Is the house that Windows built reinventing itself as an ad giant? At an advertising industry confab in Cannes last week, Microsoft constructed a huge white box on the beach just off the city’s Promenade de la Croisette boardwalk to woo executives from hundreds of companies, like Coca-Cola and Toyota Motor, and ad agencies such as Publicis Groupe. The point was to show off Microsoft's latest technologies -- and emphasize what great advertising vehicles they make.
There's the new Xbox One, which will hit stores in November. The video-game console uses its built-in camera to detect a person’s heart rate, whether she's happy, and which muscles are doing the most work during exercise games. And of course, Microsoft was quick to point out the ad space available on the home screen where users choose games, films, music and television channels.
A second display featured a retail service that lets home shoppers see 3-D images of housewares like lamps and sofas in different colors and shapes, which can be saved to a wish list. When you enter a store, the application downloads the list of that company’s products to your phone. And if you’re out at the mall while your partner is at home, you can video chat to choose the stuff you want. Once you’ve finally agreed what to buy, you can pay for it using the app.
Microsoft, the ad giant? Maybe not yet. Google got 87 percent of its $50.2 billion in sales last year from Internet advertising, while Microsoft's online ads brought in just 4 percent of its $73.7 billion. But the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the industry's top event. It has become a must-do not just for Microsoft, but also rivals such as Yahoo! (a bar, sofas, and free sunglasses and lip balm on the city side of La Croisette) and Google (a "Creative Sandbox" down the beach from Microsoft). And just in case you’re wondering: That big white box Microsoft built on the beach didn't have any windows.