Greg Nelson
Posted on 6/12/2014

It is no secret that consumers are rapidly changing the way they use technology to get things done, consume digital media and connect with loved ones. In fact, U.S. consumers spend, on average, 5-plus hours a day accessing the internet on a variety of devices, not just the PC.Consumers switch between multiple devices at different moments – they may wake up and check their schedule on a mobile phone, switch to a PC at work, check in with friends via Skype on a tablet and then unwind in the evening by streaming music and video through their Xbox.

At Microsoft, we develop technology that aims to empower us all. Keeping connected with loved ones via Skype, reading news on MSN, getting work done with Windows 8 and Bing, sending an email to a friend, or enjoying downtime through Xbox are just a few of the many examples that embody this spirit of empowerment.

We know that advertisers want a simple way to reach consumers to tell their stories across the right devices at the right time. We also strongly believe that anything we can do to improve ad relevance and increase the “engagement factor” overall for consumers is critically important to the success of any digital ad campaign.

According to data released in February 2014 by Conversant, 59% of US senior-level marketers and agency decision-makers cited cross-device advertising as a digital channel they planned to use this year. That said, cross-device advertising can be a complicated, costly endeavor that the industry is still trying to come to grips with. According to eMarketer, 70% of US agency media professionals cited cross-device advertising as the top industry trend they wanted to learn more about this year.

Our vision for cross-screen advertising is to help marketers execute seamlessly across devices (PC, phone, tablet, TV, console), and do so in a way that strengthens the connection between brands and consumers. Over the next year, we will help deliver on the promise of quality engagement across screens, while at the same time reducing some of the waste that comes with ads that are ill-timed, poorly sequenced or simply irrelevant.

Today, we’re taking the cover off a couple of foundational features essential to delivering a multi-screen offering. These features, available today to advertisers in the US (and later this year in certain markets outside the US) are Creative Sequencing and Frequency Controls.

Creative Sequencing

Executing an ad campaign on one digital screen at a time is certainly doable, but it can be costly and inefficient, especially if your target audience can be found on multiple screens, as so many consumers today are. We’ve heard from marketers that they need a more precise way of telling stories across devices and screens in a sequenced fashion. To help achieve this goal, we have developed Creative Sequencing, which allows brands to tell different “chapters” of their advertising story or campaign in logical order across various screens that are most relevant to a consumer at any point in time. Here’s an example:

Sequence One: Creative on mobile to generate awareness.


Sequence Two: Placement on a PC to build interest based off exposure to first piece of creative.


Sequence Three: Drive call to action on a tablet in final chapter of campaign story.

In the past, we were unable to sequence ads across screens with the precision that advertisers need. Today, thanks to some feature improvements we’ve made to our systems, we can offer advertisers much greater precision that guarantees that if they have, for example, three or four variations of an ad, they can be shown to a consumer in exactly the order intended, with an exact number of showings per ad also guaranteed.

Frequency Controls

On the subject of ad frequency, currently most marketers are forced to work in silos when attempting to reach consumers on multiple screens. Getting the “ad dosage” right can be challenging. They often create an individual maximum, or cap, for the number of times a consumer is exposed to their creative. Marketers have to place these caps individually across each screen, such as PC, mobile or game console. This is clunky to manage and can lead to wasted impressions for advertisers and “ad blindness” for consumers. Simply put, ad blindness occurs when a consumer sees or hears a certain ad so many times that it becomes annoying and is eventually ignored entirely – the death knell for any ad campaign. With Frequency Controls, we are able to help advertisers manage a single cap for all screens (and ads) a person may interact with throughout the day.

The benefit to advertisers is that they have an improved opportunity to deliver creative, well-sequenced advertising experiences without alienating consumers in the process. The benefit to the consumer is fewer instances of being bombarded with the same ad that has outlived its usefulness, regardless of which device or on what service they may see the ad. The benefit to both is that we can move digital advertising closer to that place where it is more about engagement than distraction.

Better Ad Experiences, Same Commitment to Consumers

We’re rolling out these features so that advertisers can more effectively reach their desired audiences across multiple devices within a single campaign. It is also important to note that we have made these feature improvements without in any way compromising consumer privacy and/or the opt-out options our consumers have long expected from us.

More to come…

The breadth of our consumer device ecosystem, our commitment to responsible use of consumer data, and our belief that technologic innovation should benefit the consumer, fuels our multi-screen vision. Microsoft offers an incredibly rich portfolio of assets that allows marketers to effectively engage with consumers, including Xbox, Skype, MSN, Windows 8, Bing apps and That means we are able to deliver opportunities for quality engagement between advertisers and consumers, in the mind-sets that truly matter.

We encourage brands to take multi-screen advertising up a notch with us, and look forward to sharing more details about how brands can use these capabilities at the Cannes Lions 2014 next week. We’ll be building on our multi-screen solutions in the coming months and bringing more markets and additional features online that will continue to make it easier for brands to weave their story together for consumers across multiple screens and devices.

We look forward to helping shape the future of advertising and seeing just how far we can go together.

Greg Nelson, GM Display Advertising, Microsoft

1. Nielsen, “The Cross Platform Report”, Q3 2012—US

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