MSN’s AdCenter: More than Just Keyword Advertising

Ina Fried’s excellent overview article: Microsoft’s ad pitch underpins Net moves, offers a look at Redmond’s foray into selling search advertising (and beyond) with their AdCenter program.

What We Already Knew
Being beta tested in Singapore, France, and in a limited “invite only” pilot in the U.S. with a long line of people wanting in.

On Future Plans

“I will admit we were late,” Microsoft’s [Joanne] Bradford said. “If we are going to catch up in any meaningful way, differentiating and adding value was critical.”

Earlier this week posted about MSN’s new CTO, Ray Ozzie, telling “Microsofties” that “we knew search would be important.”

Later, Bradford tells that MS hopes to serve display ads on Windows Live and Office Live and then is considering sending ads (they better be careful here) to mobile devices and Xboxes.

“Today, it’s keyword,” said Joanne Bradford, Microsoft’s chief media revenue officer. “We believe in the future it will be about display (ads), video and all that is advertising.”

“There is a significant growth opportunity for us, as we tap into the growing market for online advertising,” CEO Steve Ballmer said at this week’s shareholder meeting at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters. “There will really only be a few big players in the online advertising market, and our company aims to be, and will be, one of them.”

How Will adCenter do it?

Microsoft’s effort to outflank its main rivals is centered on giving advertisers more targeted information about the people it is serving up advertising to–things like age, gender and ZIP code, as well as the time an ad will be delivered, and other data.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Google, YSM, and the new Ask Jeeves/IAC program will sit still (ha!) and also not expand to offer this type of info.

Differentiations: On Targeting
In a pitch to a consumer goods company this week, Bradford pointed out the difference between what Microsoft is offering and today’s keyword search. Buying the keyword “bleach,” she said, would seem to be a targeted purchase for someone that makes the household product. But, Bradford said, two-thirds of the people who query on that term are men aged 18 to 34. It turns out that many of the searchers are looking for a popular form of Japanese animation that also goes by the term “bleach.”

More from MS’s Bradford

Today’s search ads make no distinction of who is doing the searching. “Right now, we’re just firehosing everybody,” Bradford said.

Giving and Getting More Demographic Info

Chris Winfield from 10e20 says, “I’m willing to pay more if I know that I am getting a demographic,” Winfield said. “This is where paid search is going–it’s getting more personalized and more localized. With that will come higher prices.”

Winfield goes on to say said that Microsoft’s demographic abilities are far from perfect, but says even information that is 25 percent accurate is useful. “I’d still rather that, than the zero percent Google is giving,” he said.

Fried’s excellent overview article goes on to talk about what Google and Yahoo are up to.

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