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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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July 1, 2009 3:04 PM

Update: Microsoft pulls nauseating Internet Explorer ad

Posted by Sharon Chan

Update 1:52 p.m.: Microsoft has pulled its online ad for Internet Explorer 8, after complaints from viewers that it was too foul.

According to a statement from the company:

"We make a point of listening to our customers. We created the OMGIGP video as a tongue-in-cheek look at the InPrivate Browsing feature of Internet Explorer 8, using the same irreverent humor that our customers told us they liked about other components of the Internet Explorer 8 marketing campaign. While much of the feedback to this particular piece of creative was positive, some of our customers found it offensive, so we have removed it."

One of the commenters below, quincompoix, has posted a link to the video elsewhere if you still want to see it.

Earlier: Microsoft continues to launch online videos to promote its Web browser Internet Explorer 8. The latest features actor Dean Cain again and vomit. There is a lot of projectile puke in this video, like Monty Python levels of regurgitation.

A wife gets online after her husband has used the computer, and is so horrified by what she sees, she repeatedly spits up on the floor. He slips, falls on the floor, and she continues to spit up on him. The tag line is O.M.G.I.G.P., as in "Oh my god, I'm gonna puke."

The ad promotes Internet Explorer's privacy browsing feature, which many have dubbed a porn mode. It allows the user to browse without leaving a trail in the browser.

To check out the earlier IE8 ads, click here.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Internet Explorer , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 29, 2009 9:18 AM

Microsoft could be selling Razorfish

Posted by Sharon Chan

The Financial Times reports this morning that Microsoft has put its Seattle subsidiary Razorfish up for sale.

Razorfish was founded in Seattle, and Microsoft bought the digital advertising company when it acquired aQuantive, also known as Avenue A, in 2007. Razorfish had a round of layoffs in February this year; here's the story we ran on that.

According to the Financial Times, Microsoft has hired Morgan Stanley to find a buyer, and Publicis, a French marketing company, could be a candidate.

Update 11:08 a.m.: Microsoft is not commenting on the reports that Razorfish is for sale.

Comments | Category: Advertising |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 15, 2009 5:05 PM

Microsoft files its first click fraud lawsuit

Posted by Sharon Chan

Microsoft is suing two brothers and their mother in Vancouver, B.C., for $750,000 after the company said the three engaged in online ad fraud to boost traffic to their auto insurance and World of Warcraft Web sites.

According to a civil case Microsoft filed Monday in the Western District of the U.S. District Court, Eric Lam, his brother Gordon Lam and their mother Melanie Suen used click fraud to increase their rankings on Microsoft's search engine Live Search.

Advertisers paid for placement on Microsoft's former search engine Live Search, now known as Bing. When a user entered a search term such as "auto insurance," advertisers bid for sponsored placement in the results. Each time a user clicks on an advertiser's link, the advertiser pays Microsoft. The cost per click ranges from five cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the desirability of the search term, according to court documents.

In click fraud, a person or computer program repeatedly clicks on a link without any interest in the Web site. It can be used to exhaust the ad budget of a competitor, and lower that site's placement in the rankings of the search results.

According to the court documents, the Lams and their mother engaged in click fraud in spring 2008 for advertisers who paid for placement for the search terms "auto insurance" and "WoW," short for the online game World of Warcraft. The Lams' Web site, WoWMine.com, sold game gold that could be traded in the online game.

I am trying to get in touch with the Lams to get their comments.

Update 6:35 p.m.: Gordon Lam declined to comment on the story by phone.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Bing , Legal issues , Microsoft , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 11, 2009 2:29 PM

Microsoft launches Hulu-style Web ads for IE8 featuring Dean Cain

Posted by Sharon Chan

In the surreal, ominous style of Hulu, Microsoft has released two online ads to market its latest browser, Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft's ads feature actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on "Lois & Clark."

Microsoft will also make donations to food banks every time someone downloads the new browser. For each download at www.browserforthebetter.com, Microsoft says it will donate the equivalent of 8 meals to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, between now and Aug. 8.

Here the new browser ads, and for comparison's sake, the Hulu ad with Alec Baldwin.

F.O.M.S. ad (Fear of Missing Something):

S.H.Y.N.E.S.S. ad (Sharing Heavily Yet Not Enough Sharing Still):

Hulu ad:

Comments | Category: Advertising , Internet Explorer , Microsoft , Search , Web browsers |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 4, 2009 6:02 PM

More Microsoft TV ads promoting its search engine Bing (update on an oops)

Posted by Sharon Chan

Here is the next round of TV commercials Microsoft is airing to make some headway in online search. The ads all criticize Google without actually naming the search leader, claiming that using Google's search engine results in an overload of results that don't get you the answer you want.

On a side note, our reliable Seattle Times copy desk caught an error in one of the ads, which I had quoted in a story, saying "The Breakfast Club" came out in 1986. According to all the searches our copy editors did, the film came out in 1985. (A search for "breakfast club release date" on Wolfram Alpha, Google and Bing all point to 1985.) I've called Microsoft to see if its plans to change the ad and it said they will get back to me.

Update Friday 12:36 p.m.: Microsoft says they are going to change the ad so it reflects the correct year, and highlighted that Bing returns the correct date in its search results.

Here is the ad that cites "The Breakfast Club":

And two other ads, which we have not fact-checked:


Comments | Category: Advertising , Bing , Microsoft , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 3, 2009 12:40 PM

Microsoft's TV search ad: So You Think You Can Bing

Posted by Sharon Chan

If you're watching "So You Think You Can Dance" at 8 p.m. today, keep an eye out for Microsoft's first TV ads for its upgraded search engine Bing. (The company has dubbed it a "decision engine.") It will also air during "CSI: NY," the Jimmy Fallon show and on several cable networks.

News reports estimate that Microsoft is spending $80 million to $100 million on advertising to create a new search brand where it previously faltered with Live and MSN, The company has declined to comment on the ad budget.

The ad campaign highlights confusion that can spring from search results. Here's the video:

Comments | Category: Advertising , Bing , Microsoft , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 28, 2009 9:25 AM

Can Microsoft get a big bang out of Bing?

Posted by Mark Watanabe

As expected, Microsoft took the wraps off its overhauled search engine this morning, introducing a new brand name, Bing.

The Wall Street Journal reported online that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was demonstrating Bing at the Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Here's Microsoft's release on the introduction.

The Journal's report said the search engine, which has been called Live Search, will sport a new look next week when it goes online. In addition, it is being designed to give users "access to a range of categories of search" and that Microsoft is targeting four distinct categories: shopping, local, travel and health.

Whether Bing can cut into Google's overwhelming lead in search will be one of the most closely watched issues in tech.

Bing will attempt to accomplish this by adding more features to Microsoft's search. Among other things, Microsoft is adding Bing Travel to the Bing.com site -- a combination of technology from Farecast and content from MSN Travel designed to help people in making travel plans. Microsoft acquired Seattle-based Farecast, an airfare prediction Web site, in April 2008.

