Bill Gates. Walt Disney. Steve Jobs. They all created world-famous innovations in a garage. So with a nod to its humble backyard beginnings as the jumping off point, Microsoft used The Garage as inspiration for an activation at The Times Center during Advertising Week, Sept. 29-Oct. 3. The theme highlighted what’s inspiring the brand’s own products and overall direction, and was carried through to Microsoft’s sessions that week.
The Garage experience featured wood paneling, antique tool displays and startup-culture-inspired messaging, as well as three technology “stories.”
The first showcased tech team Ability Eye Gaze, grand-prize winner of Microsoft’s //oneweek Hackathon in August. Attendees tested the technology, inspired by former NFL player Steve Gleason who was diagnosed with ALS, to copy, paste and send a tweet with only their eyes.
As Josh Munsee, global marketing manager at Microsoft Advertising explained, hands-free technologies are developing rapidly, and even coming down in price. Microsoft is looking down the road. “We’re thinking about what happens when these are everywhere or built-in,” he says. “Think about how we used to buy webcams, but now people use solutions like FaceTime, and on their phones.”
At the next booth, visitors at The Garage could sign up to win a free pair of Converse sneakers customized by The Ave Venice, a California-based street wear store specializing in a technology where consumers can print and design in real-time anything they want on apparel or accessories. Ceo Nick Romero was a featured session speaker.
“We found out about their story from ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ and we located Nick and found that he prints on our Surface tablets, but more than that, we were excited about his story and philosophy,” Munsee says. “And that’s how at Microsoft we want to start thinking about design and even our event experiences—how do we make sure this is what people want to see, that this is the content they want to experience, instead of everything being that product-sales conversation.”
The final experience promoted Microsoft’s own completely redesigned MSN site, which moved from an in-house publishing model to a partnership model. Built for touch, the new MSN site launched during Advertising Week across all operating systems. Giant touch screens with vertical and horizontal scrolling capabilities allowed attendees to flip through and check out the site’s features.
Microsoft is rolling out The Garage at other industry events in this year, including the Consumer Electronics Show and the Cannes Festival of Creativity, though the content and messaging will change to be relevant to each audience.
“Marketers and advertisers want to see that thought leadership: What can I be a part of? What’s innovative? So finding the right content stories to tell is a huge driver for us and what we want to accomplish with our new strategy moving into the next year,” Munsee says.
On average, 100 people per hour went through The Garage.