Ballmer, who took control of the direction of the world's largest software company following founder Bill Gates's retirement last summer, follows in the footsteps of previous recipients such as Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the former chief executive of Independent News & Media; Lachlan Murdoch; Viacom's chairman and chief executive, Sumner Redstone; and the Italian prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.
"This is a time of sweeping innovation and transformation in advertising and publishing and there are incredible opportunities to use technology to deliver more value to both advertisers and consumers," said Ballmer.
He will be presented with the award at this year's festival, for which Guardian News & Media is the official UK representative, on 24 June during the press, design and Cyber Lions awards for advertising.
Philip Thomas, the chief executive of the festival, said that Ballmer had a "passionate and dynamic personality" – perhaps best summed up by his remarkable "monkey dance" in 2006 expressing his love of Microsoft – and had "touched the lives of millions and changed the face of worldwide communication".
In January, Ballmer, who joined Microsoft in 1980 when the company had just 24 employees and became chief executive in 2000, made the decision to cut 5,000 jobs to cope with the sharp downturn in technology spending during the recession.
Microsoft has been a sponsor of the Cannes International Advertising festival since 2002. The sponsorship deal expires following the festival in 2010.