MSN Launches AdCenter Overseas

NEW YORK – Microsoft’s MSN has launched its paid search service in France and Singapore, according to the portal’s SVP Yusuf Mehdi.

Mehdi described the service, which is powered by MSN’s in-development adCenter platform, during his keynote address at the kick-off of Advertising Week in New York.

The features resemble those now available through Google AdSense and Yahoo Search Marketing, but with some twists. They include a manual keyword selection tool, a “site analyzer” keyword suggestion module, demographic targeting, and assistance with budget allocation. The launches — today in France and on August 31 in Singapore — follow pilot programs in both countries.

The service is the first component of a total ad management platform that the Microsoft will use to sell media across all its channels and properties. Mehdi said adCenter will offer media planning and buying across everything from Web to email to interactive TV.

Mehdi admitted the current functionality is “paid search as you know it today, but we introduced better audience intelligence. You can do amazing research even before you start a campaign.”

He said, for instance, that wine marketers in the French beta have called up detailed demographic information on who searches for “vin” (wine) by age.

During his address, Mehdi also commented on a recent reorganization at Microsoft, which brought MSN together under the same umbrella as Windows. He said advertising sales would get a much higher priority at the company.

“Advertising is no longer an MSN effort,” he said. “It’s a Microsoft effort. [We will] bring advertising into all of our experiences, whether it’s a Windows experience or an Office experience.” He said platforms such as Microsoft TV, Xbox 360 and phones would also be likely targets to display advertising.

Beta users of MSN adCenter have reported overall good experiences with the platform, sharing their impressions in a forum thread hosted by WebMasterWorld.com. They particularly like its easy of use and research and targeting tools, but characterize the budget allocation features as a bit weak. One post cited a “targeted bidding” function that lets marketers deliver ads to users in a specific location, or those searching during a specific day-part or day-of-week.

MSN is expected to begin an invitation-only U.S. beta of adCenter next month.

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