Separately, BusinessWeek has an interesting interview with Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division who came to the company from Yahoo. In it, Lu gives a broad outline of where Microsoft thinks there are opportunities to advance search beyond what Google has accomplished:

"When you see a query box, you type in it. [The assumption is that] it will give you what you want. But [consumers'] expectations have increased. They are using that search box for all kinds of things: to purchase product, to plan a vacation, to research a particular organization, to study a particular concept."

Lu also says he came to Microsoft because the company has the resources to invest in infrastructure and "a world-class R&D team that has top-notch experts in all the critical disciplines."

Oh, yes, one more thing: Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing has a few words to say this morning on brands and brand names, including his own.

Update, 4:36 p.m.: The Live Search team (presumably that now becomes the Bing team?), responded to Stanley Bing's call to work out their differences by accepting Bing's (the person's) offer of services. The team's blog said:

After an emergency meeting (three people were invited, all declined), we've decided to take you up on your offer. We're not certain what exactly this would involve. We're not certain it would pay much (nothing, actually) but we look forward to starting a dialogue and hope we can work together soon. Let's do lunch.

Listen up and you can hear the badda bing.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Digital media , Google , Microsoft , Search , Steve Ballmer , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 26, 2009 9:10 AM

Get ready to hear a lot about Bing, says Ad Age

Posted by Mark Watanabe

It looks like Microsoft's long-awaited revamp of Live Search is about to unfurl.

Last week, word leaked out that the company would be unveiling its updated search engine, code-named Kumo, at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, which takes place this week in Carlsbad, Calif. Steve Ballmer is on the roster of speakers.

Today, Advertising Age is reporting that Microsoft is launching the update, to be called Bing, with an $80 million to $100 million advertising campaign. Compare that with what Ad Age says is considered a "sizable budget" for a national consumer product launch, $50 million. JWT, one of the ad industry's major players, is handling the campaign.

One prominent part of the upgrade is expected to be a branding change. Speculation has centered on the code name, Kumo, but last week a leading search analyst, Danny Sullivan, said he thought the new brand would be Bing.

Despite the typical big-budget effort Microsoft appears to be setting up, the company faces a monumental challenge in going after a market leader whose name is virtually a generic term for Internet searching. In the latest monthly reports Google continued to hold a commanding 64.2 percent of the U.S. search market in April. Microsoft's Live Search remained languishing in third at 8.2 percent, behind Yahoo with 20.4 percent.

Whether the campaign can equal or better the impact that Microsoft's ads appear to making in the company's battle with Apple over laptop PC sales will be one of the closely watched issues in tech for a spell.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Digital media , Google , Microsoft , Search , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 19, 2009 11:31 AM

Message of Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" ad campaign seems to be getting across

Posted by Mark Watanabe

Sharon mentioned looking back at the latest volleys in the Mac vs. PC ad battle while she's away for a couple of weeks. That's certainly a way to keep up with the fascinating marketing was Microsoft and Apple have engaged in over the past year or so.

Now comes word that Microsoft's efforts may be paying off.

Advertising Age, citing work from BrandIndex, reports that the "value perception" of the Apple and Microsoft brands "has shifted dramatically in the eyes of 18- to 34-years-olds" since the first "Laptop Hunters" commercials began running in March. Apple's has fallen, while Microsoft's has risen.

Value perception is based on scores that BrandIndex calculates from daily interviews of 5,000 people. Interviewees are asked if they think the get good value for their money.

The Microsoft campaign emphasizes price in highlighting shoppers looking for a laptop that has their desired features but which cost less than a dollar limit they've set for themselves. Depicting their shopping experience in fast-cut shots, the ads all include one shot in which the shopper looks at a Mac but bemoans its higher price.

Of course, the value message of the ads has a bit more resonance in the context of a tough economy.

Here's the latest in the "Laptop Hunters" series.

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=0170090f-53b2-40fc-89a4-c759cb088e0a" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1700 - Lauren and Sue get a Dell XPS 13">Video: Laptop Hunters $1700 - Lauren and Sue get a Dell XPS 13</a>

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 11, 2009 4:36 PM

New Zune ad from Microsoft: Now it's the iPod that's too expensive

Posted by Sharon Chan

First Microsoft went after Apple with the laptop hunter ads that jabbed Apple for expensive laptops. Now it's going after iPod. In this latest ad, "The Apprentice" contestant and financial planner Wes Moss claims that it would cost $30,000 to fill an iPod with music, but only $14.99 a month for the Zune's subscription service.

More breakdown on the cost:
Zune, 120 GB = $249.99
iPod Classic, 120 GB = $249

Here's the ad below:

Update 5:28 p.m.: The ads are only running online.

Also, the $14.99 Zune Pass subscription includes 10 songs that can be added to the owner's permanent subscription each month.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 21, 2009 10:49 AM

New Apple legal-copy ad pokes fun at Microsoft

Posted by Sharon Chan


Apple has a new ad out, once again poking fun of Microsoft with the bromance duo of "I'm a Mac," played by Justin Long, and "I'm a PC," played by John Hodgman. Every time John Hodgman, who plays PC guy, says PCs are easy to use, legal copy pops up from the bottom of the screen like a banner ad.

And in case you haven't seen it, here is Microsoft's ad campaign against Apple, featuring laptop hunters hoping to find an affordable laptop.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 17, 2009 5:22 PM

Apple responds to Microsoft's laptop hunter ads

Posted by Sharon Chan

BusinessWeek has a comment from Apple on Microsoft's laptop hunter ads:

"A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Apple spokesman Bill Evans says. "The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."

What's clever about the Microsoft ad is how cool Giampaolo and the ginger Laura are with her glasses.

The Seattle Times' earlier story on the rollout of the laptop hunter ad is here.
Laptop Hunters #2 - Giampaolo
Laptop Hunters #2 - Giampaolo

Laptop Hunters #1 - Lauren
Laptop Hunters #1 - Lauren

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 14, 2009 9:59 AM

Morning news roundup: Twitter HQ tour, laptop hunter ad spoof, Deadliest Catch ad campaign

Posted by Sharon Chan

  • Kara Swisher at AllthingsD visited Twitter's office in SF.
  • Microsoft Advertising and Discovery Channel are launching a "Deadliest Catch" ad campaign today across MSN, Xbox Live and Microsoft Mobile. The MSN ad allows you to set up a calendar reminder, get a text alert and set your DVR.

Comments | Category: Advertising , News roundup |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 2, 2009 2:45 PM

Microsoft news roundup: Ad campaign in works for Microsoft search; Office on iPhone?; Inside Google's data centers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Advertising Age reports that JWT, which has been getting more business from Microsoft of late, has landed an $80 million to $100 million advertising campaign for the company's Internet search service, which is expected to undergo a major rebranding later this year. The story says the campaign is expected to begin in June. Microsoft's search team had some April Fool's fun Wednesday, poking at its branding troubles with a post announcing the debut of "MSN Windows Live Search on kumo@microsoft.com."

Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division, indicated an Office application that would let Apple iPhone users edit documents could be in the works. Asked at the Web 2.0 Expo today about a mobile edition of Office for the iPhone, Elop said, "Not yet -- keep watching," according to this eWeek story.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Data centers , Google , News roundup , Office , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 26, 2009 3:28 PM

New Microsoft ad swipes at Apple

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is rolling out a new Windows commercial today that takes the most direct swipe yet at rival Apple.

The commercial, which feels tuned for these tough economic times, follows a woman on a quest to find a laptop with "speed, comfortable keyboard and a 17-inch screen" for $1,000 or less. "Lauren" walks into an Apple store -- she calls it "the Mac store" -- and then walks out and tells the camera, "For $1,000 they only have one computer available and that's a 13-inch screen." She ends up buying an HP for about $700. Here's the spot, set to air during March Madness:

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=0bb6a07c-c829-4562-8375-49e6693810c7" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1000 - Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion">Video: Laptop Hunters $1000 - Lauren Gets an HP Pavilion</a>

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Windows |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 20, 2009 11:57 AM

Microsoft, Starbucks see brand power slip in survey

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

If you're spending $300 million on a major ad campaign for your biggest product, this is not the line you want to read in Advertising Age: "Your brand power is waning."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 18, 2009 11:30 AM

Microsoft wants to speed discovery of user likes, dislikes in online advertising

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Demo Fest, now in its fifth year, is a way for the researchers within Microsoft's adCenter Labs to get their ideas and prototypes out to the company's product groups. The adLabs group showed four prototypes to a handful of reporters in Redmond this morning. That's a small sample of the 25 demonstrations and 10 poster presentations it will have for full-time employees to see later today.

The demos I saw were not jaw-dropping. The concepts seemed to echo things we'd seen elsewhere or things I would have thought were already table stakes for advanced online advertising (understanding whether a user is searching for local information, such as a dentist in Seattle, for example).

AdLabs general manager Eric Brill was asked whether other demonstrations pointed more clearly to Microsoft's strategic direction for online advertising.

Continue reading this post ...


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February 24, 2009 6:15 AM

Microsoft Strategic Update: Ballmer tells Wall Street more dramatic cost cutting would be 'imprudent'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With Microsoft's Redmond campus largely emptied out for the winter holidays, CEO Steve Ballmer crunched the numbers on the proper level of spending for his company against the current economic climate, which he has repeatedly referred to as a "reset" rather than just a recession. Ballmer said his own estimates for the weakness and duration of the downturn tend to be more severe than those of other business leaders he meets.

With that in mind, he settled on $27.5 billion of operating expenses -- a level the company aims to hold relatively steady through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and during its 2010 fiscal year. Ballmer made clear to financial analysts meeting in New York this morning for the company's annual strategic update that cutting back even more significantly -- say to $20 billion -- would be "imprudent."

"I think this is right," Ballmer said.

That should give some comfort to those wondering if the modest layoffs Microsoft announced last month were the beginning of a more significant reduction. Wall Street analysts and investors are pressuring companies in every industry to continue cutting costs as sales and profits slow dramatically.

The strategic update call just came to an end. Ballmer gave a detailed look at seven major business areas for the company. Check back here later this morning for more details.

Update, 7:50 a.m.: As he told Congressional Democrats earlier this month, Ballmer said Microsoft's corporate strategists have been evaluating past downturns -- particularly those driven by "deleveraging." The team read company annual reports from 1927 to 1938 to determine who did a good job managing through the Great Depression. "RCA, God rest them in peace, became our role model," Ballmer said. The company was able to dominate the television business because it continued to invest during bad times, he said.

Then he broke down how Microsoft plans to invest.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Enterprise , Financial , Games & entertainment , Google , Microsoft layoffs , Mobile , Office , Online services , Open source , Search , Server and tools , Steve Ballmer , Strategy , Tech Economy , Windows , Windows 7 , Windows Azure , Windows Mobile , Xbox 360 , Yahoo acquisition , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 18, 2009 5:31 AM

Microsoft news roundup: Obama's antitrust nominee calls Microsoft 'so last century'; Google sued for starving 'nascent competition'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

President Barack Obama's nominee to head the antitrust division at the U.S. Department of Justice isn't interested in Microsoft, according to comments she made last summer. "For me, Microsoft is so last century. They are not the problem," Christine Varney said during a June 19 American Antitrust Institute panel discussion, according to Bloomberg. The U.S. economy will "continually see a problem -- potentially with Google" because it already "has acquired a monopoly in Internet online advertising," she said.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Google , Legal issues , Public policy & issues , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 13, 2009 10:44 AM

Bach clarifies Microsoft's retail strategy -- it's about building brand, not distribution

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Robbie Bach, head of the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division, which sells many of its products to consumers through retail partners, said the company's decision to launch its own branded retail stores was more about building brand than volume distribution.

After taking a half-hour of spot-on questions from students gathered at Microsoft for the company's Minority Student Day this morning, Bach sat down with me, Joe Tartakoff of the Seattle P-I and Todd Bishop of TechFlash.

Q: Can you give us your thoughts on moving into retail? You guys have a lot of important partners, especially who resell products from your [Entertainment and Devices Division]...


Bach: "The way you have to put this in context is you have to think of it as just a natural evolution of what's going on in the market and it's a natural evolution of what's going on as we develop our brand.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Branding , Retail |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 6, 2009 9:44 AM

Microsoft digital ad shop Razorfish lays off 70 in Seattle, Portland, SF and LA

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Razorfish, the digital advertising agency that Microsoft gained when it acquired aQuantive in 2007, is going through another round of layoffs. A spokeswoman confirmed that the company laid off about 70 people on Thursday on the West Coast, including its Seattle headquarters and offices in Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Coming and going , Microsoft layoffs , Razorfish , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 4, 2009 1:19 PM

Get ready for more Microsoft commercials, new spot to air during Grammys

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The next wave of Microsoft's big Windows marketing campaign is set to debut this weekend with a spot during the Grammy Awards. A Microsoft spokeswoman says in e-mail the next part of the campaign is called "Rookies" and Sunday's spot will feature a 4-year-old girl using Windows Live Photo Gallery. More details to come tomorrow.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Windows , Windows Live |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 29, 2009 5:18 PM

Microsoft has posted 72 job openings in Washington since layoffs announced

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A week ago, Microsoft announced its first companywide layoff, letting go 1,400 people as part of a plan to cut up to 5,000 jobs in the next 18 months. But the company made clear it would continue hiring, perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 people, in strategically important areas. And judging by its U.S. online jobs site, it intends to. A search of the site for positions in Washington state brought back 72 openings posted since Jan. 22, the day the layoffs were announced.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Coming and going , Google , Halo , MSN , Microsoft layoffs , Mobile , Online services , Recruiting , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 15, 2009 12:09 PM

Van Arsdale, CEO of Massive, Microsoft's in-game ad unit, to leave

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Van Arsdale.

