Blog Post

Microsoft’s Game Of Online Ad Catch-up Goes Into Extra Innings With Joanne Bradford As MSN Head

The first thing the WSJ’s Page One headline about Joanne Bradford’s battle to advance online advertising — “How Microsoft Is Learning To Love Online Advertising” — made me think of “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” On the day after Bradford’s anointment as the head of MSN, the WSJ explains just how tough it was to get the powers that be at Microsoft to realize the value of online advertising. As usual, the emphasis was tech uber alles. That’s changed in a big way. Bradford’s new role at MSN puts her at the top of what should be one the company’s best opportunities to reap advertising dollars. From the WSK perspective: “The promotion makes Ms. Bradford a central figure in Microsoft’s fight against Google and Internet darlings such as YouTube and MySpace.”
Bradford wasn’t a saint in all this. A non-techie who’d been at McGraw-Hill for more than a decade, when she joined the company in 2001 she had to learn how to work from within at Microsoft. It took several years for her to figure out the right approach. (The astonishing thing is she didn’t leave and they didn’t push her out during all this.) Whether or not reporter Robert Guth meant to suggest it, one implication is that tensions between Bradford and her bosses was one of the issues that held Microsoft back in online advertising although it’s not the only one by far. Microsoft’s top execs had blinders on when it came to advertising, which explains the massive — and expensive — game of catch-up being played now.
But as central as Bradford has been, Steve Berkowitz, the AskJeeves vet who moved to Microsoft in April from IAC/i, is the one calling the shots on the ad side. He promoted Bradford from global sales to head MSN, part of an effort to mesh tech, online/mobile services and content. In the end, it will be the results that matter most, not the personalities.