Microsoft leads tech-ad spending in the first quarter with Windows 8 push

Windows Phone ad

Tech advertising jumped 30 percent from a year ago during the first quarter, led by Microsoft, which pushed out Intuit to promote its latest operating system, called Windows...something or other.

In all, ad spending by tech companies totaled  $723 million, up 30 percent from a year ago. The jump was especially noteworthy because ad spending actually declined across all other sectors, Nielsen said.

For the last five years, Intuit has led all tech companies in advertising during the first quarter, as it promotes its TurboTax and Quicken software as the tax preparation season ramps up.

But this year, with Microsoft’s aggressive promotion of its Surface tablet, Windows 8, and Windows Phone, Redmond's ad spending jumped by 200 percent compared to the same period in 2012, when it was winding down Windows 7.

“Technology has become so widely available that it pervades every aspect of life to some degree,” said Randall Beard, global head of advertiser solutions for Nielsen, in a statement. “But with increased accessibility comes increased competition, and companies are investing hefty sums into creating buzz around their biggest products in order to secure a share of this sizable market.”

Other top advertisers included Apple, Google, and Amazon, Nielsen said. Its study included “hardware and software products including but not limited to cameras and photographic supplies, computers, handheld music players, stereo systems, and others.”

Ads got better

Whatever your feelings about Microsoft’s products, its advertising has arguably dramatically improved over the past quarter, with its Surface ads ditching the all-singing, all-dancing, all-clacking “Movement” premiere, replacing it with one that emphasized productivity.

Back in May, Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said that the second ad marked a sea change. “It is significant, because it is the first ad that really shows what Surface can do that the iPad cannot,” Miller said. “Rather than ‘dancing around’ the Surface, I like that this ad actually tries to clarify the unique features of the device.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Windows Phone ads have skewered both the Android market as well as iOS fanatics, both with ads that attack Siri and the iPad as well as my personal favoreite, embedded below.

Has Microsoft’s advertising affected your view on the company and its products? Or is it the same old stodgy Microsoft? Let us know in the comments below.

At a Glance
  • Windows 8 isn't for everyone. If you're mostly a desktop PC user comfortable with Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 8 is probably not worthwhile. If you're a mobile user who needs easy access to the complete Microsoft ecosystem, including SkyDrive, Windows 8 is definitely a good fit. If your needs lie somewhere between those two extremes, give Windows 8 a close look; the cost is low, but you'll need to learn your way around the new Start screen and make sure that your existing software runs well in the new OS. Read the full review


    • New, improved file system
    • Easier recovery from system problems
    • Better integration with the cloud


    • The missing Start menu will drive some people nuts
    • Overly aggressive when it comes to selling apps and content
    • Some aspects of the OS are unnecessarily confusing

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