Microsoft bids to 'reinvent' digital ads

Microsoft is setting out a vision to “reinvent” and improve the industry standard for digital and mobile advertising to help improve the way all operating system companies serve ads to consumers on personal devices.

Windows 8

The company is hoping that rivals such as Apple and Google will be inspired by its recently launched Windows 8, which has set out a strategy to make make digital advertising more relevant and less intrusive to consumers.

Microsoft claims it is the first company in the sector to take a “co-creation” approach when building out apps and ads within apps within Windows 8. It partnered with eight brands - including Paramount and Dell - and six agencies - including Razorfish, AKQA and Y&R - to co-develop the launch apps and ads within them for the platform.

Other marked differences between Windows 8 and its competitors include the “live tiles” homepage format that allows app owners to constantly update the app icon with information. Ads within apps on Windows 8 are also of a larger size than competitor OS formats, which Microsoft says is deliberate to ensure ads become part of the experience rather than an interruption.

Andy Hart, general manager of advertising and online at Microsoft Advertising UK, told Marketing Week: “Ads in apps are in a new era. We’re now coming to the times when postbox banners and buttons are for the history books. No-one knows how they worked and they were judged on the last click, which is not the right attribution model. We’re focused on building relevant and useful adverts that are contextual.”

Hart adds that Microsoft’s “leadership position” - owing to its strength across all devices, from desktop to Xbox - gives the company the opportunity to “take a leap of faith” and help the entire industry “put the consumer in control”. He also hopes Microsoft can help lead the industry towards using more relevant “return on engagement” metrics, rather than the current click-based analysis.

Jennifer Creegan, Microsoft’s general manager of brand advertising and online services, reiterated Hart’s point, saying that ads need to evolve to give consumers more say in what relevance means to them.

She adds: “We are looking to re-invent what standard advertising is in the app ecosystem and bring new levels of standard experience. It would be a huge opportunity to be known for changing design and quality across digital marketing. It’s a bold goal but it’s not out of our reach.”

The move could accelerate the growth of mobile ad spend, which currently only accounts for a small proportion of marketing budgets. Mobile spend grew 132 per cent to £181.5 million in the first half of 2012, according to the IAB and PwC, while overall digital spend grew 12.6 per cent to £2.6bn.

Microsoft launched Windows 8, the new operating system for desktop computers and compatible mobile phones and tablets last month. It is reported to have invested as much as £1.1bn in marketing to back the launch, which will also include promoting its first own-brand “Surface” tablet.

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