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Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad reminds the world why its software matters

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microsoft logo granite stock 1020
microsoft logo granite stock 1020

Microsoft is airing its first national Super Bowl advert on Sunday. While the software giant has been busy backing the Seattle Seahawks, it has also found the time to create a series of "empowering" videos that mark a fresh marketing approach for the company. It’s easy to think of Microsoft as a corporate giant that has missed mobile and tablets, but the reality is that millions of people still rely on its vast array of software products for their daily work. That’s the message that Microsoft is trying to hammer home during the Super Bowl this year.

Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad will run for 60 seconds during Sunday’s game, showing people using the company's software for the greater good. The software maker isn’t revealing its exact Super Bowl ad until tomorrow, but it’s clear from the new "empowering" series of videos that it will include appearances from various people that have used Microsoft’s software across medicine, education, and everyday life.

Emotional ads rather than products front and center

Microsoft has, however, confirmed that former professional football player Steve Gleason will star in its final Super Bowl ad. Gleason was diagnosed with neuro-muscular disease ALS in 2011, and Microsoft’s ad shows how he uses a Surface along with Tobii’s eye tracking hardware to interact with friends and family, while sending tweets and emails. It’s an unusually emotional ad for Microsoft, as the company has traditionally opted to market its products front and center. It's also a welcome move away from controversial campaigns such as Scroogled.

Other ads in the series include a look at surgeons operating with Kinect, school kids using Skype, a 97-year-old man who creates art in Microsoft Paint, and a child born missing the tibia and fibula bones in both of his legs. Sarah Churman also stars in one of Microsoft’s "empowering" ads. Churman was born deaf, but in 2011 a hearing implant allowed her to hear her children properly following years of having to use traditional hearing aids. Churman’s original video went viral with 20 million YouTube views, and it’s hard not to shed a tear watching a 29-year-old woman hearing herself for the first time.

Combined together, Microsoft’s set of "empowering" ads are incredibly moving, but they also mark a huge shift in the company’s approach to marketing. Apple and Google have both mastered the art of creating emotional marketing that tugs at the heartstrings, but Microsoft hasn’t always taken a similar approach. This latest marketing effort highlights just how crucial Microsoft's software is around the world, and it also sets the tone for how the company will tackle its important year ahead.

Update: Microsoft has uploaded another, shorter ad to YouTube. The spot, which will air during tonight's game, is titled "Empowering," and It weaves together the narratives of all the previous clips into a minute-long tale about how technology can and does improve our everyday lives. The music in the commercial is even composed using sounds from Windows, Outlook, and Xbox. As you'd expect, there's still a fair amount of Microsoft technology on show, but the focus is definitely on provoking emotion, rather than selling products.