Microsoft puts creator of ‘Scroogled’ ads in charge of strategy

Mark Penn, Microsoft's new head of strategy, was chief strategist of Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign.
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Anyone who thought new Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella might take a less combative approach than his predecessor might want to think again.

On Monday, the company confirmed a number of executive changes, most notably the elevation of Mark Penn to the role of chief strategy officer.

“His focus on using data to quickly evaluate and evolve our campaigns has driven new insights and understanding,” Nadella said in a memo to Microsoft employees that was posted on the company’s website. “Mark and his team also will continue to provide input in the area of competitive research and analysis. I am looking forward to applying Mark’s unique skill set across a broader set of challenges facing the company, from new product ideas to helping shape the overall areas of strategic investment.”

Nadella recently replaced Steve Ballmer, becoming only the third CEO in the company’s history. Ballmer was known for being brash and outspoken, and some wondered whether Nadella would take a less confrontational approach to competitors and defining the company’s image.


The promotion of Penn seems to indicate Nadella won’t to be afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

Penn was the brains behind Microsoft’s “Scroogled” ad campaign, which mocked and criticized rival Google for a number of business practices. Before that, he was a pollster for President Clinton and was chief strategist for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times profiled Penn after he joined Microsoft, calling him a “political brawler” and saying he was a “a longtime political operative known for his brusque personality and scorched-earth tactics.” The impact of the Scroogled campaign caused AdAge to ask: “Could attack ads be the way of the future for consumer tech?”

In his new role at Microsoft, Penn will report directly to Nadella.

As part of the reshuffling, the company also said Tony Bates would be leaving the company. Bates was CEO of Skype when it was acquired by Microsoft, and at various points he was rumored to be a candidate to replace Ballmer.

Another longtime Microsoft executive, Tami Reller, will be leaving the company as well. Reller, executive vice president of marketing, has held many positions at Microsoft over the years.


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