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Former White House advisor tapped to join Microsoft

From the White House to Redmond, Mark Penn will join Microsoft as corporate vice president of strategic and special projects, the company announced today.

Penn is leaving his role as worldwide CEO of Burson-Marstellar and CEO of the polling firm Penn Schoen Berland LLC to lead a small team focussed on key consumer initiatives for Microsoft.

CEO Steve Ballmer, to whom Penn will report, praised the long-time Microsoft consultant, saying in a statement that Penn has "an incredible background in research, demographics, marketing and positioning and a proven history in developing unique insights that drive success."

Penn served as chief advisor to President Bill Clinton during the 1996 presidential election and to Hillary Rodham Clinton during her Senate and presidential runs. Penn also worked as a strategic consultant to companies like Ford, Merck & Co. Inc., Intel, and McDonald's. He has consulted with Microsoft as an advisor to Ballmer and Bill Gates since 1998.

In his new position, Penn will draw on experience in strategic development, branding, and positioning to develop ideas to keep the company on top of changing consumer needs, Microsoft said.

"I'm looking forward to applying my diverse skills and experience to some of the biggest new challenges in technology today, and there is no better place to do that than Microsoft," Penn said in a statement.

Former White House communications director and Clinton speechwriter Donald Baer will replace Penn at the helm of Burson-Marsteller, according to The Hill, which dubbed Penn "one of the best-known political and campaign strategists in Washington."

While Penn will continue to write about consumer, demographic, and social trends, he will not be involved in Microsoft public policy issues.

"With a strong set of products and an exciting pipeline for the next year, Mark's experience and out-of-the-box thinking will help us more effectively reach new consumers and grow market share," Ballmer said.

Image Credit: Mark Penn