3D Billboards Turn Up in Microsoft Mapping App

Microsoft has added three-dimensional cities to its Virtual Earth program, and made it accessible from live.com. Billboards or floating banner ads appear in the 15 cities available at launch.

Virtual Earth can be accessed from live.com by clicking on the maps tab when searching. The results in select cities return a rendering of an isometric view of the city’s buildings and streets. Initial cities include San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Philadephia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Detroit, Phoenix, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and Fort Worth. Terrain imagery in 3D is available for areas outside the detailed cities.

In the 15 cities, Microsoft is selling billboard ads similar to outdoor roadside advertising. Launch advertisers include Fox’s theatrical division, Zip Realty, Nissan, and John L. Scott. The experience is the culmination of technologies from Virtual Earth, Microsoft’s Massive in-game ad division and its Digital Advertising Solutions’ platform.

Massive’s contribution to the project is its first since Microsoft bought it earlier this year. It’s the unit’s first deployment outside of a video game product, according to a company spokesperson.

Plans for Virtual Earth were originally made known last year.

Microsoft plans to sell ads to a limited set of customers through its Microsoft Digital Advertising solutions program during a test period of the new ad types. “As we learn more about the performance of these ads for both the customer and the advertiser, we will work to broaden their availability and possibly offer our ads to all customers using our adCenter platform,” said the source.

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