Microsoft veteran Cory Van Arsdale, who was installed as CEO of in-game advertising network Massive after Microsoft acquired it in 2007, is leaving the company this month, he said in an e-mail. Van Arsdale, who spent more than 14 years with Microsoft and was also a general manager in the company's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group, said he's looking forward to spending more time with his family and then starting his own company in about six months. "By that time the capital and VC markets will have come out of their shells a bit, and the ideas I have cooking will be better developed," Van Arsdale said.

The move is not entirely unexpected as Microsoft named JJ Richards head of the in-game advertising group in early December.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Coming and going , Games & entertainment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Microsoft partnering with mobile ad company Quattro Wireless

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After landing its five-year deal to provide mobile search -- and advertising -- to Verizon Wireless, Microsoft is teaming up with a mobile advertising expert. Quattro Wireless today announced a collaboration deal to give Microsoft Advertising customers access to Quattro's network and mobile advertising processes.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 16, 2008 11:12 AM

High praise for Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Microsoft's hot-shot ad agency

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Creativity, a top advertising and design monthly, named Crispin Porter + Bogusky, its 2008 Agency of the Year. Crispin "came to represent the New Ad Agency, the idea-centric, media-inclusive, integrated creative factory whose brand campaigns feed from and create popular culture." While much of the talk around Crispin focused on its work for Microsoft this year, in explaining its pick, Creatvity focused more on the agency's "Whopper Freakout" campaign for Burger King, which increased Whopper sales by double digits and "was the most recalled in the history of campaign recall being measured." But what of Crispin's work for Microsoft?

Continue reading this post ...


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December 3, 2008 9:56 AM

Xbox news roundup: Microsoft 'cautiously optimistic' about games biz; Massive's video game 'upfront' and deals; more

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is "cautiously optimistic" about its video games business, Shane Kim, vice president of games strategy and business development, told Reuters at the news service's Media Summit today. Kim said the business is on track for 20 percent this year, but "people are not projecting that kind of growth" for 2009. "Who knows, maybe flat performance will be considered a remarkable achievement."

The games industry had U.S. sales growth of 18 percent in October, according to The NPD Group.

Read on for details about Microsoft's in-game advertising deals.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Coming and going , Games & entertainment , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 2, 2008 7:04 AM

Online ad outlook, Yahoo price target trimmed

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Jeffries analyst Youssef Squali trimmed his price target on Yahoo to $20 from $23 a share, citing lower online ad spending growth. Via AP.

eMarketer forecast 12-08.JPG eMarketer on Monday revised its online advertising outlook, reducing its forecast for the current year from $24.9 billion in the U.S. to $23.6 billion. The market research firm noted that's still 11.3 percent growth over 2007. By category, eMarketer predicts online display advertising -- Yahoo's bread and butter -- will see significant slowing in growth. The category, underpinned by struggling retail and automotive advertisers, was forecast in August to grow 16.9 percent this year. eMarketer has trimmed that forecast to 3.9 percent.


Paid Internet search advertising will also see growth slow, but it is forecast to outpace the broader online advertising market. Search advertising is expected to grow 21.4 percent this year and 14.9 percent next year.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 26, 2008 9:44 AM

Microsoft Internet search share stable in October; Fortune scrutinizes online business

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft held stead in October with 8.5 percent of the U.S. Internet search market, according to figures released today by comScore. Its rivals, Google and Yahoo, both gained slightly from their September positions.

Meanwhile, Fortune has taken a stab at answering the question, "Why can't Microsoft make money online?"

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Google , Online services , Search , Yahoo , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 6, 2008 8:51 AM

More John Hodgman on the radio

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The PC guy from Apple's biting commercials, John Hodgman, is scheduled to join Steve Scher on KUOW's "Weekday" this morning at 9 a.m. Hodgman, a comedian and author, is touring public radio and other venues to promote his book: "More Information Than You Require."

He was the special guest on another public radio show, "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" last weekend.

Hodgman also is speaking in Seattle tonight at Elliott Bay Books at 7:30 p.m.

Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Miscellaneous , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 1, 2008 11:50 AM

Apple's PC guy John Hodgman takes Microsoft quiz on NPR comedy show

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

"Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me" is a Saturday morning ritual in my house. John Hodgman, the comedian, author and perhaps most famously, "PC guy," in Apple's "Get a Mac" commercials, was the special guest on the show this morning, which I heard on local National Public Radio affiliate KUOW.

The "Get a Mac" campaign, including Hodgman's biting portrayal, has significant role in defining the image of the PC and the Windows Vista operating system in popular culture, while also boosting Mac sales in the last two years. So much so that Microsoft earlier this fall launched a $300 million campaign -- including a major series of television ads -- to take back control of the brand and restore dignity to Hodgman's line, 'I'm a PC.'

Hodgman was asked to answer three questions about the history of Microsoft. Here are some excerpts from his 11-minute appearance on "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me." You can also listen to the segment here.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Branding , Miscellaneous , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 31, 2008 11:04 AM

Microsoft ad shop Razorfish expands in Europe, contracts in New York

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The recently renamed digital advertising agency Razorfish, which Microsoft got with its aQuantive acquisition, is buying a digital shop in Madrid, Spain, the company said today. Razorfish aims to build its coverage of Europe with the acquisition of Wysiwyg, a 56-person agency.

Meanwhile, Razorfish has cut 40 positions, roughly 2 percent of its national work force, in response to the financial crisis, spokeswoman Sally O'Dowd said via e-mail.

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October 20, 2008 10:15 AM

Microsoft digital ad shop renames itself Razorfish

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Seattle digital advertising agency Microsoft acquired as part of its largest acquisition, Avenue A | Razorfish, has renamed itself Razorfish.

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October 20, 2008 7:19 AM

Apple strikes back at Microsoft 'I'm a PC' campaign

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The ads war between Microsoft and Apple is getting a bit surreal. This weekend, new ads from Apple took aim at Microsoft's "I'm a PC" campaign.

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October 9, 2008 12:42 PM

Has Microsoft removed 'No Walls' phrase from Windows site after complaint?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Commenter Marc Sofer points out that the phrase "No Walls" appears to be gone from the main Web page for Microsoft's big Windows ad campaign. Recall that in late September, shortly after Microsoft's new wave of ads featuring the tag line "Windows: Life Without Walls" hit the street, the Israeli cloud-based operating system company G.ho.st raised a stink, saying the Windows campaign stepped on their pending trademark, "No Walls." In addition to the "Life Without Walls" tag line, the Windows campaign Web site featured the "Imagine no Walls" line.

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September 26, 2008 9:25 AM

Operating system startup alleges Microsoft Windows campaign steps on trademark

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Kara Swisher at All Things Digital has a scoop on G.ho.st, a cloud based operating system start up, alleging that Microsoft's new ad campaign has stomped on its "No Walls" pending trademark. G.ho.st is short for global hosted operating system.

Microsoft dismissed the Israeli company's concerns in a statement to Swisher, saying G.ho.st does not have any pending applications and even if it did, it wouldn't prevent others from using "No Walls" in advertising copy. But it's another bump in the road for the $300 million Windows ad campaign with tag lines "Imagine No Walls" and "Windows: Life without Walls."

