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March 15, 2006

Microsoft finally shows us the “Live” money

Posted by David Hunter at 1:09 PM ET.

Microsoft Developing Web’s Largest Advertising Network:

Ad testing begins on Office Live, Windows Live Mail and MSN Spaces.

Microsoft Corp. today announced it has begun testing display advertisements across Microsoft® Office Live, Windows Live™ Mail and MSN® Spaces. The multimarket tests include advertisements from such global companies as Coca-Cola Brazil, JCPenney Co. Inc. and Monster Worldwide Inc. and mark the beginning of providing advertisers with broader access to Microsoft’s valuable online audience. This effort will help generate revenue to provide consumers with a wide array of free and low-cost online services such as Web hosting, e-mail and Web services.

Coca-Cola Brazil, JCPenney and Monster Worldwide are among the 20 global marketers participating in the initial ad tests. The results of the multiple ad formats being tested will help determine which ad offerings provide the best return on investment for marketers while adding value to the consumer experience.

Windows Live display ads are currently being tested in MSN Spaces in Australia and Italy, and Windows Live Mail display ads are being tested in various markets across the world including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Office Live display ads are initially being tested in the U.S. and immediately sold out of their available openings for beta advertisers. Tests will continue on these and other Microsoft sites and services throughout 2006, while additional research is underway with approximately 100 advertisers in nine markets to verify advertisers’ needs and best practice advertising solutions for Windows Live.

In November 2005, Microsoft outlined its Windows Live and Office Live online services vision and highlighted an advertising network in which marketers would be able to create more meaningful connections with customers while providing advertisers with the unique opportunity to connect with a new and highly coveted audience, which includes small-business owners.

Microsoft will continue to invest heavily in MSN.com, as well as continue to explore new advertising opportunities on Live.com, OfficeLive.com, Microsoft.com, the Xbox Live® service, Internet Protocol television (IPTV), mobile devices and other Microsoft properties.

I was just complaining the other day that what was missing so far in the “rolling thunder” of “Live” announcements has been the money. After all, it’s hard to do “ad-supported software” without the ads. Now it looks like Microsoft’s new worldwide ad czar, Joanne Bradford, has put together a pilot test of conventional display ads for some of the “Live” services.

That’s OK for a start, but one wonders what took them so long. To paraphrase the popular wisdom about Google, “Live” isn’t in the Web 2.0 business, it’s in the business of selling ads. It’s agreed that you have to have something to get the customers in the door, but accommodating and serving ads should be a key part of every “Live” design and plan.

As for the undetailed claim of “Web’s largest advertising network,” I expect the appropriate definition is “Web’s largest advertising venue,” since I doubt that all the Microsoft properties together have more viewers than all the places on the Web currently showing Google Ads. Which brings to mind that Microsoft also still needs to launch adCenter’s contextual ads on their own and other publishers’ sites. Just selling conventional display ads on your own popular sites doesn’t win the prize.



Filed under Advertising, Coopetition, Executives, General Business, Google, Joanne Bradford, MSN, MSN Spaces, Microsoft, Microsoft TV, Office Live, Service Providers, Windows Live, Windows Live Hotmail, Xbox, adCenter

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