Wow, what a great couple of days it has been in NYC here at Advertising Week! I always tell people that one of the best parts of my job is when I get to roll up my sleeves and interact with customers and other thought leaders, within and outside Microsoft. There has been no shortage of thought leadership this week. Whether it’s listening to Jaron Lanier, Partner Architect with Microsoft Research , talk about the human brain, virtual reality and the future of advertising; or watching Bill Buxton, Principal Scientist at Microsoft Research, discuss how technology is expanding the way brands are experienced; or sitting in on any of the other presentations being made in NYC by the brightest minds in advertising, I come away energized about our industry’s future.
On the subject of presentations…earlier today I gave one of my own at the Times Center. It was a blast. I love seeing reactions of what folks in the industry think about what we are doing. Here’s a snapshot of what I covered in my presentation, which focused on a few key themes: momentum for IAB Rising Star formats on our properties; a new form of digital marketing called “Polymorphic Advertising;” some great Xbox content news; and our views on social advertising. At a top level, it was a chance to share my thoughts on the increasing complexity of digital advertising and how brands can break through the clutter to push their stories forward.
In New York City this week “storytelling” has gotten a lot of attention – and rightfully so. Marketers are increasingly looking for ways to weave stories that connect brands to consumers, and they need companies like Microsoft Advertising to help them do that. However, as we all know, the complexity of digital advertising continues to be daunting for many marketers. More than a few customers have come to me saying, “I feel like a CTO, not a CMO.” Frankly, this is not where we need to be as an industry. We must simplify the process of digital advertising if we are to help enable the continued migration of offline media dollars online. One way to do this is for technology providers like Microsoft to be okay with letting technology live in the background and letting our partners focus on what is important - telling their stories in unique and interesting ways. Technology is a means to an end. The “story is the star.”
IAB Rising Stars Update
One of the ways we’re helping simplify things is through our participation in the IAB Rising Stars program. Last spring, we launched two award-winning formats of our own: the IAB Filmstrip and IAB Sidekick. We’ve seen tremendous results with the IAB Filmstrip, which has appeared in 15 markets worldwide in just six months since its launch. Currently, the IAB Filmstrip, IAB Billboard, IAB Pushdown and IAB Sidekick are available across the MSN Homepage globally, as well as vertically in MSN’s US Channels. In addition, we are in the process of launching the IAB Slider and IAB Portrait worldwide on MSN. This means we will have all six IAB Rising Stars formats available on MSN by the end of 2011.
Introducing Polymorphic Advertising
Another area I touched on in my presentation today is the difficulty advertisers have in scaling advertisements across multiple devices, each with unique interactive capabilities that can be utilized for storytelling. We know - intuitively and empirically - that multi-screen advertising works. But is it cost effective when each device has different capabilities and complex interface specifications that the advertiser must spend precious resources on to figure out? The answer is no.
To turn that negative into a positive, what if advertisers had an advertising solution that acted like water; so dynamic it could seamlessly take the form of any container, and reflect the unique characteristics of the vessel. In our case, the vessel is the device (PC, Phone, Xbox 360, etc.). To be successful, the solution would need to take on many (poly) shapes (morphic). Hence the term, Polymorphic Advertising.
Polymorphic Advertising occurs when advertisers give us their “water,” i.e. creative assets (videos, copy, images or logos), and then our technology assembles the assets so they fit the vessel, i.e. the ad format. By doing this, ads are not only consistent and convey a story on multiple screens without having to be re-designed for each format, but they also reflect the unique interactive characteristics of the device they appear on. I am very excited about the possibilities that Polymorphic Advertising presents our customers. We expect to roll out ad formats that have polymorphic capabilities very soon.
Advertising within Xbox 360
The updates on IAB formats and Polymorphic advertising weren’t the only topics I covered today in my presentation. Just prior to my speech, our partners at Xbox announced a unique entertainment partnership. In short, nearly 40 entertainment partners, in more than 20 countries, have agreed to deliver their content on Xbox LIVE beginning this holiday. The lineup includes Bravo, Comcast, HBO GO, Verizon FiOS and Syfy in the U.S.; BBC in the U.K., Telefónica in Spain; Rogers On Demand in Canada; Televisa in Mexico; ZDF in Germany; and MediaSet in Italy . Also, for the first time, advertisers will be able to purchase 30 second TV spots within entertainment content on Xbox Live, reaching over 35 Million Xbox Live members.
Related to this development, I was pleased to share the stage with Greg Rivera, Director of Business Development from our Xbox LIVE team, as he demoed the powerful work Xbox is doing with its NUads format. Using the power of Kinect for Xbox 360, NUads gives brands the opportunity to create immersive experiences that consumers can interact with. In the future, our advertising partners can expect further integration between Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7 and traditional PC buys.
Social: Our Perspective.
Last, but definitely not least, I shared our take on social advertising. Simply put, we need to make it easy for marketers to discover the everyday stories that people are telling about products they love, and ensure those stories are being heard by a larger audience. These stories can be communicated in a variety of ways: ratings and reviews, discussions boards, tweets or even user generated videos. Whatever the format, we want to make it easy for marketers to use these real interactions with their brands to complement the overall story they are trying to tell. Ultimately, we see social as a tool - not the end game. It should be used to drive discussions with consumers in a variety of different scenarios on ads around the web. We will have more on this to share soon.
As you can see, my goal at AdWeek was to show the definitive steps Microsoft is taking to simplify the technology behind digital advertising and help put marketers’ stories in the forefront. Much of what I showed today (Polymorphic, NUads and our social view) are in the early stages of development; however, I do think the path has been laid to help marketers take their storytelling forward, amplifying their connections with consumers, while we look to lower their overall cost of advertising digitally.
Jennifer Creegan – Microsoft Advertising