MSN Unveils Interactive Banners

Microsoft’s MSN portal is rolling out several new banner ad technologies to attract advertisers and, it said, to deliver greater control and creative flexibility to online marketers.

The company said its newest ad types, which it terms “enRiched,” are designed to help marketers and advertisers design cost-effective rich media campaigns, enhance online marketing and expand the traditional banner space via interactivity within ads.

The interactivity allows advertisers to use a template to create ads with scrolling features to showcase different products, or which include features that enable users to browse through a product catalog, contained entirely within the banner.

“Any solution that allows us to address one person differently than another — thats mass customization,” said Stan Weinstein, interactive media manager for the Interactive Brand Center at Unilever, which is using the ads. “The new enRiched ad solutions from MSN are designed to help us do that.”

Another enRiched ad enlarges when a user scrolls over the ad to reveal a large graphic — allowing advertisers to repurpose print creatives for the Web. Other templates let advertisers create “scratch-off” promotions, or expand to allow consumers to fill in forms for newsletter subscriptions, without leaving the Web page.

The program “merges offline strategy with online strategy [and] it allows e-tailers enhanced merchandising abilities,” said MSN Sales marketing manager Mike Siegenthaler. “With interactivity in the ad, it cuts the steps from click to consume. It gives consumers more relevant information, quicker.”

MSN said these features allow advertisers to squeeze more product information or attractive or useful functionality into the confines of a standard banner.

“MSN Sales’ enRiched Ad Program is designed to push the technology envelope while increasing interactivity for online ads,” said Michael Hurt, product manager for MSN Sales. The program “is another example of how MSN Sales is working with advertisers, marketers and ad agencies to deliver effective interactive campaigns.”

But what might appeal most to advertisers is the cost for the interactivity — nothing. MSN is allowing advertisers to plug their creative elements into ads on the portal for no additional cost — that is, no additional cost beyond an ad buy.

The new technology indicates how MSN is leveraging Microsoft’s brand in reaching out to online marketers. Siegenthaler said that Microsoft would also be offering outsourced enRiched ad technology in some form to advertisers.

This would mean that customers can recycle the technology for use on other publishers’ sites, so they aren’t stuck building creative that will only run on MSN.

“We’re providing technology solutions to traditional advertising companies,” Siegenthaler said. “We have a technology heritage, and we … are using Microsoft technology to enhance their experience as advertisers.”

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