Microsoft Creates Unified Ad Brand, Expands Mobile Offerings

Microsoft SVP Brian McAndrews yesterday unveiled new mobile ad sales initiatives along with a new brand, Microsoft Advertising, to house all the company’s offerings to marketers.

The company is also planning to roll out a program to offer searchers cash back on the purchase of products discovered through its search interface. The move is partly an attempt to capture search share from Google, a more urgent goal in the wake of Microsoft’s aborted bid to acquire Yahoo.

Speaking at the company’s Advance08 advertising summit on its Redmond campus, McAndrews said the new brand will offer a “one stop shopping” experience for advertisers. The move is a baby step toward integrating the company’s many free-floating ad units, including aQuantive’s Avenue A/Razorfish, Atlas, and DrivePM brands; the AdECN exchange; and its own Search, MSN Network and MSN Ad Direct Response units.

To an extent, the brand consolidation is superficial. Internally those brands will continue to reside separately within the Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group, while Microsoft will use the Microsoft Advertising brand in its external business. “It’s designed to let customers know that we’re committed to making sense out of a complex environment, and that we have everything they need, all under one roof,” McAndrews said in a statement.

McAndrews also touched on enhancements to the company’s new Windows Live for Mobile environment, including the availability of display advertising on Windows Live Hotmail and Messenger for mobile in four markets: the U.S., U.K., France, and Spain. Microsoft claims 25 million people in the U.S. access Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Messenger on their mobile phones.

Microsoft also announced plans to offer mobile search advertisements on Live Search Mobile, currently in beta in the U.S. but scheduled for wider release in the second half of 2008. Advertisers will be able to create keyword campaigns through adCenter targeting users of Live Search Mobile.

More information is available at the Microsoft Advertising Web site.

In his presentation to some 400 advertisers, marketers, and industry professionals, McAndrews also discussed the signing of nearly 100 new publishers to the Microsoft platform, and key recent acquisitions such as those of Rapt, AdECN, and YaData, and the launch of Engagement Mapping, now in beta. Microsoft touts Engagement Mapping as a superior way to measure and optimize digital media spending, allowing advertisers to assign a share of conversions to non-search “touch points” and to assign them weight according to frequency, recency, ad size, and day part. McAndrews claimed the average user sees an average of 17 ads before clicking on one, but only the last one typically gets credit.

Advance08 will continue through tomorrow, with Live Search announcements due from SVP Satya Nadella, and an appearance by Bill Gates.

Details of the new Live Search cashback program were available yesterday at a Microsoft Web site.

Zach Rodgers contributed reporting.

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