There is a memorable moment in Blazing Saddles, when Sheriff Bart says, “Well, raise my rent. You are the kid.”
I had a similar ephiphany last month at SES London 2009, when David Naylor of Bronco said that Microsoft is the good guy in the search engine industry during a session on “Brand & Reputation Management.”
Now, I should disclose that I was the director of corporate communications at Lotus Development Corp. back in the late 1980s, when our relationship with Microsoft was — ah — “complicated.” They provided the operating system that our applications ran on; while they offered applications that we competed with.
During the 1990s, I was the director of corporate communications at Ziff-Davis. And our relationship with Microsoft was also — ah — “complex.” On the “church” side of Ziff-Davis, our 400 editors and reporters wrote comparative, lab-based, product reviews that treated Microsoft “without fear or favor,” like any other vendor. On the “state” side of Ziff-Davis, Microsoft bought a ton of advertising in our magazines, on our websites and for our cable TV channel. Plus, Bill Gates was a frequent keynote speaker at our conferences, and Microsoft paid a chunk of money for big booths at our trade shows.
So, when I got into the search engine industry in early 2002, I admit that I had some preconceived notions about the folks from Redmond. And I secretly chuckled when I heard that Google’s informal corpate motto was “Don’t be evil.” I knew which company they were taking a jab at.
But that was then and this is now.
During the past seven years, Microsofties have been model citizens. Heck, even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has impressed me by working globally to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and working locally to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology.
Still, it came as a surprise to me when Naylor said such nice things about Microsoft. It reminded me of another memorable quote from Blazing Saddles, “I think Mongo here’s taken a liking to you.”
So, I interviewed Naylor right after the “Brand & Reputation Management” session. In the early part of the video interview, he shared a few tips. He also emphasized the importance of identifying who is posting negative material about your company or brand. But half way through the video interview, I asked to Nayor discuss Microsoft’s reputation and why it has improved. He says Microsoft now excels at handling not just business to business but business to consumer and Google has challenges they have not yet resolved.
As luck would have it, one of the people who attended the “Brand & Reputation Management” session was Mel Carson, the adCenter Community Manager in Europe for Microsoft. Carson joined Microsoft back in the summer of 2005, so we never crossed swords in the old days. As part of Microsoft Advertising, his role is to build relationships within the online advertising community to support, educate and evangelise through Microsoft adCenter industry forums, and to speak about internet marketing at conferences, trade shows and other events.
In the best tradition of ambush journalism, I interviewed Carson about his favorite panel sessions from SES London. He cited panels on topics such as social media, SEO, search behavior, and keyword research. But about half way through the interview, I asked Carson about the changing reputation of Microsoft and why Microsoft is now seen in a more positive light.
So, there you have it. You may have noticed this before. But that was the first time that I recognized that Microsoft wasn’t evil. It’s the good guy.
Both Naylor and Carson will be speaking at SES New York 2009 in two weeks at the “Extreme Makeover: Live Ad Copy & Continuity Clinic” on Thursday. So, you can ask them about this topic, before or after they examine your ads and landing pages “without fear or favor.”
Well, don’t just stand there looking stupid, grasping your hands in pain. How about a round of applause for the Redmond Kid?