Tag Archives: Microsoft

Battle of the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

It’s time to demonstrate (again) that when it comes to advertising, no one agrees on anything. Raise your hand if you’re shocked.

The Armchair MBA repeated last year’s stunt in comparing the ratings of 10 prominent 2015 Super Bowl ad reviewers, summarized in the handy chart below, along with my personal ratings. (Green/yellow/red coding, alphabetized within my ratings)

2015SuperBowlCollage

While no Doberhuahua this year, there was plenty of dreck and schmaltz to take its place, but a few very good spots as well. Unfortunately many spots were so-so – – either they rewarded our attention with a muddled message or weak branding, or they were copy-by-committee logical with no heart or pizzazz (Hello, GoDaddy. Hello, Weathertech).

Mostly universally admired: P&G Always “Like a Girl”, Avocados from Mexico, Dove Men+Care, Mophie, Budweiser/Puppy (I declined highest marks on the last two)

Most universally unloved: Nationwide’s “Boy” (runaway loser), Nissan, Lexus

Most schizophrenic (scored best on some lists, worst on others): McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, SquareSpace/Jeff Bridges, Loctite “Positive Feelings”, Toyota Camry/Amy Purdy, Carnival Cruise Lines, Victoria’s Secret (had to watch this again to make sure I knew how I felt)

A few observations:
– Personally not a fan of high-concept feel-good spots like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Jeep, or for that matter, the very cute/manipulative Bud puppy ads. Fun for the agency, probably test well for likability, but hard to see how see how it drives action or enhances the core brand equity.
Love spots like Fiat 500 SUV – simple message (we made the base 500 bigger), using an analogy that’s easy to understand and relevant to the main point (if a bit naughty)
– Would love to be a fly on the wall during the approval process of the Nationwide’s “Boy” spot (spoiler alert: it’s about a charming boy who turns out to be dead. More chips & dip, please).
– For fun, check out some of the breathless, we-take-ourselves-kind-of-seriously reviews comments like “Powerful message but tough ad to watch”, “Disturbingly brilliant and impactful”, “emotionally powerful and good storytelling”, blah blah blah – you can see some here (as well as a CMO’s explanation about why his ad was NOT supposed to sell product.  Hmmm…).

To see the summary, click on the chart below. Click twice for maximum size/readability.

SuperBowl2015

The reviewers:
Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Advertising Age

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune


Entertainment Weekly

Variety

Slate

Yahoo Sports

New Yorker
New York Post (new this year!)

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach: Attention
– Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

We know that the Super Bowl is a special stage, and different rules certainly apply.   In addition, there are social media linkages and previews that can dramatically amplify the impact of ads. So it is somewhat unfair to judge an execution in isolation.

On the other hand, we don’t claim to be fair. And as observed last year, sometimes an ad just sucks.

See you next year.

Microsoft’s Epic S*** Sandwich RIF Letter

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Elop

We’ve all seen letters/press releases announcing reductions in force  – – usually brief, sometimes using euphemisms – – and many of us have been impacted by them.  Not fun.

We’ve also been schooled that when you have something unpleasant to say (say, in a private performance review), surround it with a positive lead-in and a positive ending – the so-called S*** Sandwich.

We have now seen what happens when a senior executive (seemingly without adult supervision) attempts to use said Sandwich approach on a massive scale, publicly, with consequences that impact an enormous number of people.  And it ain’t pretty.

Yesterday, Stephen Elop, inherited when MS bought Nokia and now running Microsoft’s Devices Group, sent a letter to MS employees announcing a huge reduction in force (12,500 employees).  He drops this bomb after 10 paragraphs of corporate-speak (bread #1), and then devotes all of 2 sentences to huge staff reduction, one of which is reserved to cover the human impact.  He then goes on to describe other steps being taken to achieve the corporate goals (bread #2).

You can read the entire letter below.  By doing a quick scan, you can see that there is a single number in the entire 1000+ word missive:  12,500.  And you can bet that that number is the one takeaway shared by all MS employees.

This letter is not a secret: it is posted on Microsoft’s own site:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2014/jul14/07-17announcement2.aspx

This has the feel of someone who is trying to sneak in some bad news without the other person noticing: “Hey, how ya doing?  Like the new haircut.  Cool about LeBron coming back to Cleveland.  Sad news about Johnny Winter.  I ran over your dog.  Hey, I think the Cubs can make a comeback in July”.

Anyone who has gone through the trauma of being involuntarily detached from their livelihood knows that it is always shocking and usually devastating.  It needs to be treated with sensitivity, with regard for the dignity of those affected.

It is nice to know that this RIF is in the service of the very detailed strategic corporate goals outlined in Mr. Elop’s letter.

So for those of you who are affected:  my sympathies, both in the event and in the way it has been positioned
To Mr. Elop:  Easy for you to say

Below is the entire text:

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Hello there,

Microsoft’s strategy is focused on productivity and our desire to help people “do more.” As the Microsoft Devices Group, our role is to light up this strategy for people. We are the team creating the hardware that showcases the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, and we will be the confluence of the best of Microsoft’s applications, operating systems and cloud services.

