CMO of the Week: Microsoft's Kathleen Hall - Brand Innovators

CMO of the Week: Microsoft’s Kathleen Hall

Microsoft’s Kathleen Hall has learned a lot about making Super Bowl ads over the years.

As the chief brand officer of a leading technology company that has played during the big game, she knows there is a lot of pressure when making such a monumental media buy.

“It is like the epitome of marketing and you’re up against a lot of competition and you can’t let that get into your head,” said Hall. “I’ve also learned that things are going to go wrong. Inevitably, something always goes wrong, whether it’s the music you want or there’s some product scenario that’s not doing what you want it to do, or who knows what it is. But you must be ready for surprises and roll with the punches.”

These surprises haven’t stopped Hall from experiencing the benefits of bringing a brand to the largest advertising stage in the world.

“The most important thing I have learned is that it is super emotionally rewarding,” said Hall. “When you put an ad on the Super Bowl, your friends and family,  coworkers and partners all see it and love it. I don’t think that there is a better emotional reward as a marketer than succeeding on the Super Bowl, in a way that benefits your company and the brand.”

Brand Innovators caught up with Hall to discuss the Super Bowl, the secret sauce to making a memorable ad and how the campaign will live on now that the game is over.

What’s the strategy behind buying an ad at the Super Bowl this year?

The Super Bowl remains the single largest instantaneous reach vehicle for advertising that is out there. If you want to make a big splash, you go on the Super Bowl, and this year, we’re introducing a new product. There is no better place to do that than on the Super Bowl.

What story do you hope this spot got across?

When people think about AI, they think about big issues in big ways—like it will be used for curing cancer. And I think what we want this ad to get across is there is really a role for AI in a functional, impactful way in regular people’s lives, doing things that they could not otherwise do for themselves or making some of the hard work that they have to do a little bit easier. It’s really about making AI accessible and impactful in your everyday life.

What’s the secret sauce to making a memorable Super Bowl ad?

The secret sauce for us has always been truth, and that is that there is a cultural truth that we root in where our values connect with the world. Like the Xbox Adaptive Controller spot (2019 Super Bowl) where accessibility and inclusion were a big part of the cultural truth at the time. And then product truth, which is does the thing we are talking about really deliver on a solution that addresses that cultural truth? Again, using the adaptive controller. 

In that example, it 100% did. And then the third portion of the special sauce for us has always been some degree of contextual relevance like why the Super Bowl? For example, when we did the ad with Katie Sowers and Surface, she uses the device to help coach a Super Bowl team. There’s relevance. That’s the sort of magic formula we look for. 

Our process on this one followed our normal process, which was what is that universal truth or cultural truth that we are trying to tap into and uncover? Really, it remains people’s desire for empowerment to take control to achieve the things they want to achieve and control their own destiny. That is what AI enables; Copilot delivers on that. It’s free, you can get it on your PC, you can get it on a mobile device. Anyone, anywhere, any device is true. It’s AI access for all. 

How will this spot continue to live beyond the game day broadcast?

This ad represents an evolution of our empowering us all position, and in a way, a refreshment of it. We’re saying “hey, watch me”. Watch me do the things you think I cannot do. There is no better statement of empowerment than: “you think I can’t do this? Watch me.” So that’s what it represents for us. I think that it will be a North star and an attitude that we will carry forward in our communications beyond the Super Bowl.