Magazine covers turned into Windows 8 start screens!

If you have been watching any form of media in the U.S. lately, you would have most likely seen an ad displaying the Windows 8 live tile start screens. Whether it is a Surface tablet ad (which we watched in class), a HP laptop computer ad, or a HTC Windows phone ad – they all feature the easily recognizable brightly colored tiles from Microsoft’s new operating system (OS).

Unfortunately, all those ads also neglected to demonstrate how users can have total control over their gadget’s live tiles to truly reflect their personality and needs. Moreover, they were pretty standard typical gadget-related ads that weren’t especially out-of-the-box creative, memorable or intriguing. It wasn’t until I saw the Windows 8 campaign arrive on magazine print that I got interested in learning more about Microsoft’s new OS.

On this December’s issue, Microsoft had managed to take over 14 Conde Nast magazine covers from Vogue, The New Yorker, to Wired, with full page cover attachments that look like a Windows 8 start screen. These Windows 8 start screens are designed and tailored for the magazine’s top editors.

Glamour Magazine’s December promotion featuring a Windows 8 start screen.

Glamour Magazine, for example, depicts a start screen for Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive with items such as highlights from a magazine event, a tweet that Windows 8 pulled in from @glamourmag, a December Issue Sampler for Windows 8, the Windows camera app, a special edition of the magazine and a holiday-party reminder from the new Windows 8 Calendar app.


It’s not only a great way to show how personalized Windows 8 can get, but also an effective way to target niche consumers; showing a fashion-centric girl who reads Vogue, how Windows 8 can be the fashion-centric phone she wants that cater to her needs.  Additionally, imagine glancing at a newsstand and seeing all the Windows 8 start screen magazine covers staring back at you, it will definitely be a memorable sight and grab most people’s attention!

I first encountered these ads at my friend’s apartment. She had just received her monthly magazine subscription on bon appétit and Self, and the unusual magazine cover we were both unaccustomed to, caught our eyes.  It was catchy, and relevant to the reader. My friend being an avid foodie with a passion for fitness, was intrigued and impressed by how those windows tiles really catered to her, and immediately took a picture of it to show her friends.

My friend’s December issue of bon appétit and Self magazine.

The covers are something unexpected, relevant, and catchy; which helps make this print section of the campaign pretty sticky.  As we have previously mentioned in class, ‘the medium is the message’, where the medium of a front page magazine print really influenced how the message is perceived. I believe that having this part of the campaign executed on any other print media such as billboards or bus stands would not have had the same effect.

On a related note, such creative-ness is not often seen on magazines. Editors traditionally avoid involvement in any paid ad covers, partly to show viewers that their content is not heavily influenced by their ads.  So it came as a surprise to me when I found out that Microsoft got these covers attachments for free. The Conde Nast spokesperson explains that the cover attachments had “no advertising dollars involved”, and Microsoft’s paid ads that were inside the magazines were “separate and distinct.” She also clarifies that it was their magazine company’s own initiative to tell readers about its content on Windows 8, and had “clearly coordinated” with Microsoft’s paid ads to make sure they tied together.

A paid Windows 8 magazine ad

I personally find it skeptical that Conde Nast would spend so much money to promote such a new OS platform without a big, ad-buy from Windows in the works. However, in the end of the day regardless of what their agenda is, I think that this collaboration really helped put creativity into magazine print ads, and I would love to see this kind of innovation start to occur more in print advertising.


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7 Responses to Magazine covers turned into Windows 8 start screens!

  1. zhaoyunw says:

    Thank you very much for sharing the interesting and creative campaign with us.

    I went to Chicago this Thanksgiving holiday and I saw the Win 8 ads everywhere. But, as you mentioned in the beginning, it’s not very catchy. The magazine cover is definitely a smart idea to attract people’s interests. I will pay attention to magazine’s cover in a bookstore or grocery store. The unusual cover makes the ads out stand among many cover pictures. And the magazine is a portable printing ads because if can go to anywhere, so as to attract more attention. Furthermore, this cover shows the most important attribute of Win 8 — personalized desktop. You can put whatever you’re interested on the open screen. The target customers can be in any industries and fields. In addition, all these cover images appeared in one month. It can lead to repetition effect as people will see this kind of cover for many times in a short period.

