Ad of the Week: Microsoft connects using stories from real people

Three new back-to-school spots from the software giant show everyday uses of products

In my day, back-to-school shopping meant stocking up on the coolest new sneakers and jeans,  Trapper Keepers, and the ever-important lunch box. Nowadays, this highly lucrative retail season is also heavily tech-focused, as students seek the hardware and software that will help them succeed -- and maybe look cool, too – in the fall.

To that end, Microsoft released a series of television ads last week that revolve around how real people are using key products such as Windows 10 and the Surface Pro 4. Three of the ads were top performers in Ace Metrix testing, with "College Students" leading the way. The ad highlighting the benefits of Microsoft 10 received an Ace Score of 652, which is 19% above the software category norm for 2016.

Each of these three ads were highly effective and successful in conveying product information and changing perception, while being relevant to the user and driving high desire.  

"College Students" introduces us to Kelsee and Nkeiru, and gives us a glimpse into how the HP Spectre x360 running Windows 10 has the versatility to suit their different needs. One of the young women is studying psychobiology and the other is a fine arts major, yet Windows 10 enables each to take notes and study in the way that works for them. One even says she used to be a Mac user, but this is "way better."

The other Windows 10 ad released last week, "Howards," tells the story of a married couple whose honeymoon journey to 44 countries across all seven continents turned into a blog and a business, powered by their Dell XPS 13 running Windows 10. Needing technology that "hangs tough" with them, they describe Windows 10 capabilities that Macs don’t have. The ad outscored its category norm by 14%.

In the third Microsoft ad released last week, "Surface Pro 4 – Melissa," professional mountain climber Melissa talks about how her Surface Pro allows her to run her business from anywhere, including Mount Everest. She finds the seamless transition between laptop and tablet especially beneficial, saying "I couldn’t do that with my Mac." Hardware is a tough category, with this ad’s 614 Ace Score only slightly above the norm of 608.

In a world where we often talk about breakthrough as the most meaningful key to success for an ad, these three spots demonstrate how ads excelling in other areas can prove highly effective. Looking at the Ad Personalities for all three below, we see delivery of Information, Change in brand perception, and having Relevance to the viewer as major components powering the two Windows 10 ads. The Surface Pro 4 spot succeeds in driving Desire, which is a nice achievement for a technology brand.

Microsoft Ad Personalities

"College Students," "Howards,"  and "Surface Pro 4 – Melissa"                

Microsoft’s two Windows 10 ads do a great job appealing broadly with "College Students," seeing its best score among 21-35 year-olds, and "The Howards" resonating most with the 36-49 group. Viewer comments for "College Students" show the relevance of the message with its audience, as well as viewers’ appreciation of the use of real people:

  • "I like how the characters in the ad are from two completely different types of fields--shows that this product can be for anyone. As a student, this ad really is relatable." F21-35/Ace Score 799

  • "Cool ad. Appeals to college demographic. Entertaining and relatable." – M21-35/Ace Score 844

  • "I like that you used people that were relatable to your target audience, I like the deal for college students, you showed off the product in a way that tell us what cool new features we could expect, and overall it had a silly atmosphere." – F16-20/Ace Score 873

  • "I like how Windows used normal people to explain their new product. The ad was entertaining, but not too distracting. Overall loved the ad." – F21-35/Ace Score 719

Given that comparisons to Apple occur in all of these new Microsoft ads, another sign of effectiveness is that viewers name "Brand" as the Single Best Thing for both Windows 10 ads, and the second best thing about the Surface Pro 4 ad (behind Visual Scenes). By keeping their ads high on Information and focusing on features, the brand is doing an excellent job and could convert some Apple users along the way.

Case in point, said one F16-20 viewer, "I do own Apple products, but after watching this ad I can see all the things that a PC has that Apple doesn't. And your products are around the same price as theirs with more features."

Microsoft has done a great job producing effective ads this year, employing different methods of communication. Their highest scoring ad of the year, "IWD - WhatMakesNext," was Ace Metrix’s top Breakthrough ad of Q1. That ad was also informational in nature, and connected with viewers on an emotional level, too. The brand’s latest campaign may represent a shift in technique, but given that "College Students" is its second highest scoring ad of the year, it’s clear the company has found several paths to greatness.


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