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September 23, 2008 1:08 PM

Microsoft launches largest advertising blitz for Xbox

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's big advertising push this fall extends beyond its Windows franchise. The company launched "the single largest marketing investment ever made in Xbox history" over the weekend.

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September 19, 2008 6:20 PM

Microsoft statement on evidence that Macs were used in 'I'm a PC' commercials

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

At the end of this post, commenter unkanny points out a blemish on the Microsoft ad campaign in the news this week:

"The ad agency goofed when it posted a photo of the ad on the web. Someone checked the metadata. And yep. It was created on a Mac. The next day, the photo's metadata was scrubbed. And the size went from 272k to 852k. Source: www.roughlydrafted.com."

Indeed. Here's coverage from Roughly Drafted and a link to the original Flickr user, Luis DS, who spotted the metadata.

"Apparently, neither Windows PCs nor Expression Studio are up to the task of taking on Apple and destroying its globe enshrouding 'Get a Mac' campaign," wrote Daniel Eran Dilger at Roughly Drafted.

I asked a Microsoft spokesman if Crispin Porter + Bogusky used Macs and Adobe software to create the campaign. The spokesman issued a statement in reply:

"As is common in almost all campaign workflow, agencies and production houses use a wide variety of software and hardware to create, edit and distribute content, including both macs and PCs."

The spokesman pointed out that Apple store clerks use devices running Windows Mobile and that Apple licensed Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft for the iPhone.

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September 19, 2008 7:34 AM

Microsofties star in Windows 'I'm a PC' commercial after winning 'Windows Idol'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The next Windows ad doesn't feature Seinfeld, but it does have Sean Siler. He's a Microsoft senior program manager in networking and he's one of five employees taking star turns in the first 60-second "I'm a PC" spot, which is set to hit the airwaves -- and explode all over the web -- when prime time shows including "Grey's Anatomy" and "The Office" begin airing on the East Coast.

Watch it here.

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September 18, 2008 6:47 PM

Video: Microsoft's latest 'I'm a PC' ad

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Here it is:

(Update, 9:38 p.m.: Several people had a problem viewing the video, which was in Silverlight, Microsoft's Web video format, which requires a download to view. I've replaced it with a version from YouTube. Thanks, Dave.)

(Update, Friday, 1:35 p.m.: I've restored the Silverlight version, below. I swapped it out with the YouTube version after people complained that they couldn't view the commercial earlier, and didn't want to download the Silverlight plug-in. Others have noted that you need a Flash plug-in to view video on YouTube. True, but most people already have it. My aim was to make it as easy as possible to view and comment on the ad. I should add that the Silverlight version is running much more smoothly right now.)

What do you think?

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September 18, 2008 8:23 AM

Next Microsoft ad takes aim at Apple's "I'm a PC" stereotype

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

STEROTYPE30_TTL_sean2.jpg "Hello. I'm a PC. And I've been made into a stereotype," says Sean, right, in the outset of the latest installment in Microsoft's $300 million Windows ad campaign, set to debut tonight in prime time.


(Update, 7:26 p.m.: Watch it here.)

The sixty-second spot -- one of several elements in a campaign that will span print, the Web, television and outdoor -- launches into a series of testimonials by other people, including celebrities and real people, who proclaim, "I'm a PC."

"I'm a PC, and I'm not what you would call hip," says a woman standing in front of a white board. Bill Gates is next. "I'm a PC," says the Microsoft founder, holding a bag (paper) of groceries, "and I wear glasses."

Architect Edouard Francois says he designs green buildings. "Desperate Houswives" star Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker, guard for the San Antonio Spurs, make an appearance. As does Deepak Chopra, who intones, "I am a PC and I am a human being. Not a human doing. Not a human thinking. A human being."

Update, 9:43 a.m.: The spot closes with the tag line for the campaign: "Windows: Life without Walls." Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group, said Microsoft felt it had to reclaim the message around its products from Apple and is doing so with the "I'm a PC" ad, which will start in heavy rotation on U.S. television tonight. Shorter versions will appear across the Internet as part of a "very significant" online buy.

"We need to be out telling our story to our customers," Veghte said. "These are Windows customers telling the story of what Windows represents. ...

"Windows is about all sizes and shapes of different PCs and devices and software applications, and so to the extent that Windows is inclusive, that is something we want to make sure people understand. It's not a stereotype. It's an inclusive set of experiences that celebrate and support diversity and individuality and choice."

Starting this afternoon on Windows.com, people will be able to upload their own "I'm a PC" testimonials, which will be incorporated into other parts of the campaign, including a video billboard in Times Square in New York City.

"The whole approach is very dynamic and viral," Veghte said. "... The celebrities we use today will certainly evolve as we go forward."

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld does not appear in this part of the campaign. Eric Hollreiser, a company spokesman, said "that doesn't mean you won't see him in the future."

There was some speculation yesterday that the perplexing Seinfeld ads were pulled because of unfavorable response. Regardless of how they were received, they managed to build tremendous buzz around the campaign. And Microsoft said from the outset that it planned the Seinfeld ads as an introduction -- given that it has not done much mass market consumer advertising since the launch of Windows Vista in early 2007 -- to be followed by more concrete messaging.

(You also won't see Seinfeld at today's Microsoft company meeting, which begins at 11 a.m. at Safeco Field -- and is closed to the public. Microsoft tapped Rainn Wilson of "The Office" to emcee the annual event, which Bill Gates will not attend for the first time in recent memory.)

To hammer home the "Life without Walls" tag line, Microsoft also launched a flurry of print ads featuring a Windows "Manifesto," which Veghte described as a document used internally "quite a bit." (It appeared in a two-page spread in the A section of The Seattle Times.) It carries the heading "Windows VS Walls" -- a not-so-veiled reference to the closed system of Apple, which makes hardware and operating system software.

The manifesto, printed next to a picture of a guy who has just cut a Windows-logo-shaped window through the wall of a house with a sawzall, reads:

"This epic struggle explains why we make what we make and do what we do. The thing that gets us out of bed every day is the prospect of creating pathways above, below, around and through walls. To start a dialogue between hundreds of devices, billions of people and a world of ideas.


To lift up the smallest of us. And catapult the most audacious of us. But, most importantly, to connect all of us to the four corners of our own digital lives and to each other. To go on doing the little stuff, the big stuff, the crazy stuff and that ridiculously necessary stuff. On our own or together.

This is more than software we're talking about. It's an approach to life. An approach dedicated to engineering the absence of anything that might stand in the way ... of life.

Today, more than one billion people worldwide have Windows. Which is just another way of saying we have each other."

Other print ads will highlight Windows across a range of outlets, from the PC, to mobile devices to the Web.

Stuart Elliott, advertising writer for The New York Times, has an interesting piece analyzing the success of the Windows campaign so far and the risks and rewards of countering a rival's attacks.

What do you think of this next installment in the campaign?

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September 12, 2008 11:23 AM

Microsoft ad exec reportedly heading for Amazon

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The New York Post reported today that Lisa Utzschneider, a Microsoft advertising sales executive, is moving to Amazon.com as senior vice president of national ad sales. The Post cites e-mails announcing the move sent Thursday.

