Microsoft ‘Polymorphic’ Advertising to Enable Creative Shape-Shifting

A cross-platform ad production concept from Microsoft aims to let advertisers go with the flow.

Microsoft hasn’t firmed up the technology, which it calls Polymorphic Advertising, nor the business model at this point, according to Jennifer Creegan, general manager of brand advertising at Microsoft. The pilot is expected to launch in the spring and general availability in fall 2012.

The “polymorphic” idea is that creative assets used in cross-platform campaigns will be able to take whatever shape is needed to reach consumers on different screens. In the first iteration, creatives will upload their assets in aspect ratio, select a template for putting them together, and select services such as a mapping feature.

For example, an agency working on an automotive account could add the ability to show smartphone users a map with the nearest dealership. Instead of having to code in the map scenario, the producer would simply select the map service. Polymorphic Advertising would then automatically compile or assemble the ad.

“It will be very simple at the beginning. The goal is that it’s a dashboard where you can submit your assets and see how it will look. It will automate a lot of the busy work of advertising,” Creegan says.

Creegan says that Microsoft is working with the creative and agency community to define features and work flow. The tool will be HTML5-based, with many different technologies underneath. The plan is to make the toolset broadly available to the advertising community.

Microsoft has two goals for the service: Letting creatives focus on creative instead of production and making ad creation more efficient. The goal is to halve production costs over the next three years.

Over time, Polymorphic Advertising will work for all digital screens. At launch, it will support ad creation for the PC, Xbox and mobile phone, with expanding capability over time. Creegan imagines that it will be agnostic as to smartphone operating systems, but Microsoft is still evaluating that.

Microsoft also announced this week that it will expand its entertainment offerings on Xbox Live. During the holiday season, 40 international TV and entertainment providers, including Bravo, HBO GO and Syfy in the U.S., BBC in the U.K., and Telefónica in Spain, will begin rolling out entertainment services to the console in more than 20 countries.

Combining TV and entertainment with the Kinect gestural interface and Bing voice search will let Xbox Live users switch from games to live TV to TV on-demand by speaking commands, the company said. They will also be able to find content by speaking their search queries.

Microsoft’s sales team will sell 30-second, run-of-Xbox ads for this content, including, next spring, NUads. Announced in June, NUads let advertisers add an interactive layer to ads; people can interact with them using Kinect’s voice and gestural controls. Microsoft did not announce any brands taking part in the pilot, but they will enable advertisers to add market research, lead generation and social media sharing to their spots.

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