Concerned about changes in Google’s search and privacy practices? Microsoft is waiting with open arms. That’s the message from the Redmond software beast in an unusual series of full-page newspaper ads, starting today, that encourage people who are unhappy about Google’s latest moves to consider changing to Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Hotmail webmail service, Office 365 online productivity suite and Internet Explorer web browser.
After laying out concerns about Google’s latest policies and practices, the first ad concludes, “If these changes rub you the wrong way, please consider using our portfolio of award-winning products and services.”
The aggressive approach may come as a surprise to newspaper readers, particularly those who think of Microsoft primarily as the company behind the dominant Windows operating system. But the strategy underscores Microsoft position as an underdog, particularly in the search business. Google first experienced a negative reaction from some users to its “Search Plus Your World” initiative that incorporates results from social networks, focusing heavily on its own Google+, into its search engine. Google separately announced a series of privacy changes last week, saying that it would combine information about users across its various products and services — promising “a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”
Microsoft responds in its first ad, “Those changes, cloaked in language like ‘transparency,’ ‘simplicity’ and ‘consistency,’ are really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say or stream while using one of their services.” The ad continues, “But, the way they’re doing it is making it harder for you to maintain control of your personal information. Why are they so interested in doing this that they would risk this kind of backlash? One logical reason: Every data point they collect and connect to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser.”
Of course, Microsoft also collects data about users and their online behavior to help target Internet ads, like other major operators of online services. But the newspaper ads suggest that Google will be going too far by bridging data across its various services.
Reads the first Microsoft ad, “To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve the quality of an advertising product. But, that effort needs to be balanced with continuing to meet the needs and interests of users. Every business finds its own balance and attracts users who share those priorities. Google’s new changes have upset that balance, with users’ priorities being de-prioritized. That’s why people are concerned and looking for alternatives.”
Although Microsoft also generates revenue from ads, its business relies heavily on traditional licensing revenue from software and services.
“At the highest level, Google has one customer, and it is the advertiser. Users are inventory,” said Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s communications chief. “Advertisers are one of our customers. But we also think about consumers, and small business, and enterprises, so that drives us to a different set of decisions.” Shaw adds in a blog post this morning, “The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information. We take a different approach – we work to keep you safe and secure online, to give you control over your data, and to offer you the choice of saving your information on your hard drive, in the cloud, or on both.”
Google said in its blog post last week that it sees real user value in the changes it’s making.
We can make search better — figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too. For example, it’s January, but maybe you’re not a gym person, so fitness ads aren’t that useful to you. We can provide reminders that you’re going to be late for a meeting based on your location, your calendar and an understanding of what the traffic is like that day. Or ensure that our spelling suggestions, even for your friends’ names, are accurate because you’ve typed them before. People still have to do way too much heavy lifting, and we want to do a better job of helping them out.
Microsoft will run its newspaper ads as a three-part series in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.