Microsoft today made an omnibus executive rearrangement announcement covering a variety of Corporate and Senior Vice Presidents. Here are the novel aspects from my perspective:
Last week, the aQuantive shareholders voted their approval of the company’s acquisition by Microsoft (as well they might since the offer was roughly twice aQuantive’s market cap). Today, Microsoft announced completion of the acquisition and the creation of a new Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group with former aQuantive CEO Brian McAndrews as the newly anointed Microsoft Web Ad Czar.
This seems to be the week for executive changes in Microsoft’s Platform and Services Division, specifically the online part. First Blake Irving announced plans to leave, then Chris Payne is rumored to be leaving and now Dina Bass at Bloomberg News is reporting that Online Business Group Head Steve Berkowitz is rearranging things as well:
Microsoft Corp. named Brad Goldberg, an executive in its Windows business, to oversee marketing for its Internet search engine as the company tries to catch up with Google Inc.
Goldberg will report to Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of Microsoft’s online-services unit, Goldberg said in an e-mail late yesterday. Until last month he served as general manager of Microsoft’s Windows product management group and helped handle marketing for the release of Windows Vista.
The online-services unit has lacked senior marketing executives since Microsoft opted to “part ways”‘ with Vice President Martin Taylor in June.
To bolster marketing in the Internet business, Berkowitz has also brought in Eric Hadley to promote its MSN network of Web sites. Hadley had been a general manager in Microsoft’s Internet- advertising business.
Brian Hall will run marketing for all of Microsoft’s Windows Live Internet services other than the search engine, as well as the company’s mobile Internet services. Hall used to be an executive for Microsoft’s consumer anti-virus product.
We’ve previously discussed the Martin Taylor departure in June and Berkowitz himself has been on board since last April, so one can’t help but wonder what has taken so long. It certainly hasn’t been a surfeit of success in the online businesses.
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.