Microsoft taps 'Can you hear me now?' marketing exec for Windows Phone push

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) hired Thom Gruhler as its new corporate vice president of Windows Phone marketing, bringing on an executive whose firm was behind Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) popular "Can you hear me now?" advertising campaign. The hiring comes at a time when Microsoft is trying to get Windows Phone to resonate with consumers.


Gruhler worked previously at McCann Worldgroup, where he served as global managing partner of telecom & technology. Prior to that Gruhler served eight years as the global leader of McCann's Verizon business, leading the team that devised the "Can you hear me now?" campaign. He has also overseen campaigns for clients including MasterCard, Kohl's and Sony Ericsson. Gruhler takes over the head marketing role at Microsoft from Achim Berg, who left that spot in November 2011 to head Microsoft's relationships with carriers.

In his new role, Microsoft said Gruhler will lead all advertising, marketing and communications activities for the Windows Phone division, and will work closely with product engineering teams and carriers to drive demand for the platform. He will have an uphill climb. Despite praise for Windows Phone from industry analysts and bloggers, Microsoft captured just 2 percent of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter, according to research firm Gartner.

Microsoft hopes that its partnership with Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and a strong push in the United States, will help boost Windows Phone's visibility.

In separate, related news, Sony may triple the amount of money it spends in markets such as the United States to promote its smartphones. "In many key territories we are making two to three times the investment we were able to make in 2011," Steve Walker, chief marketing officer at Sony Mobile Communications, told Bloomberg, adding that the company will also focus on Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russia and the UK.

Sony, which took sole control of Sony Ericsson last month after spending $1.5 billion to buy out Ericsson's (NASDAQ:ERIC) stake, also started a new advertising campaign for the first Xperia smartphones under the Sony brand. The campaign, dubbed "Made of Imagination," will kick off with a 60-second commercial directed by Oscar-nominated director Wes Anderson. The campaign will be deployed across TV, print, digital, out-of-home and retail advertising, and will roll out over the course of 2012.

For more:
- see this Microsoft release
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this separate Bloomberg article
- see this Sony release

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