There’s no doubt that technology is rapidly changing the world of advertising. The lines between traditional and digital media are blurring, dramatically shifting ways messages are bought and sold, created, delivered and measured.
Since joining Microsoft Advertising last December, I’ve been living and breathing digital with a team of experts who view this shift as a huge opportunity for the digital advertising industry and Microsoft specifically. We see this shift in real-time, and with it, we also see opportunity and potential: Technology is a means to an end, but for consumers, the story will always be the star.
So, how do you use these changes to provide dynamic, captivating advertising that harnesses both new technology and the power of story to speak directly to consumers when and where they want to be spoken to?
That’s what I aim to show you, but first, it’s important to understand the trends which are currently reshaping the industry: fragmentation, the rise of customization, and creativity as a differentiator.
The influx of electronic gadgets Canadians own are up nearly 20 per cent in the past four years, and the rise of online, on-demand and over-the-top content services gives us more choice than ever before.
According to IDC Canada, 21.5% of households across Canada connect their TV to the Internet through a gaming console, while 21.3% connect their TV to the internet through a computer, and 4.3% connect through a Digital Media Adapter (i.e a Roku Box). When someone is watching Breaking Bad on Netflix via their Xbox console, is it considered television viewing or online video consumption?
In addition, the way people use devices while accessing content is also changing as “multi-screening”, or the use of multiple screens simultaneously, has become the new norm. In fact, according to our most recent Cross Screen Engagement Study (CSES), seven out of 10 Canadians now use a second device in some capacity while watching television. This media multitasking is great for consumers, but with people dividing their attention between screens, the pressure is on for advertisers to create compelling, engaging experience that spans devices and content delivery.
This is why Microsoft Advertising advocates a multi-layered approach to content distribution, with a focus on portable, personal and interactive engagement across desktops and laptops, tablets, mobile phones and the Xbox gaming console. By using platforms such as Skype, Windows 8, MSN and Xbox, we’re able to build consistent and cohesive experiences from the ground up, giving advertisers the ability to reach incredibly targeted audiences.
The rise of customization
It’s no longer enough to buy a 30-second spot within the linear broadcast of The Big Bang Theory and expect to reach your audience all at once. Advertisers must now deliver value and authentic content appropriate to a multitude of platforms to win over consumers.
This means taking a holistic approach to your content strategy, adjusting advertising to fit the consumer’s multi-screen behaviour, and the context of how they use each device. For instance, in the morning consumers tend to be more task-focused and in the evening hours, simultaneous screen usage kicks into high gear. It’s important to tailor your campaign to get the right fit.
At Microsoft Advertising, we know that during the day, it’s important to connect people with commercial content that can be consumed in small bites via Bing and casual gaming apps. Then in the evening, they have time to deeply explore content and ads through Windows 8 Ads in Apps, MSN Video and interactive rich media ad units such IAB rising stars like the Filmstrip.
Eighty-seven per cent of consumers enjoy being able to check out products or brands at their leisure, (CSES 2013). So we know that multi-screening consumers are open to the right kind of advertising, delivered on the right device at the right time.
Creativity as the differentiator
Even if the ad is delivered to the right person, at the right place and the right time, the ad itself still has to speak to the audience. Creativity is critical to engage, romance and entertain – and if you miss this, you’re lost.
Today, consumers want authentic, relevant and engaging experiences, and in this area, digital far outshines traditional media in its ability to offer a more in-depth brand experience. Through platforms such as Xbox LIVE, products like Kinect and advertising solutions like NUads,Microsoft Advertising goes beyond standard banners and challenging what both a broadcast ad and digital ad can be.
One great example from last year is when we worked with Boston Pizza to create an Xbox LIVE avatar of the their brand ambassador Terry Peters to promote the restaurant chain’s new “All Meat Wings.” This avatar could “friend” and interact with users on the Xbox LIVE platform, providing Boston Pizza with a unique way to connect and engage with consumers. This was a media first in the Canadian market, and one that advertisers would be smart to duplicate.
Xbox LIVE is just one facet of a multi-screen strategy that advertisers can use to brings messages to PCs, mobile devices and TVs, ensuring they reach consumers wherever they are, no matter what they are doing. Marketers should also consider using Windows 8 Apps and Skype, which is available on multiple devices and has a vast user base that is diverse, socially active and highly influential – the very people brands are trying to reach.
So what’s next?
Today, we can build solutions across a rich brand canvas of compelling devices and services united by a common, modern user experience which hosts a multitude of apps and where social and sharing are native to the experience. This has the potential to provide an incredible canvas from which to enable the industry’s creative talents and assets to shine.
But, we must always remember to keep coming back to the consumer – listening to their needs and desires, their dislikes and concerns – and always putting them first. With Xbox LIVE, Skype, Bing, MSN, and Windows 8, we have many direct lines to consumer consciousness, but we must keep striving to tell brand stories in the most unique, personal and interesting ways.
Great advertising revolves around great storytelling. That’s one thing that will never change.
For more information about the advertising opportunities available with Microsoft, please visit advertising.microsoft.com.
Robert Jenkyn, Head of Creative Solutions, Microsoft Advertising Canada