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Microsoft has joined Dell by asking customers to continue paying them during the recession rather than slash spending on IT.

The company is spending a reported $150m on an ad campaign that updates its three-year-old "people ready business" message with the "it's everybody's business" slogan.

Microsoft called its television, online, and print blitz "very specific about the toll of a down economy on business, and how software and IT can help".

The company is promoting its customer relationship management, virtualization, business intelligence, collaboration, and unified communications systems.

Microsoft is also using peer leadership pressure from those regarded as business success stories for having invested in IT to steady customers' nerves.

The campaign features the chief marketing officer and chief executive of consumer dream clients Coca Cola and Quicksilver to explain that the "right enterprise software in the right places can help entire companies come together to drive business results."

Microsoft's campaign has been built by agency JWT and is designed, Microsoft said, to be a more straight forward and informative set of ads than those from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, intended to revive the flagging Windows brand in the wake of Vista.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky, revered for having breathed life into such struggling brands as Burger King, conceived the "I'm a PC" rejoinder to Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads.

It's a familiar tactic during a recession or slow down for IT companies to evangelize the business benefits of technology, as customers cut budgets in the face of declining revenues or economic uncertainty. Vendors claim that investing in the "right" systems will position you for growth once the economy turns, by lowering costs and letting you become more responsive to customers.

The catch, naturally, is what is meant by "right", as opposed to simply buying what product your supplier has to offer.

Dell started the ball rolling when its chief executive last year argued the way to survive the recession was to buy more Dell hardware. Microsoft is pushing software.

Microsoft will no doubt be alarmed by the fact that other vendors' customers are cutting projects designed to improve the way they run their business.

but then tech companies who've deployed their own systems and claim to be more efficient as a result are struggling just like everyone else, and are looking for ways to control their costs.

Some have announced massive cuts, others are thought to be planning cuts, while still more tech companies are either going ahead with cuts and restructuring or are taking creative ways to trim the fat - here and here.

Microsoft, for its part, is not immune, having reportedly instituted a hiring freeze, frozen expansions plans and thought to be planning staff cuts.

And don't forget that buying the software is one thing - implementation is another. IT projects can - and do - go wrong, creating delays and escalating costs that crush those promised returns on investment.

That can potentially be sustained in the good times. But in a recession, you're going to look bad when the system that was designed to confer competitive advantage starts going over budget at a time when your bosses are trying to save money. ®

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