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January 31, 2008 11:04 AM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
While at aQuantive, it was Brian McAndrews practice to send out an annual message looking back at the past year and looking forward to what's coming. He seems to be continuing that tradition at Microsoft as the senior vice president of the new Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group.
McAndrews echoed some themes I'd been hearing from people working in his group late last year. Of particular interest are his comments on Internet search, an area where Microsoft continues to trail Google. Search ads get too much credit, he says, and not enough credit goes to the other forms of advertising that may convince consumers to finally search for a product and click on the ad. Microsoft intends to change that.
"While search has been the main driver of the blistering growth of online advertising in the past, at least partially because of the 'last ad clicked' performance measurement standard (pioneered by Atlas in the late 90s), we do not believe this will necessarily be the case in the coming years. The current system for tracking ad conversions, while the best available for years, is not optimal because it gives all credit to that last ad seen or clicked -- often a search engine -- and not any credit to other ad units the consumer may have seen prior that helped influence the user to seek more information about the advertiser. Thus, Search has gotten more than its share of the credit, but that's starting to change. We'll be making significant inroads here in 2008 through our continuing ground-breaking work in the area of 'conversion attribution,' a new Atlas technology offering that will do a better job of 'giving credit where credit is due.'
"That said, we're not discounting the importance of Search as it continues to drive a lion's share of digital advertising budgets. Our goal is to help advertisers and agencies make their Search campaigns as relevant, targeted and highly converting as possible. We've made great strides toward this end, and will continue to make deep investments in both our Live Search engine and Microsoft adCenter to improve the value of our Search offerings for customers."
McAndrews goes on to discuss emerging digital ad formats, which are attracting more spending and would presumably be viewed as more valuable if Microsoft can successful push better "conversion attribution." These areas include:
-- Online video advertising, "expected to be the fastest growing ad category on the web for the foreseeable future."
-- In-game advertising, an emerging area that Microsoft entered whole-hog with the purchase of the Massive Network. But growth forecasts were ridiculed late last year by EA's chief executive officer. I'm looking forward to hearing from game makers on this issue at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next month.
-- Mobile advertising, "nascent" but with "huge potential," McAndrews wrote. "Here you'll see us invest in our Atlas toolset, working very closely with our subsidiary ScreenTonic and our colleagues in Windows Mobile, to make significant progress with new mobile advertiser and publisher tools, mobile syndication, and new advertising clients."
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Bill Gates, who last week ended his full-time involvement with Microsoft, was often right. He made a career, a company and an industry by looking over the horizon.