To align with Microsoft’s strategy, we plan to focus our efforts. Given the wide range of device experiences, we must concentrate on the areas where we can add the most value. The roots of this company and our future are in productivity and helping people get things done. Our fundamental focus – for phones, Surface, for meetings with devices like PPI, Xbox hardware and new areas of innovation — is to build on that strength. While our direction in the majority of our teams is largely unchanging, we have had an opportunity to plan carefully about the alignment of phones within Microsoft as the transferring Nokia team continues with its integration process.

It is particularly important to recognize that the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy. Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes.

We will be particularly focused on making the market for Windows Phone. In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia. In addition to the portfolio already planned, we plan to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.

To win in the higher price segments, we will focus on delivering great breakthrough products in alignment with major milestones ahead from both the Windows team and the Applications and Services Group. We will ensure that the very best experiences and scenarios from across the company will be showcased on our products. We plan to take advantage of innovation from the Windows team, like Universal Windows Apps, to continue to enrich the Windows application ecosystem. And in the very lowest price ranges, we plan to run our first phones business for maximum efficiency with a smaller team.

We expect these changes to have an impact to our team structure. With our focus, we plan to consolidate the former Smart Devices and Mobile Phones business units into one phone business unit that is responsible for all of our phone efforts. Under the plan, the phone business unit will be led by Jo Harlow with key members from both the Smart Devices and Mobile Phones teams in the management team. This team will be responsible for the success of our Lumia products, the transition of select future Nokia X products to Lumia and for the ongoing operation of the first phone business.

As part of the effort, we plan to select the appropriate business model approach for our sales markets while continuing to offer our products in all markets with a strong focus on maintaining business continuity. We will determine each market approach based on local market dynamics, our ability to profitably deliver local variants, current Lumia momentum and the strategic importance of the market to Microsoft. This will all be balanced with our overall capability to invest.

Our phone engineering efforts are expected to be concentrated in Salo, Finland (for future, high-end Lumia products) and Tampere, Finland (for more affordable devices). We plan to develop the supporting technologies in both locations. We plan to ramp down engineering work in Oulu. While we plan to reduce the engineering in Beijing and San Diego, both sites will continue to have supporting roles, including affordable devices in Beijing and supporting specific US requirements in San Diego. Espoo and Lund are planned to continue to be focused on application software development.

We plan to right-size our manufacturing operations to align to the new strategy and take advantage of integration opportunities. We expect to focus phone production mainly in Hanoi, with some production to continue in Beijing and Dongguan. We plan to shift other Microsoft manufacturing and repair operations to Manaus and Reynosa respectively, and start a phased exit from Komaron, Hungary.

In short, we will focus on driving Lumia volume in the areas where we are already successful today in order to make the market for Windows Phone. With more speed, we will build on our success in the affordable smartphone space with new products offering more differentiation. We’ll focus on acquiring new customers in the markets where Microsoft’s services and products are most concentrated. And, we’ll continue building momentum around applications.

We plan that this would result in an estimated reduction of 12,500 factory direct and professional employees over the next year. These decisions are difficult for the team, and we plan to support departing team members with severance benefits.

More broadly across the Devices team, we will continue our efforts to bring iconic tablets to market in ways that complement our OEM partners, power the next generation of meetings & collaboration devices and thoughtfully expand Windows with new interaction models. With a set of changes already implemented earlier this year in these teams, this means there will be limited change for the Surface, Xbox hardware, PPI/meetings or next generation teams.

We recognize these planned changes are broad and have very difficult implications for many of our team members. We will work to provide as much clarity and information as possible. Today and over the coming weeks leaders across the organization will hold town halls, host information sharing sessions and provide more details on the intranet.

The team transferring from Nokia and the teams that have been part of Microsoft have each experienced a number of remarkable changes these last few years. We operate in a competitive industry that moves rapidly, and change is necessary. As difficult as some of our changes are today, this direction deliberately aligns our work with the cross company efforts that Satya has described in his recent emails. Collectively, the clarity, focus and alignment across the company, and the opportunity to deliver the results of that work into the hands of people, will allow us to increase our success in the future.

Regards,

Stephen

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Jobs Cut

First Ever Battle of the Super Bowl Ad Reviewers!

Ever wonder why you never totally agree with Super Bowl ad reviewers?
Well, other than for a few good ads* they mostly don’t agree with each other either.  

Doberhuahua

The Armchair MBA has selflessly taken on what is certainly is a vast unfulfilled need and compiled a comparison of 9 disparate SB ad reviewers just for you!   Wow!   Almost as much fun as being a Broncos fan!

Just click on the chart below to see that while there is some consistency, in the end advertising is still an art and everyone’s got their opinion.  (You can click on the chart twice to make it even more readable.)

(*Generally universally liked:  Budweiser, Cheerios, Radio Shack, Microsoft – – although I’m not in the bag for all of them)

The reviewers:

Kellogg Graduate School of Management
Advertising Age
Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
Variety
Slate
Yahoo Sports
New Yorker

I’ve provided my own opinion, to make it an even 10.

