Earlier this year, rumors swirled that Microsoft was mulling an $8 billion bid for Slack, a popular workplace collaboration product. If that deal had gone through, it would have been a pretty solid outcome for Slack, which has raised about $590 million in venture capital and was most recently valued as $3.8 billion with a $200 million round in April. That deal was reportedly vetoed by Bill Gates and Satya Nadella in favor of investing the money internally, and today, we saw the product of that investment: Microsoft Teams, which has a look and functionality that is strikingly similar to Slack.
In a curious move—or perhaps in an attempt to take some of the gusto out of Microsoft’s product launch—Slack took out a full-page ad in The New York Times welcoming Microsoft to the space and offering "advice" on how to be successful. The catch? The ad also manages to toot Slack's own horn in the process. The company provided a web version of the ad here.
That feeling when you think "we should buy a full page in the Times and publish an open letter," and then you do. 💫 pic.twitter.com/BQiEawRA6d— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) November 2, 2016
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has been at the end of some unconventional marketing tactics from a competing startup, and it continues a trend that has been playing out in Silicon Valley since the '90s. In an aggressive marketing strategy that took place in 2010, Box—then still very much a startup—famously took out billboard advertisements knocking Microsoft’s competing service, SharePoint. More recently, file-sharing company Hightail purchased a billboard taking a shot at competitor Dropbox.
Reaching a bit further back, business software provider Oracle got into a famous “Billboard War” with rival Informix in the mid-1990s. Between 1994 and 1997, both placed billboard advertisements along US Highway 101, which ran by the two companies' headquarters. The content ranged from harmless fun to mean-spirited, including an ad that took personal jabs at Oracle's CEO.
So, although Slack’s full-page ad may seem a bit weird, it can be seen as standard operating procedure in the whacky world of tech.