 was to have true integration of a suite of products, including Skype,, Xbox Live, MSN, and Bing. The dream, he admits, didn’t live up to reality.

“The really important part of Windows 10 is that all those products are built in. They’re going to be authenticatable, which means you can log into your Windows ID and get access to them and not have to re-authenticate in each one,” Holland says.

Holland says Microsoft will be able to sell audiences instead of the piecemeal platforms such as Bing, MSN,
Skype,, and Xbox Live.

“We’ve gone in, typically to a pitch or in responding to a brief, and they’ve said: ‘We want to buy this audience’, which may be people looking to buy a car” Holland says.

“We’ve said: ‘Great, let’s start with a media plan’."

He says Windows 10 will be a game-changer in terms of its ability to target not just demographics, but purchaseintenders. “We think targetability is going to double over the next six to 12 months,” Holland says.

Each Windows 10 user is to be given a Microsoft ID, which Microsoft then can use to track behaviour, on an opt-in basis, across the range of Microsoft-owned products.

For example, if Microsoft wants to give an advertiser a customer looking to buy a car, Holland says it will be able to see that the user had been on MSN Autos, had a Skype conversation with someone far away, and watched the latest
version of a show on Xbox Live.

Holland says the behaviour creates a profile of a possible auto-intender.

“In doing so, I can give behavioural targeting signals to target against an advertiser that may be quite unique,” Holland says. “I know how you behave at work, at play, and anywhere in between. That’s a pretty valuable way of being able to deliver up a great hyper-targeted audience for a marketer.”

He says it’s vital that tracking behaviour is on an opt-in basis.

“Google does its [targeting] differently than we do, Facebook does it differently than we do,” Holland says. “We believe privacy is something that’s a real differentiator between us and the rest of the market.

“Those users will attract a premium because they’ve chosen to opt in, so they’re receptive to advertising.”

But he says that selling by audience rather than platform wasn’t just about the technology catching up to its ambitions, but also about feedback from buyers.

“Our customers told us that we were just too complex to buy. They gave us the charter to go and make it easier.” Holland explains.

“The reality is that if you’ve got a request on a brief for social, it’s really easy to put the Facebook line item on there.
“If you’ve got the request for auto-intenders, it’s really tough to argue for this conglomeration of Microsoft sites that are typically sold piecemeal, but it’s really easy to say: ‘Here’s what I know about your intended audience and here’s what differentiated value I can offer’.”

He said that in the past Microsoft had been guilty of selling its suite in a piecemeal fashion.

“[Now I could] go in instead with a statement that said: ‘Here’s the insight I know about the auto-intenders that are going to be in-market for the next 30 days’,” Holland says.

“‘They happen to live on average more than 10 miles away from where they work, they happen to be in this income
bracket’ – I can deliver a lot of those sorts of insights to a marketer who is thinking of buying our media.

“If I start there, and then say: ‘Oh, by the way, this is the media plan that’s going to deliver it’, we can get into a position as an organisation where it’s less about the properties across which this campaign is going to run and more about ‘What’s the audience I can get by buying into the Microsoft portfolio?’”

Microsoft is keen to tell the market that it’s changed its ways because advertising has a key role to play in its future product development plans.

“We used to make the lion’s share of our revenue selling a piece of software – either Windows or Office – at the point where they bought the device. But today consumers expect that operating system or software to come free,” Holland says.
“Our response to that has got to be something that is inclusive – not just giving away our software and intellectual property, but figuring out how to monetise that through other ways,” Holland says.

  • This article was first published in the May 1, 2015 edition of AdNews. Click here to subscribe.

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