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September 11, 2008 5:15 PM

Second Windows ad airing tonight on Big Brother

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The next installment of the Windows ad campaign, starring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, is scheduled to air tonight during the CBS show "Big Brother" (8 p.m.). This one follows the debut last week, which got mixed reviews -- at best -- but also lots of attention.

Please share your impressions of the ad in the comments.

Update, Friday morning: Finally getting around to embedding the video:

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September 4, 2008 11:16 PM

Internal Microsoft memo describes initial Windows ad as 'icebreaker'; new PCs, retail effort to follow

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Microsoft's online services and Windows business group, sent an e-mail to Microsoft employees Thursday night, shortly after the first ad in a major new Windows marketing campaign ran on network television. Veghte described the ad, which has perplexed many viewers, as "an icebreaker to reintroduce Microsoft to viewers in a consumer context."

Meanwhile, Microsoft fleshed out other parts of its marketing effort, including "Windows-branded sales environments and store-within-a-store concepts" at Circuit City and Best Buy.

Here's the full text of Veghte's e-mail, "Telling the story of Windows," obtained by The Seattle Times:

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September 4, 2008 7:15 PM

Windows ad has funny reference to Gates' past

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There's at least one coy reference to a youthful indiscretion of Bill Gates' past in the new and perplexing Windows ad that debuted Thursday night.

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September 4, 2008 4:30 PM

Microsoft launching Windows ad campaign at 5:15 p.m. with spot on NFL season opener tonight

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Just got word from Microsoft's PR firm that the first ad in the much anticipated Windows campaign is set to air during the NFL season opener between the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Washington Redskins. The ad, which reports have said will star Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates, is set to air at 5:15 p.m. The game is being broadcast locally on KING/5.

Update, 5:35 p.m.: Here's the ad, courtesy of commenter Jason. (Thanks!)

All right, what do you think?

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September 3, 2008 12:02 PM

Seattle ad firm that handled Vista launch being bought by Publicis

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


AP

Dancers scale the wall of a New York building to promote the launch of the long-awaited Vista operating system from Microsoft on Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 in New York. PBJS, the Seattle advertising firm that coordinated the launch events, was acquired by Publicis Groupe. (Update, Friday, 10:09 a.m.: To clarify, the particular stunt depicted here was not done by PBJS. It was Maloney & Fox, a Waggener Edstrom company.)

Paris-based advertising giant Publicis Groupe has acquired a Seattle advertising firm, PBJS, which handled launch events for Windows Vista.

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August 26, 2008 12:30 PM

Microsoft was top online display advertiser in June

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft was pushing its Live Search service, including its cashback program, in June, propelling the company to the top of the list of most active online advertisers, according to comScore.

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August 21, 2008 9:45 AM

WSJ: Microsoft using Seinfeld as Vista pitchman in $300 million ad campaign

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld will headline Microsoft's upcoming $300 million Windows Vista ad campaign, along with Chairman Bill Gates, according to anonymous sources quoted in The Wall Street Journal.

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July 22, 2008 9:22 AM

Report: Microsoft ads to equate Vista-haters with the Flat Earth Society?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Ed Bott at ZDNet has a screen shot that may be part of Microsoft's forthcoming $300 million advertising campaign to improve the image of Windows Vista. The shot shows a tall sailing ship on the open sea next to the text, "At one point, everyone thought the Earth was flat." Below that, "Get the facts about Windows Vista."

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June 4, 2008 11:16 AM

Video game advertising competition heats up with Sony, IGA deal

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

IGA Worldwide, a competitor of the Massive in-game advertising unit of Microsoft, announced a deal with Sony yesterday to sell in-game advertising on PlayStation 3 in Europe and North America. The move comes a day after Microsoft touted the success of its in-game advertising network on the Xbox 360, and also illustrates the different approaches the two console makers are taking to the business.

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June 2, 2008 4:34 PM

Google search ad auctions explained, criticized

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With Microsoft attempting to undermine Google's incredibly lucrative search advertising business model through its cashback and engagement mapping efforts -- which seek to change how search ads are purchased and valued -- now comes criticism of Google's model from other quarters.

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May 21, 2008 10:28 AM

Seattle travel forecasting startup lands at Microsoft as Live Search Farecast, may get cash-back treatment

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In addition to announcing its Live Search cashback program, Microsoft today is providing details on how it's incorporating Farecast, the Seattle company it acquired for about $115 million in April.

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May 21, 2008 9:46 AM

Reactions to Microsoft's pay-for-search strategy

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Microsoft Live Search cashback program, first reported by SearchEngineWatch Tuesday and described in this story today, is being promoted on the company's Live.com page now. Chairman Bill Gates is on stage at the company's advertising event now and will formally announce the effort, according to a press release.

The reaction online has been loud. Here's a sampling:

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May 20, 2008 9:33 AM

Microsoft Advertising is new brand for, well, Microsoft advertising

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Brian McAndrews, kicking off advance08, Microsoft's advertising summit, announced today the company's new brand for its broad advertising efforts: Microsoft Advertising.

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May 2, 2008 3:09 PM

Microsoft's star turn on 'CSI: NY' worth more than $1 million

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The business of branded entertainment and product integration is big and getting bigger. An analysis of the role Microsoft's technology played in Wednesday's episode of "CSI: NY" emphasizes just how sophisticated this form of advertising has become.

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May 1, 2008 12:06 PM

Manager in Microsoft Windows Live jumping to online classifieds startup Oodle

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Kevin Doerr, a Microsoft general manager in Windows Live, is leaving for a San Mateo, Calif., classified advertising startup called Oodle.

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April 11, 2008 8:13 AM

Microsoft wants 'self-regulation' of consumer privacy in online advertising

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In the midst of the maelstrom of online deals rumored to be in the works, Microsoft proposed a major plan for companies to self-regulate consumer privacy practices.

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March 20, 2008 11:35 AM

Survey: Microsoft's corporate brand declining steadily since 2003

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A survey of U.S. corporate brand recognition and favor shows Microsoft on a five-year skid, even as it ranks highly on other such lists.

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March 19, 2008 3:12 PM

Google, Ask.com gained Internet search share as Microsoft, Yahoo slid in February

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In February, the total volume of U.S. Internet searches declined from a month earlier, as did the share of searches performed on Microsoft and Yahoo sites. Google's share increased, according to data just released by comScore.

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March 14, 2008 2:07 PM

Microsoft buying up another online ad firm, Rapt

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The announcement this morning that Microsoft will buy Rapt, which makes advertising yield management solutions for digital publishers, marks the eighth advertising-related acquisition by the company since at least 2006. Mary Jo Foley counted them up here.

Rapt will be folded in to the Atlas Publisher Suite, technology from aQuantive, which now resides in Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group.

The company's products and services measure supply and demand to help publishers "better price, predict, and provision advertising assets." Customers include: CNET Networks, Dow Jones & Company, Expedia, Fox Interactive Media, Microsoft, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, The New York Times Company, Reuters, USA Today and Yahoo.

