I’ve not long landed in Helsinki, Europe’s northernmost capital.  After a brief stop at the Hotel Klaus K I take a tram to the Siltenan restaurant to meet Jonathan Oliver, who is here, like me, for the opening night of Creative Social.

Where better than a city with design in its DNA and functionality in its form to hook up with a network of creative directors and digital innovators.

The tram eases its way north east through persistent drizzle, it’s getting dark while still early. The cloud accentuates the atmosphere and at this time of year the residents live most of the day in an eerie half light.

Jonathan “JC” Oliver is senior brand strategist who has worked for Microsoft for six years. He’s here to connect to the creative industry by participating in the event.

I take out my tablet and review the notes I made on Jonathan. “He worked at the BBC,” I read to myself, “He was part of the team who developed BBC.com, now the largest news site in Europe. After five years he went to The Economist to integrate new media thinking into an old print institution. From there he became UK managing director of Premium Publishers Online, before making the move to Microsoft Advertising.”

Siltenan is dark and the electro music is a distracting, usual Finnish mashup, but I soon recognize Jonathan from his Linkedin profile pic sitting at a table by the window.

After a few minutes of getting to know each others, I ask him what his mission at Microsoft is.

Jonathan Oliver, Jonathan JC Oliver
Jonathan Oliver

“I work with Microsoft’s top global clients on devising a digital strategy.  It’s my job to help brands understand what’s past, what’s now and what’s future across the industry and our platforms. With one foot in brand advertising, and the other in product marketing this gives me a unique insight to call where the future of the industry is heading.”

I ask “so, as products and platforms become more complex and prevalent your role is to decipher what this means for brands and people?”

“Yes, how tech has to learn about humans rather than humans about tech. It’s a role that is part planner, part technologist, part creative, part futurist, part cheerleader, part accountant of grey matter and of course part anarchist.”

“So really your role is to challenge the market and society to think about Microsoft as an enabler and an eco system for brands?” I add.

“Absolutely, most people don’t realise we’re more than a software company, that we connect millions of people every day.” He points to Skype on his Nokia and adds: “With Skype we’re on a mission to bring the world’s people together through video and to promote relationships.  It has 330 million monthly users – it’s bigger than Twitter….not many people realise that.”

“With all the different Microsoft platforms available today like Windows 8, Nokia, MSN, Skype, Bing and Xbox, have you managed to integrate all platforms for an advertiser?” I ask.

Jonathan takes a sip from his Lapin Kulta beer before explaining. “For the Hobbit movie we conceived an online brand experience that offered fans new ways to take part in the 3D adventure. For the first time we created an ad experience in Windows 8 where you can download and 3D print a collectable key, download the first movie or book tickets.”

“Impressive,” I say, “that’s what I call a ‘consumer first’ experience.”

“Yes, and that’s where we want to be in the future.” He adds: “There was a lot of hype around Facebook’s 10th birthday, Microsoft has been around for 38 years. These days we’re striving to be a brand that integrates into people’s lives at home, work and on the go. We’re much more than just an operating system.”

By Mark Terry-Lush, CoolBrands Curator UK

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