Microsoft msft is taking a novel approach to promote business-to-business products and services with a 30-minute online business show going live Monday that features Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, and his wife, Suzy.
In the first show, the duo, who also do a weekly BusinessWeek column and consulting, help the Hertz car rental company hash out an information technology issue using a Welch method known as a "work out."
Welch devised the process in the 1990s at GE. It pits people with a conflict across from each other at a table. The Welches ask questions to get to the heart of the issue. They go at it until the two sides come together on a solution.
"When (Microsoft CEO) Steve Ballmer called me and took me through what he was trying to do there with business-to-business, it sounded like fun," says Welch, who led GE from 1981 until 2001.
It's Everybody's Business is available here. Aimed at business IT executives, it was created by reality show producer Reveille Productions, maker of The Biggest Loser. The reality show builds on Microsoft's current "b-to-b" ad campaign, It's Everybody's Business by agency JWT, which also helped develop the show. Two more shows are in the works, but Microsoft would not disclose the subject companies.
"Marketing in business-to-business is hugely important to Microsoft's mission," says Gayle Troberman, Microsoft's general manager, advertising and customer engagement.
The tech giant spent $13 billion in sales and marketing in 2008. Traditionally, business-to-business efforts have received the bulk of the budget, but lately, the company has stepped up its consumer marketing. A new campaign by Crispin Porter + Bogusky helps Windows PCs take on Macs. And Microsoft search engine Bing, a Google rival, now is being promoted with teaser ads by JWT, with a full campaign to follow through the summer. New mobile phones are due in the fall.
But the consumer push is not coming at the expense of its business audience, Troberman says. "We've been invested with business-to-business audiences ... for decades now. It's a very significant investment. You'll see us continue to invest with consumer audiences as well, but not at the expense of continuing our dialogue with business."
The business audience is key, because those folks make decisions about hardware and software used throughout organizations.
"They are busy people, they have a lot going on and are digitally savvy," Troberman says. "When they do have the time to step out of the work grind, they are still interested in learning. We've created a show that's a white paper with a pulse."
In the first show, two Hertz car rental executives work out a real issue: how to introduce a new, tech-driven initiative that makes more Hertz cars available on streets in urban areas, rather than at rental lots. The company is trying to compete with flexible car renters such as Zip and was asked by Microsoft to participate in the show.
"For us, this is all about how we differentiate ourselves from them (Zip), and how do we do it better and create an environment that is more seamless and more techno-savvy," says Mark Frissora, Hertz CEO, who appears at the end of the show. "The issue was going from 100 cars to 1,000 in New York and doing it profitably."
Frissora's executives hash out issues with drama and suspense reminiscent of NBC's The Apprentice. Crews used eight hours of footage to create the 30-minute show. The website also features outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage and in-depth information about certain issues and products discussed.
"Real stuff happened," says Jack Welch. "There were real moments of drama. It was an absolute real session."
ASK THE AD TEAM
Question: Who is the older woman who seems to be playing the conscience of the Ikea customers in those quirky ads running now? The ads are odd, but they do grab your attention.
— Regina Fagan, Sacramento
A: They are quirky and remind the Ad Team of the movie Ghost. But actress Venida Evans is meant to represent consumers' "Inner Ikea," according to Deutsch, N.Y., which created the ads.
The "Inner Ikea" campaign, which began last October, is designed to help consumers recognize that Ikea's designs give shoppers more value than you'd expect for the price.
Evans, 62, signifies the wisdom of someone who has experienced enough to tell what is a good value. She is bilingual and represents both the English and Spanish markets with this campaign.
If you think you've seen her before you may have. She has appeared in TV shows including Law & Order and in films including Transamerica and Once More with Feeling.
Q: We are starting a small business and were thinking of using Slip Slidin' Away in a video on our website or YouTube to help promote our car wax product. I would like to use the music and a few phrases from the song as muted background music. Do we run the risk of some kind of infringement from the well-known Paul Simon song from which this phrase has such notoriety?
— Bob Mesloh, Parsippany, N.J.
A:Music for any commercial use should be cleared with the music publisher that holds rights to it, says Martin Bandier, CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which licenses thousands of songs each year for TV, film, video and advertising.
"All music and lyrics that are going to be used on the website need to be licensed from the owner of the copyrights," Bandier says. "This is oftentimes the music publisher." He says the most efficient way to find a song's publisher is to consult the free, public website of one of the three performing rights societies: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (www.ascap.com), Broadcast Music Inc. (www.bmi.com) and SESAC (www.sesac.com).
You can search for titles and/or songwriters and get the publishers and their contact information.
"Then it is just a matter of sending in a request for use, obtaining all the necessary approvals for use of the song and negotiating a fee, when and if approved," Bandier says.