As an industry, we spend a lot of time talking about native advertising and building better user experiences. Ads that are intrusive, inauthentic or not useful are not going to make consumers feel closer to or better about a brand. So, the big question is, how can digital advertisers deliver more compelling, contextual and meaningful ad experiences? To begin with, Microsoft believes the industry needs to shift from a marketer and device centric view to one that genuinely puts consumers first.
At Microsoft Advertising, our intent is to put consumer needs and motivations at the center of every ad experience we deliver. Core to doing this is going beyond tracking what people do to unearthing the why driving their behavior. We have also realized that a consumer-first approach to advertising requires putting in place a rigorous test and learn program to assess ad experiences directly with consumers and optimize on the back of what they tell us. Considering that Ads in Apps for Windows 8 are so new, we saw these as a perfect opportunity to test and learn early in the development phase.
To ensure Windows 8 creates meaningful connections between consumers and brands with in-app ads, we recently collaborated with Nielsen to run two studies. The first kicked off a dialogue with consumers at Nielsen’s MediaLabs to gather in-the-moment feedback on the Windows 8 ad experience. But, we want to go deeper – and figured why not match an innovative new ad experience with an innovative research approach? So, for the second phase, we used Nielsen’s NeuroFocus approach to actually measure brain impulses that gauge consumers’ subconscious reactions to Windows 8 ads. Here is a video highlighting what we did:
What we love about the NeuroFocus approach is that we can actually see how engaged consumers are with the Windows 8 in-app ads, and whether the ads are triggering an emotional reaction. It’s pretty exciting to be able to move beyond just asking people what they think of the ad (i.e. is it engaging? Attractive? Interesting? Does it make you want to buy something?) to checking actual brain responses. Self-reported responses are not always very enlightening or accurate. But the brain impulse responses were very illuminating.
So, what did we learn about the effectiveness of Ads in Apps for Windows 8 from people? The most interesting result from my perspective is that brands advertised in Windows 8 apps experienced a halo effect, e.g. advertising on Windows 8 drives perceptions that the advertised brands are more interesting, innovative and compelling because they are being showcased in a new, interesting ad platform. The unique design approach of Windows 8, which allows for an immersive app experience, while being non-intrusive is a key driver of that. Other findings included:
- Windows 8 is an effective platform for digital advertising: consumers exposed to Ads in Apps shift their perceptions of the advertised brand, and we see bumps in brand familiarity, affinity and purchase consideration.
- The Ads in Apps campaigns are seen as contextually relevant to adjacent content – and this drives positive brand recall in a meaningful, non-intrusive way. The flip side to delivering seamless contextual content is that it can take a while for consumer to actually spot the ad. This is a great learning for us – and we need to explore creative tactics to call attention to the ad without sacrificing the non-intrusive experience.
We will be taking these learnings into consideration as we continue to evolve our advertising experiences to put the consumer first. Expect more details from these studies over the next month as we share updates on Ads in Apps for Windows 8 at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
Stay tuned for more insights as we continue to roll out our test and learn approach.