Microsoft’s Scott Howe Gets Laughs at IAB, But Conflict Fears Persist

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Scott Howe managed to make the current crisis of falling ad prices funny today in his speech before 400 or so publishers at the IAB’s annual meeting in Orlando today. In a bit called “Why the Green Bay Packers are smarter than us,” Microsoft’s corporate VP, advertiser and publisher solutions speculated that if the online ad industry owned the Packers, the team’s biggest star would make the full $98 million in salaries paid to the whole team. In actuality, two of the team’s relatively anonymous defensive ends are better paid.

You get the analogy. The Web’s unsung heroes (premium media brands) do the heavy lifting, and are entitled to more of the total ad spend. The star (search) should get less.

Howe then made an impassioned plea for publishers to work with Microsoft’s Atlas Institute ad research unit to determine the advertising impact generated by their sites. “If you want to know how your site did in helping, you call and we’ll hammer it out,” he said.

But Howe couldn’t entirely escape the conflict of interest issues facing a company that is not only an ad platform, but also a major publisher AND a global ad agency.

One example: When he said publishers must resist advertiser demands to cut prices further, someone shouted from the audience, “Tell Avenue A!”

Howe took the jab in good humor, but a few minutes later was forced onto the defensive again, when IAB President Randy Rothenberg asked him if Microsoft’s invitation to publishers isn’t really “a case of the fox in the hen house.”

Howe acknowledged the point, and once again told digital media firms not to worry — that he’s on THEIR side. “Having a better forecasting engine is good for all of us,” he said. “There are no ulterior motives here.”

Earlier today Scott talked with ClickZ about Microsoft’s move to integrate its sprawling ad network and media holdings into a single platform called Microsoft Media Network. Read our full coverage.

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