Digg is ending its two-year-old exclusive ad selling relationship with Microsoft, one year earlier than the deal was set to expire.
The partnership initially was supposed to last until summer 2010, but the two always had an understanding that Digg would at some point step up to rep the bulk of its own ads, according to Mike Maser, Digg chief revenue and strategy officer. He said the company’s internal sales efforts will focus on custom, non-IAB inventory combined with standardized banner ads.
Digg had been hiring internal ad sales staff and was apparently ready to take off on its own. They will still look to Microsoft to fill any ad slots they are unable to sell themselves.
Another interesting tidbit:
Even though it will work with Digg on remnant inventory, Microsoft remains dedicated to high-engagement ad deals, according to Robin Domeniconi, VP U.S., Microsoft Advertising.
"We want to do custom," said Domeniconi, who was appointed in December to oversee a dizzying array of ad products at Microsoft. Those products — represented by over 1,100 sellers — include MSN, Microsoft Media Network, Live Search, partner deals like those with Facebook and Digg, and game products like Massive and Xbox Live, among others.
Under her leadership, Microsoft is moving away from pitching those products individually. Rather, reps are proposing custom ad packages that combine non-standard advertising, premium display placements, and remnant ads across all its channels.
For instance, Discovery Channel recently graced Microsoft with its entire online ad budget for the fifth-season debut of "Deadliest Catch." High-engagement placements spanned mobile, Web, gaming and other channels.
We’ll see on Thursday how well all this furious ad peddling is working out, but it’s barely a bump on Microsoft’s software cash cows.