    However, I feel like it would be better if the cover can combine with the logo of Windows. Only the words may lose some audiences’s attention. Because when I first saw the cover picture without reading the articles and words on it, I thought it’s just a holiday special cover, instead of a Windows 8 ad.

  2. Ziwei Guo says:

    Thanks Michelle for sharing this novel marketing campaign with us.

    I was also surprised when discovering this campaign was free. It’s amazing because this campaign involves well-known magazines such as Glamour, Vogue and The New Yorker, which enjoy big circulation and target different audience. As a result, Windows 8 can reach millions of Magazine viewers without paying a single dollar.

    In addition, the new look covers can certainly catch audience’s eyes as they are extremely different from the ordinary viewers. The loyal magazine buyers will definitely notice this change. So will casual magazine buyers as when they walk into the shop, they will find out several magazines’ covers are similar. Audience’s curiosity will be raised. Even there is no Windows 8 logo on the magazine cover, I believe a large number of people will have the initiative to discover it by reading through the magazine.

    What’s more, as Michelle has mentioned that the creative covers can not only show audience how personalized Windows 8 is but also target niche consumers as the the magazines involved in this campaign have different target audience.

    However, I am very curious about the reaction of the editors of the magazines involved in this campaign. Were they happy with this Windows 8 cover attachments in the first place? When I did some research online, I also found out that, ‘via unnamed sources, that some of the editors of the magazines involved in the Conde Nast-Microsoft deal were not happy with having to run the Windows 8 cover attachments’. I think this might be caused by the fact that the adoption of new covers could not match the magazine culture. For example, Glamour always uses beauty images in its cover, showing the glamor of women. But Windows 8 frame can hardly promote such association.

  3. Qingwei says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Unpaid ads about a computer system on print media is an intriguing topic for me. It is interesting to see how different magazines targeting distinct audiences under Conde Naste umbrella feature windows 8 on their covers. Print ads on magazine cover can always arrest my attention because its static visualization and special quality as papers. Although some magazines even change its convention in cover design for this program, we can still tell the style of the magazines because of the subtle disposition of connecting windows 8 to the topics in the magazines.

    What I care about is Conde Naste’s rationale for the unpaid part of this campaign. Newspaper and magazines are always trying to avoid consumers’ perception that their content are controlled or influenced by their ad marketers. The campaign of Windows 8 on magzines are actually partly-paid and partly-unpaid. I am curious about the rationale and how Conde Naste deal with the two parts.

  4. boweidon says:

    Thanks for the sharing. The collaboration is definitely a brilliant idea. Nowadays, both Windows and traditional magazine industry are confronted with huge challenges. It’s fair to say that they both passed their peak times. Conde Naste is an opportunity of mutual benefits.
    However I’m still curious about the targeted audiences. I’m not sure about whether there’s a lot overlap between Win 8’s targeted consumers and Vogue’s subscribers. In fact, for those who constantly talked about Windows 8 and surfaces around me, they basically don’t subscribe or buy any magazines at all. Even if they do, it’s “Wired” or something like that.

    • mtsang says:

      Thank for reading BoWei!

      I think Windows 8 works in any type of magazine, because their marketing message is that the Windows 8 start screen is so customizable that is can be personalized for anyone.

      Also, Conde Naste owns Wired magazine too, so Wired’s magazine has the Windows 8 cover this month as well.


  5. mtsang says:

    As an update, I just wanted to share something I read on AdAge today. It seems like the Windows 8 magazine print continues on in January issues, where they will be taking over content pages as well! Some people are shocked by this, as magazines always try to make sure the separation between advertising and editorial is transparent to protect magazines’ editorial credibility. I wonder if this is a first look on how advertising is beginning to change in magazine print!

  6. phmerrill says:

    Thank you, Michelle. That was an interesting post highlighting a novel and truly integrated avenue of marketing!

    I also noticed that with the advent of Windows 8, many newspaper advertising supplements for retailers have the Windows 8 startup screen shown on the screen of each new laptop. This continues, even though Windows 8 is no longer a new product. I think it’s a subtle way for retailers to say that consumers need to upgrade their hardware, if their computer is not running the latest (very different) operating system.

    -Paul Merrill