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March 13, 2008 12:01 PM

Microsoft's MSN chief media officer Bradford leaving for L.A. ad tech company

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Picture added, 4:23 p.m.: Bradford talking with Terry Semel, then chairman and CEO of Yahoo, at Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit May 9, 2007 in Seattle. At the time, rumors of a Yahoo acquisition were swirling, but it was not addressed in Semel's speech or the Q&A with Bradford.

Joanne Bradford is leaving Microsoft on March 19 for Spot Runner, a Los Angeles advertising company focused on technology to make "television advertising more affordable and accessible for local businesses."

Microsoft said Greg Nelson, who has spent six of his 12 years at Microsoft in a leadership role at MSN, will lead the portal in the interim.

Satya Nadella, the newly elevated senior vice president of Microsoft's Search, Portals & Advertising Platform Group, issued a statement.

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March 10, 2008 10:32 AM

Microsoft radar: Murdoch not fighting Microsoft; user data methodology; Ozzie speaks

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

News Corp. is not going to battle Microsoft for Yahoo, Rupert Murdoch told investors this morning. From Reuters: "We're not going to get into a fight with Microsoft, which has a lot more money than us," Murdoch said at a Bear Stearns media conference.

An interesting footnote on the methodology behind Louise Story's piece today on the amount of data being gathered on us by media companies. The New York Times paid comScore to tally this data. comScore tracked five types of "data collection events," such as videos served or searches entered.

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February 29, 2008 9:56 AM

ComScore says Google 'paid click' decline not actually bad news

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Earlier this week, news stories across the Internet and in every major business publication had Google on the rocks. A comScore report on paid clicks showed an 8 percent decline from December to January and flat annual growth. Google's shares tumbled $22.25 on the news Tuesday to close at $464.19, wiping $5.2 billion off the company's balance sheet. It was also viewed as another sign of the economic slowdown dragging on the lifeblood of Web 2.0, online advertising.

Today, comScore posted a blog explaining why that reaction misinterpreted the Internet measurement company's data, and behind the decline in paid clicks actually is a positive trend for Google.

Oops.

While comScore isn't saying everything's rosy in the broader economy, the company is correcting the record, in some detail, on what's going on at Google:

"The evidence suggests that the softness in Google's paid click metrics is primarily a result of Google's own quality initiatives that result in a reduction in the number of paid listings and, therefore, the opportunity for paid clicks to occur. In addition, the reduction in the incidence of paid listings existed progressively throughout 2007 and was successfully offset by improved revenue per click. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that the improved revenue yield will continue to deliver strong revenue growth in the first quarter."

And in the broader economy?

"Separately, there is no evidence of a slowdown in consumers clicking on paid search ads for rest of the U.S. search market, which comprises 40% of all searches."

Not everyone is buying comScore's interpretation of its own data, however. At Silicon Alley Insider, Henry Blodget continues "to view the comScore report as supporting the theory that Google is exposed to economic weakness."

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February 25, 2008 5:31 PM

Microsoft 'Engagement Mapping' seeks to give advertising credit where it's due

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's "new approach" to tracking the effectiveness of online advertising can be read as a broadside attack on the way that Google makes most of its money: search ads.

We've seen this coming for a while. Brian McAndrews, formerly CEO of aQuantive and now Microsoft's top advertising strategist, foreshadowed what the company is calling "Engagement Mapping" late last month. He wrote that "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."

Presumably, Engagement Mapping will correct that inequity by accounting for "all the various online touchpoints and interactions a consumer experiences before an eventual sale." So if you see a banner ad for a Honda Prius on a Web site and then search for "Prius" in Google on your way to finding a dealer and buying a new car, this system could give some credit -- and revenue, I'd guess -- to the banner ad and perhaps take some credit away from search ads. That could increase the banner ad's value for both advertisers and the publishers who sell space on their Web sites.

The system will measure and account for data about a consumer's contact with ads, including recency, frequency, size and format (such as rich media and video) and how each ad channels the consumer toward a purchase. The tool itself, about which Microsoft provides precious little detail, will be called Engagement ROI and available as part of the Atlas Media Console -- a technology for advertisers that Microsoft acquired as part of aQuantive. Starting March 1, a group of customers will try out the beta version of Engagement ROI and Microsoft plans to have results before the end of June.

ReadWriteWeb has some good discussion of where this effort fits among the broader changes in how the Web and people's interaction with it is measured for commercial purposes.

My question is how would this system account for off-line sales and advertising such as billboards, TV commercials or, in the case of consumer packaged goods, a product's place in the store? (Think of how often you reach for an item that's at eye level vs. the stuff down by your feet.)

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February 13, 2008 5:30 PM

Mary Jo Foley: Valentine's reorg coming to Microsoft Online Services?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

She's been right before, so when Mary Jo Foley's sources say a reorg is coming at Microsoft, listen up.

Foley caught wind of this at least more than a week ago. From the outlines she's reporting, the reorg, among other things, would consolidate more of the online services business under Satya Nadella, who has been in his new post for only 11 months.

Nadella came over from the business division to head research and development for a new group combining both Internet search and the advertising platform. His star seems to be rising, even if search still isn't faring all that well. I've heard from people in his organization that he's gained the respect of the engineers.

Changes also coming in Windows marketing, Foley reports, with Mike Sievert taking a bow.

What do you get for your valentine when he or she has just been ousted? Someone should start a Yahoo group for sweethearts of recently "impacted" tech workers. To be clear, however, there's no indication that the Microsoft Online Services reorg would involve the kind of wholesale job cuts that came down at Yahoo.

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February 12, 2008 9:19 AM

Yahoo does some buying of its own, scoops up online video provider

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

If Microsoft buys Yahoo, the deal would now come with a shiny new online video platform.

Yahoo today announced the acquisition of Maven Networks, a Cambridge, Mass.-based online video platform provider, for $160 million. Its technology is "used to manage, distribute and monetize premium online video content for over 30 major media companies, including Fox News, Sony BMG, CBS Sports, Hearst, Gannett, Scripps Networks, and the Financial Times" among others.

Yahoo says in this press release that it intends to "expand on the Maven offering with video monetization services allowing publishers to take advantage of Yahoo!'s industry leading display sales force and advanced technologies for delivering consumers more relevant advertising experiences, both of which help them maximize their video advertising dollars."

Maven, founded in 2002, is a competitor of other high-end online video platforms such as Brightcove. U.S. online video advertising is expected to be a $4 billion market by 2011, according to a Forrester estimate cited by Yahoo.

(Update, 10:10 a.m.: A Yahoo spokeswoman says Maven has 70 employees and "we anticipate having them stay on board post acquisition." From the press release, "With this acquisition, Yahoo! has established a Cambridge, MA presence and Maven has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yahoo!.")

Combined with yesterday's acquisition of Danger by Microsoft, a mobile phone software maker, "it doesn't look like either Microsoft or Yahoo are slowing down their VC-backed acquisition pace," wrote Daniel Primack in this morning's PE Week Wire.

