Kara Swisher

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Don't Rain on Microsoft's Ad Parade (Except It's Raining in Seattle, Natch!)

BoomTown scrambled the All Things Digital jet (aka, United Airlines, Seat 7A) late last night to get up to Microsoft’s big event for its online advertising clients today.

Called “Imagine 2011: Marketing Leadership Summit” and held at its Redmond, Wa. HQ, the two-day gathering is designed to wow peeps by trotting out a spate of strategery concepts those who buy advertising on Microsoft’s various digital offerings from its Bing search service to MSN to Xbox to Windows Phone 7.

Some program topics: “Elsewhere USA,” “Teens Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out” and “Audience Buying Goes Real-Time: True or False?”

Presumably the goal of all this heavy-duty thinkery is to get these marketers to buy more ads from Microsoft by warning them about being left behind on the platform as the train chugs inevitably off to the digital future.

And just in case that doesn’t work, there will be a free concert tonight featuring the hipster band Train for the Imagine 2011 attendees at Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project venue to open those ad wallets.

Hey, Geek Mister: Stop sending all those digital marketing bucks to Google and Facebook and give them to us!

Before a panoply of various social, design and anthropology experts pontificated, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the day with his patented loud and lovable Ed McMahon act, complete with the booming catchphrases.


“You have to move forward or die!” (About the Web.)

“If you wanna get big, you have to think big!” (About the Windows 7 Phone smartphone deal with Nokia.)

I love the U.S. government, I don’t want to give it a hard time.” (About its crappy Web site, not the antitrust conviction thing.)

Ballmer outlined some key trends, which are not new to anyone paying attention over the last five years: Location; social; pervasive displays; ubiquitous connectivity; computers everywhere; cloud; data; and natural user interaction

He also joked about how there were 10 fake Steve Ballmers on Facebook, all using Steve Ballmer photos. Imagine that!

You’d think Microsoft’s badillion-dollar investment in the social networking site would get you a verified account!

Status: Monkey boy mad!

Actually, pissed off is more related to the fact that the person who conceived and organized the Imagine 2011 event was former global ad sales head Carolyn Everson.

But, she left the company in mid-February after only six months, for essentially the same job at Microsoft partner Facebook.

Since then Microsoft and Facebook have been wrangling over the talent raid, including Microsoft even considering legal action to block the move.

Nonetheless, the show must go on and it did in a pretty classy way.

But not without another road bump in today’s action–the news that Microsoft’s own marketing head, longtime company veteran Mich Mathews, was leaving the software giant later this year.

The departure had the halls buzzing about what happened and who will be taking over the big job with a $1 billion marketing budget.

Maybe some external CMO sitting right there in the audience or perhaps some internal Microsoft candidate such as Yusuf Mehdi or Capossela?

I suppose it’s time for some strategery stat!

Until it is all figured out, here is the music video for Train’s hit song, “Hey, Soul Sister”:

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google