Joanne Bradford who is Microsoft’s current MSN honcho and former Microsoft Web ad czar (“We love ad salesmen“) is leaving Microsoft for startup Spot Runner which is nominally an “Internet-based ad agency that makes it easy and affordable for local businesses to advertise on TV.” The trick apparently is to have canned creative content that can be easily modified for a local business. Bradford reportedly will be executive vice president of National Marketing Services, focused on national advertisers” which sounds like a good fit for her and apparently also fits somewhere in Spot Runner’s business model.
As for MSN, former Bradford direct report Greg Nelson, who is the general manager of MSN.com International, will be running things on an interim basis. I would chalk this up as yet more turmoil in Microsoft’s online business – the departure of Bradford’s boss Steve Berkowitz was announced in February. Of course, we’ll really see turmoil if the Yahoo deal goes through and Bradford may well have been dodging exactly that.
Lots of excitement in the markets this morning as everyone’s favorite rumor came around again:
Yahoo shares rallied 15% in pre-open trading on Friday after a newspaper report that Microsoft may try to buy the Internet search firm after being beaten to other deals by Google Inc.
The source was a report in the NY Post by Peter Lauria and Zachery Kouwe:
Stung by the loss of Internet advertising firm DoubleClick to Google last month, Microsoft has intensified its pursuit of a deal with Yahoo!, asking the company to re-enter formal negotiations, The Post has learned.
While Microsoft and Yahoo! have held informal deal talks over the years, sources say the latest approach signals an urgency on Microsoft’s part that has up until now been lacking.
The new approach follows an offer Microsoft made to acquire Yahoo! a few months ago, sources said. But Yahoo! spurned the advances of the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant. Wall Street sources put a roughly $50 billion price tag on Yahoo!.
“They’re getting tired of being left at the altar,” said one banking source who has recently had talks with Microsoft. “They now seem more willing to extend themselves via a transaction to get into the game.
All things are possible, but it’s hard to see how such a combination would give the duo any real boost in their battle with Google and it would provide all the delay and confusion of merging organizations and infrastructures. It’s the kind of thing large companies do because they can, but which doesn’t address the underlying problems.
Meanwhile, acquisition or no, the two companies seem to be pals as Mary Jo Foley reports that “Yahoo’s Semel to keynote Microsoft advertising powwow.” Apparently he and Microsoft’s ad czar, Joanne Bradford, are going to share the stage to discuss “The New Network.” Maybe they found one where Google doesn’t eat both their lunches?
Update: Just before the market closed, the WSJ reported that sources say that “merger discussions are no longer active.”
Update 5/5: Another source tells today’s NY Times that talks between Yahoo and Microsoft have been going on for more than a year, but while acquisition was once discussed and rejected, the negotiation now centers around a “creative partnership.”
Microsoft is expected to get an revenue and earnings boost because there will be no undelivered element deferral for Vista. Actually, it’s not really a boost but an avoidance of delayed recognition, but it looks like a boost. This accounting change had been announced along with the accounting treatment for the Vista holiday coupons.
Reruns already? 1998 video deposition of Bill Gates shown at Iowa trial.
“Gears of War” made history today by becoming the fastest-selling next-generation game of 2006 and the fastest-selling exclusive Xbox game ever. Not to rain on the Xbox 360 parade, but consider that Sony’s PS3 Could Still Outsell Microsoft’s XBox 360 in 2006. I consider it unlikely, but only because of Sony product shortages.
Microsoft’s Avanade joint IT services venture with Accenture is doing well.
It was amusing while it lasted – Research Firm Clarifies: iTunes Sales Are Not Collapsing. Related: Digital Music Sales Soar in 2006.
More wrong conclusions – Vista flaw could haunt Microsoft. True, SQL Server 2005 Express SP2 with Vista support is late, but it has nothing to do with enterprise installations of SQL Server and competiton in that space with Oracle and IBM. It has everything to do with desktop applications from Microsoft and third parties which years ago bought into using the functionality of a desktop version of SQL Server which doesn’t exist yet in Vista compatible form.
The bad news: Third MS Word Code Execution Exploit Posted. The good news: Microsoft Patches Windows XP Wireless, Tells No One. I can’t explain it either.
In today’s Wall Street Journal, Robert A. Guth provides a glowing profile of Joanne Bradford who was appointed as Microsoft’s Web ad czar in January and offers this teaser:
In the latest signal that Microsoft has gotten the online-ad religion, a company official said yesterday that Ms. Bradford, 43 years old, will soon be named to head its MSN online group, which runs a Web site delivering news, video and services such as email and instant messaging.
MSN has lacked an executive since David Cole took a leave of absence in February although technically he was replaced in April by former Ask.com CEO Steve Berkowitz who runs the Online Business Group created in March which includes MSN.
The thrust of Guth’s article is that Bradford has struggled to represent the old style of advertising sales (complete with glad handing salesman) in the techie world of Microsoft and that she might just be what MSN needs to get ad sales going. One hopes so since what Bradford has done so far as ad czar is mostly renaming Microsoft’s ad sales program and unsurprisingly, that hasn’t done much for the bottom line. Coincidentally, Henry Blodget just got through spanking Microsoft ad sales and observes:
It’s ancient history by now–and certainly not news–but it’s worth noting that Microsoft still hasn’t made any headway in the search-and-portal game and, in fact, is falling farther and farther behind.
How badly is MSN/Windows Live doing these days? In Q3, advertising revenue rose only 5%, once again the slowest rate of growth of the big four (even lagging Yahoo’s pathetic quarter). Display advertising on portals, email, etc., was up, but search revenue was down again, despite AdCenter having been rolled out to the entire U.S. market.
Having salesman wining and dining the automakers and other big advertisers is swell if you want big splashy banners for your somnolent portal business or you want to sell full page ads in Business Week (Bradford’s previous gig), but that’s unfortunately a couple generations of the Web out of date.
Update: What would a good old fashioned advertising story be without an Ad Age rendition? Some more details:
Chris Dobson will expand his international sales responsibilities to take over Ms. Bradford’s former post, running global sales, and Bill Shaughnessy will run the Microsoft Digital Ad Solution Business Group with responsibility for product management and planning for the adCenter and ad-serving projects.
It’ll be interesting to see if they can do any better.
Update: A primer for the Bradford philosophy – Microsoft to Google: WE love ad sales people.