SuperBowl2014

Green/Yellow/Red ratings were my best interpretations of what the reviewers meant.   White means they didn’t review this particular ad –  – which in itself tells you something.  They are grouped based on my ratings, on an alphabetical basis by brand within ranking.

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach, which is becoming the standard:
Attention
Distinction
Positioning
Linkage
Amplification
Net Equity

However, I also incorporated a liberal dose of my visceral reaction during the game.

Quick commentary:  The Super Bowl is a unique marketing environment where stakes and expectations are high, and the bar for breakthrough is considerably higher than any other day.
Advertisers use the SB for much more than the eyeballs – – as a way to make a corporate statement, introduce something new, reposition themselves, set up other promotional activity, and many other things.
So these spots can be seen through many different lenses, which is why reviews often differ dramatically.

Having said that, sometimes an ad just sucks any way you look at it.

Not included in my ratings (but increasingly important) is how long of a tail these ads might have – – what their viral reach, impact and duration becomes.

Maybe next year.

Whither Apple? Can a brand be too strong?

Is there such a thing as too much brand strength?

This past week, Apple celebrated its 30th year in business and announced 1Q revenue and earnings above analysts’ estimates.  The reward?  Apple’s stock went down -8% in a single day.   The story was that iPhone unit sales were below expectations.
I suspect there’s more to it than that.

mac30

What’s going on?  Apparently Apple has so completely trained us to expect huge news, that merely growing a huge profitable business is seen as a negative, the ‘Microsofting’ of Apple, if you will.

Apple, of course, has brought this upon itself, introducing us to the Mac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, and changing an entire industry.  As Apple’s legend continued to grow, this sort of pattern became expected, much like a sub-30 point game for Michael Jordan was greeted with a shrug.  The next cool thing?  It’ll come from Cupertino, of course.

More recently, Apple’s track record has been less spectacular (perhaps not coincidentally following the passing of Steve Jobs).  Solid growth, but innovation more of the incremental sort, compounded by previously unimaginable screwups in product (Apple Maps) and marketing (being ‘out-cooled’ by Samsung!).  Competitors have started to catch up – Apple actually is following by increasing iPhone screen size.  In a recent Forrester Research study, Apple dropped from second to fourth in a consumer electronics brand customer satisfaction survey, behind Samsung, Microsoft and Sony.  What the what?!?!

Apple Comp

Finally, as one measure of expected future profitability, Apple’s P/E stands at around 12.7, down from 22 or so a few years ago.

What should we make of this?  Has Apple set the bar for itself too high and is now entering a death spiral (#Sony)?

1) To be sure, Apple’s experience demonstrates that ‘what have you done for me lately’ is alive and well for investors.

2) However, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of Apple’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
– What is less visible is that Apple has built an enormously deep reservoir of confidence and mystique over the years.  Apple still commands our attention, and has retained its exceptional image as an innovator and cultural driver, the result of its exceptional record of success, and absolutely consistent, disciplined branding work over the years.

Ever notice how sportscasters lead with how Tiger Woods is doing, even when he misses the cut (as happened this last weekend)?  We are all still looking to Apple for the next surprise.  This is what branding can do.  And you don’t need a high-profile marital flame-out for it to work, either.

I would venture that Apple is still the one technology company that all others measure themselves against.

Apple absolutely needs to continue to drive category innovation.   But when this happens (and it will happen), its deep-seated brand equity will help to re-energize its consumer base, driving greater sales and loyalty than might be possible with the same product from a different company.   Personally, I’m waiting for the Apple TV…

Microsoft: Time to Surface?

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Mac Classic

First of all, I must note that I am a long-time Apple user – – starting in the 1980s with the Mac Classic, in the 1990s with a Quadra,  and continuing with roughly a $3000 purchase every 3 years when something died.  I figure that our family has bought close to 20 Apple products over the years, not including iPods – – but importantly, including a one-year old iPad. The appeal of Apple was no secret:  intuitive, sleek, inter-device compatibility, and increasingly, no worries about viruses, hackers, blue screen of death, etc.  The limitations of Apple were less compatibility with MS Windows software, which made it less popular with the typical office IT folks.

Mac Quadra

Now it seems Microsoft is (again) going all Apple on us, by announcing the introduction of their SURFACE product, sort of a combination of a pad and a notebook.  Following its history of not being a leader in the hardware arena, and specifically being an unsuccessful follower of Apple (Zune, anyone?) I must admit that the Surface has the possibility to break through.

New Microsoft SURFACE

Why?  Like Apple has done many times before, Microsoft has taken an existing innovation (there were lots of MP3 players before the iPod) and made it more usable.  The Surface tablet addresses probably the key downside of the iPad by simply adding a keyboard (on the reverse side of the now-ubiquitous cover panel).  In addition, the Surface products (there are 2 versions) will operate more like notebooks, with relatively full-function Windows desktops available.  Lack of a keyboard on my iPad, and inability to manipulate files have driven me to my (Apple) laptop more than I would like; these could be improvements that sort out the optimal capabilities array for this type of product and finally help Microsoft get its footing in the hardware arena.

Unless (until?), of course, Apple responds.  Will be interesting to see if Apple announces something before fall, when the Surface is scheduled to debut.  That could send MS back under water…