Microsoft McCann

Microsoft's partnership with McCann proves that creating good work needn't hurt

Microsoft has been named as Cannes Lions' 2021 Creative Marketer of the Year. Rob Doubal, CCO McCann UK & co-president McCann London, gives his take on the accolade

By Rob Doubal

The truth is, - and we at McCann like to start with the truth - for a time, all great work seemed to be created the same way. A small team of tenacious and talented people got together and didn’t stop pushing until they had created something breakthrough and bombastic. There would be a certain frenetic energy to the whole process, lots of noise, bravado, risk taking, tension, discomfort, sometimes pomp, and always disquiet & pain. Making great work has to hurt right?

But after nearly a decade of making Cannes winning work for Xbox and Microsoft and with the pride felt for them to have won Creative Marketer of the Year at Cannes 2021, it struck me that making all that great work hadn’t felt like this. It was done with a very different kind of energy.

It was all made possible by a client who chose to take their position of responsibility in the world seriously. When McCann won Microsoft in 2014, the company was thought to be lacking a human voice. But Chris Capossela and Kathleen Hall in the US, were open to McCann’s process and committed to earning a meaningful role in people’s lives. They really cared about the people they were empowering. And they were trusting in how we would bring it to life. This belief culminated in an atmosphere which fostered ambitious and important work.

The ambition was brought to life by McCann Worldgroup group teams around the globe. The integrated Xbox projects created here in London for example couldn’t have been made without our Worldgroup partners MRM, Momentum, Craft and took an extra layer of patience, care and commitment. Deeply integrated and painstakingly crafted, these campaigns were put together by teams who were prepared to work into the darkness as the big pictures came together.

But for us here in London, it was principally down to the nature of the day to day agency and client teams who worked on the account over the years. Eternally calm and polite Swedes, whose humility and hard work was astounding. A methodical and conscientious ECD team who have an incredible eye for detail and innovative work. And a partnership - akin to those in great cop movies - between the account lead and client Michael Flatt, who time and time again, would take turns to blow on the embers of great work and shepherd it round corners until it had grown into warming fires for both organisations.

The first of which for us in the UK was creating the world’s first ‘Survival Billboard’ for the launch of the Lara Croft Tomb Raider fame on Xbox. It required all of our partner companies to be firing. It needed a level of production craft, and a balance of individual brilliance and collaboration at the time synonymous only with live TV. And the fact that it won 18 Cannes Lions across multiple categories showed the depths of its craft and reflected the dedication of the team and our client.

'Dead Rising', and 'Squadvertiser' followed and picked up awards but we were especially proud of winning the Grand Prix in the then inaugural e-commerce category for ‘Xbox Design Lab: The Fanchise Model’, in which we turned designers into entrepreneurs. It really felt like living marketing that transformed business and required patient legal work, and composure from the client on this project, Josh Munsee, to make it a reality.

Then there was ‘Football Decoded’ - born in response to PlayStation buying up all the FIFA marketing rights. There was only one thing to do. Make football our partner and decode every real time play.

It required painstaking work to match code with video sequence, and livestream the commentary alongside the match play. Painstaking commitment to the idea.

And next ‘The Birth of Gaming Tourism’, in which our partnership with our client resulted in the creation of a whole new genre of tourism and the commissioning of a travel writer to craft 30,000 words conveying the depth of experience on offer and a game photographer who spent hours in game to capture the best sunsets in every scene. Hours of game footage, and live streaming to create the in-game tours, and many months to launch the game across markets. A gargantuan task.

And most recently the powerful ‘Beyond Generations’ campaign which began its journey during the global pandemic, encouraging younger generations to rebox old consoles and give them to older generations empowering them to reconnect and alleviate loneliness in the elder population. So true to Microsoft’s ambition to truly empower all, and complementary to the great work already done on Girls in STEM and the Adaptive Controller in the US.

These weren’t short sharp sensations. They were deeply researched, deeply committed to and patiently produced campaigns which in some cases took years. We are very proud of our client partners and our team. Not perhaps just because of the work we have created together, but because of the manner in which it has been created. It’s shown us that making good work needn’t hurt. It just requires some care and commitment. And it can be made calmly, conscientiously, and celebrated with humility. (Guess I stuffed that up).

Congratulations Microsoft, and well done team.

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