Microsoft is planning the launch of an ad campaign consisting of print, radio, online and TV ads to promote its new search engine.
The engine is code-named Kumo, but its formal moniker is expected to be Bing.
The campaign is led by ad firm JWT, the agency that took the baton from McCann Erickson in July '08 to man the company's business solutions ad account (via DMNews and MarketingVOX).
Microsoft will spend $80-100 million on the campaign, according to sources close to the company. Compared to national rollouts for big consumer product launches, which run as high as $50 million, the budget is considerable, notes Ad Age.
It's even more sizable when you consider that Google spent about $25 million on all advertising last year ($11.6 million of which focused on recruiting), according to TNS Media Intelligence. Microsoft's total ad spend for 2008, in contrast, was a whopping $361 million.
"This is really testing whether Microsoft can still do what they did when they were young, which is enter a market from behind and catch up. They haven't had what it takes to do that for a long time," stated analyst Rob Enderle (via Bloomberg).
Google's search market share in April '09 was 64%; Yahoo took 16.3% of the market. Though Microsoft/Windows Live Search performed well in the shopping search category and grew 7.2% year over year overall, the business still only grabs less than 10% of the U.S. market, according to Nielsen Online.
Moreover, 65% of people claim to be satisfied or very satisfied with online search, specifically Google search, as-is. Much of it has to do with the Google brand. In internal testing, Google found that after putting its logo and treatment on another engine's search results, users still prefer results with a Google logo, even if they're not Google results.
The new ad campaign will try to cause a psychological rift between users and the Google name, with messages that insinuate search engines don't work as well as users think they do, that it doesn't really "solve" their problems.
Shashi Seth, a former Google executive, now chief revenue officer at Cooliris, likens the Bing marketing challenge to that of the Apple iPhone before it was introduced. Before iPhone, people didn't know that they even wanted a touchscreen, or that applications like Yelp and Shazam would improve their lives, he said. But through ads, Apple marketed both a void and a way to fill it.
If Microsoft is going to succeed at re-training search users to want more, it will have to deliver a game-changing service. As far as branding goes, it might have to reinvent itself altogether, hoping that users will forget Microsoft's failures in search and reimagine it as a successful contender.
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