MSN Gets Rich

Following the lead of rivals America Online and Yahoo , Microsoft’s MSN has become the latest major Internet portal to beef up its rich media advertising capabilities

Through partnerships with Eyeblaster and Point-Roll, the Redmond, Wash.-based ISP and Web publisher said it plans to increase the number of, and the efficacy of, interactive advertisements on its pages.

The agreements, terms of which were not disclosed, enable MSN to sell ads developed using Philadelphia-based Point-Roll’s drop-down interactivity and New York-based Eyeblaster’s “takeover,” full-page overlay, and interstitial animation.

Such rich media placements typically fetch a higher premium than do smaller and easier-to-ignore static ads — the chief reason that Yahoo and AOL Time Warner have undertaken similar efforts to offer the formats on their online services.

“To be effective, advertising needs to catch the attention of consumers — and that’s just what the new rich media offerings from MSN do, using formats and vendors many advertisers trust and already use,” said Joanne Bradford, vice president and chief media revenue officer at the portal.

For its part, MSN said it is ready to sell ads across the twelve most popular channels on its U.S. service, which include CNBC on MSN Money, MSNBC, Slate, and the portal’s automobile area, MSN Carpoint.

It also plans to add rich media to its 34 international sites, though it did not reveal when it might be expected to do so. MSN Hotmail will begin running rich media ads later in the fall.

The portal said it would take steps to ensure that rich media ads from different vendors don’t skirt frequency caps or appear in tandem because they’re being delivered from different ad systems.

The alliances also mark a change of pace for MSN, which in the past has relied on rich media technology that it’s developed in-house, in the form of its Next-Generation Ad Products. While MSN said it plans to promote its new partners’ formats heavily, it will continue to offer NGAP ads — some of which duplicate functions of Point-Roll and Eyeblaster ads — as a customized offering.

That thinking is rooted in the idea that by switching to third-party — and site-agnostic — solutions, MSN will encourage advertisers and agencies to develop rich media ads for its pages, since they’re already familiar with the formats.

“Placing rich media ads on MSN is extremely attractive now that MSN is working with the same rich media vendors we use,” said James Fabin, Internet marketing manager at Hyundai Motor America, one of the first advertisers to use the new formats on MSN. Carat Interactive’s Lot21 Studios handled the work for Hyundai.

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