Case Studies

Heroes Happen Here

Microsoft & Seagate

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» The Challenge
Microsoft sought a people-focused, rather than software-centric, campaign to promote their 2008 product line launch. The target audience was the over eight million IT Pros and Developers who form the backbone of Microsoft’s global server business. Traditionally, Microsoft focuses on product features in a one-shot gala Launch Day event to which they invite thousands of VIP users. The event also includes a large exhibition where Microsoft and vendor-sponsor booths offer hands-on experience.

This year, OPTS Ideas, the exhibition company that produced the Launch Day event, innovated the “Heroes Happen Here” campaign to highlight their users’ stories. ACE competed with comic book industry leaders to produce a “Heroes Happen Here” graphic novel, in partnership with Microsoft and co-sponsor Seagate, the leader in information storage. [IMAGES]

» Our Solution
ACE sold the clients on a completely different approach. Why produce a printed graphic novel at all? Microsoft is a software company—produce a web comic.

If real life were comics, light bulbs would have been popping over everyone’s heads.

ACE developed a six-month “Heroes Happen Here” daily web comic series. The half-year duration was unprecedented for a Microsoft marketing campaign. By commencing one month prior to the launch day gala, ACE created advance excitement. And by continuing for five more months, ACE engaged users in a lasting relationship with the brand.

IT Pros and Developers are a super-discerning and creative audience. To ensure that the characters and storylines in the comics would be authentic and resonate with the target audience, ACE toured Microsoft and Seagate locations, spending much time interviewing and tailing employees, to not only learn from them, but also experience their jobs through their eyes.

For the storyline, ACE created a cast of iconic IT Hero characters — even giving them uniforms with an IT logo, like superheroes — and sent them globetrotting to resolve a technical threat that spoke directly to the issues faced daily by IT Pros and Developers. Reflecting the global reach of Microsoft’s and Seagate’s products, ACE set the story in Microsoft’s and Seagate’s customers’ countries and regions, and featured art from local illustrators, including the North and South America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. To further the reach, ACE provided periodic features spotlighting these global talents which appeared on the corporate website.

ACE contracted veteran DC and Marvel Comics writer Chuck Dixon (Batman, The Punisher) to script the web comics series. To further enhance authenticity, the web comics audience was invited to post comments and provide input on a blog accompanying each day’s strip, and submit their stories for adaptation into the HHH series on a website that ACE designed. As the story evolved, ACE adapted reader feedback and stories they submitted into the storyline faster than any other visual medium might.

ACE coordinated the production with the management and legal teams at OPTS, Microsoft, and Seagate.

» The Results
Heroes Happen Here comic kept the audience engaged for six months, much to the clients’ pleasure. ACE maintained the rigorous schedule, producing over 150 full color daily comics boasting superior production values. The comics website attracted over 1.2 million visitors, with several hundred thousand readers in the Launch Event month alone. The web comic and its characters kept IT Developers regularly buzzing on the blog. Input from viewers guided the story to a satisfying conclusion. Seagate used the HHH characters for additional marketing promotions, in print and online. And “Heroes Happen Here” won the Barcelona-based EIBTM global trade award, Best Product Launch 2008, beating out Lamborghini.

[ACE] and your team worked tirelessly to create something that the industry has never seen before. Kudos to you and all the writers, artists, and the core team who made it happen!

Karen Carter (aka Launch Maven)
Windows Server Marketing