Meanwhile, the previously announced layoffs at Yahoo appear to be coming down today. The Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source, reports that roughly 1,000 employees are getting layoff notices.

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February 11, 2008 1:45 PM

All the fuss is about this: U.S. online ad revenue up 27 percent to $25.5 billion

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Analysis firm IDC just reported that U.S. online ad revenue last year grew to $25.5 billion, up 27 percent from 2006.

That pot of money covers search, display and other forms of online ads, and it's projected to continue growing as advertisers follow people from old media to the Interne. That's why Microsoft is trying to buy Yahoo.

Their common rival Google has been the dominant player in this market, but, interestingly, Google's net U.S. market share "declined for the first time in two years due to slower growth in domestic fourth quarter sales," IDC found. It's a slight decline -- 0.5 percentage points -- to 23.7 percent in the fourth quarter. It still has more than twice the share of its two closest rivals individually.

IDC conveniently put the figures in context with the news of the day. Karsten Weide, program director for IDC's Digital Marketplace: Media and Entertainment service, said, in a statement:

"If a merger between Microsoft's new media business and Yahoo! would come to pass, the combined entity would have a net U.S. advertising market share of about 17% based on our 4Q07 data. It would not quite bring Microsoft-Yahoo! to where Google is in online advertising in the U. S., but it would give them a much better fighting chance than if they went it alone."

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February 1, 2008 8:05 AM

Microsoft's Kevin Johnson on proposed Yahoo acquisition

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's Platforms and Services Division, answered questions about integrating the two huge companies after Microsoft made a $31 per share offer for Yahoo this morning. Here is an edited transcript of my conversation with him:

Q: Why are you doing this and why is now the right time to do it?

A: Well first of all, this combined entity creates a more competitive company. It creates value for shareholders and it's going to enable us to enhance experiences for customers, whether they are end users, advertisers or publishers, and it creates great opportunities for the employees of both Microsoft and Yahoo.

At the end of the day, this is about creating a more compelling alternative to an increasingly dominant player in the industry.

Q: Does this essentially say that at this point Microsoft doesn't see itself as able to catch Google alone?

A: I'd go back to the Financial Analyst Meeting [in July 2007]. We outlined a value chain analysis and the taxonomy of user services and ad platform, and, look, we've been making good progress over this last year. We released the Windows Live Suite in November, a new release in Live Search last October. We successfully completed the first phase of integration with aQuantive. We've signed up new publishers to our ad platform. You know, look, we're pleased with the progress and we're very proud of the work that our employees have been driving in this area.

You know, the fact is that this is an industry where scale matters and by combining our resources with Yahoo, not only are we able to achieve scale economics, we're able to expand the R&D [research and development] capability, capture operational efficiencies and focus on new user experiences.

Q: Certainly one of the most important metrics for online advertising and success overall online is still search market share and I think it's fair to say both Microsoft and Yahoo have been steadily losing share against Google over the last year. On that front, what makes you think that combining two entities that are losing share is going to help against the one that's dominant and still gaining?

A: Well, there's two things. First, I'd point out, if you look at our share, I think we've been kind of holding share, and holding flat on share. The fact is this is a game of scale. By bringing the companies together we can create a more efficient operation and organization that scale enables us to eliminate duplicate capital costs, such as servers and data centers and infrastructure and by combining our R&D capability it allows us to have more engineers that focus on a broader range of products. Instead of having engineers both working on search indexes and core search relevance, we can have one team of engineers working on that and that frees up engineers to drive new innovations in search -- search verticals, new search user experiences. There's plenty of opportunity to drive breakthroughs in search.

Q: When I think about Yahoo, it's hard to think of something that they do that Microsoft doesn't also do in the area of online services. So what's your strategy going to be for combining those many overlapping services? Is it going to be a co-branding thing, or what do you see happening there?

A: First of all, through recent experiences with aQuantive and Tellme, we know how to do successful integration. And part of that successful integration is having clear, defined synergies we're working to get. A clear set of integration principles and then it's putting together a joint team of Microsoft leaders and Yahoo leaders who are going to work through a thoughtful integration process to make the decisions on how this lands. We're confident based on our recent success of integration with companies like aQuantive and Tellme that this process is the right process to yield great results.

Q: But aQuantive and Tellme had much less of an overlapping set of technologies or businesses they were in. It seemed like it was adding technology to what you guys were already doing whereas there are so many things that both MSN and Yahoo do that are essentially competitive and the same service. Will those go forward under the same name, or how do you see that part happening?

A: If you just take decisions around brands, you know, first of all, we've got a great set of brands, The Yahoo brand is a great brand and as part of this integration process, we're going to get leaders from Microsoft and Yahoo that are going to make thoughtful decisions, not only around the technology integration, but the user experiences and the brands. This is an opportunity to bring together the best of both worlds.

Q: Are you anticipating any layoffs at Microsoft or Yahoo as you combine the two companies?

A: A key part of this is the expanded R&D capacity. We're hiring engineers today and by combining resources with Yahoo this expands the R&D capability. This is an opportunity to get that expanded R&D capability and really prioritize what they're working on so that we can expand the range of innovation that's taking place.

Now, certainly, in combination with that, there are operational efficiencies that we will gain from this combination. And on the people front, much of the operational efficiencies certainly relate to the integration work where we've got to do a great job of getting the right people in the right jobs and making sure that we have the right amount of head count and resources, focused in the right areas.

I think we're confident, not only will we take advantage of this expanded engineering capability, but we'll be very thoughtful about the operational efficiencies that we can gain by getting the right people in the right jobs and the right amount of resources allocated to individual areas.

Q: What about combining the cultures of the two companies? Is that a big challenge too?

A: Our two companies share a common passion for innovation and creating opportunity and great user experiences through technology. And that passion for innovation is really at the core, and so together I think we're going to redefine how people and businesses think about information in the new age of the Internet and I think that common passion is really a glue that helps us bring the workforces together.

Q: What you've described is a complicated and extensive integration process. What's your best-case scenario for how long it takes after approval is granted?

A: Certainly, we're going to go through the integration planning process with the joint team of Microsoft and Yahoo, make thoughtful decisions about that. Some of the thoughtful decisions that will be made is sort of the timing of when and how things are sequenced.

But, you know, clearly we've got a certain set of integration activities that would happen on day one of closing and then certainly over some period following that. We're going to work through the set of things that get implemented to bring resources together.

Q: Do you face a risk here of spending so much focus on integrating the two companies that you don't get quickly to some of the benefits you've talked about?

A: Certainly, there is some -- you know, you look at scale economics. Combining our search inventory on the same ad platform, that's going to deliver better yield or better revenue very quickly. So there's certain synergies that will happen very quickly. he fact that on our integration plan, we've got to work to get to a single search index, a single ad platform. And by doing that, that means that we have one team of engineers working on that instead of two.

That enables us to now prioritize engineering work on new emerging scenarios such as video, mobile services, social media, social platforms. And so, I think there's a set of things that we can get immediately and as we deploy engineering resources on the broad set of priorities, there's things that will also be driven long-term.

Q: How big of a risk do you think you face from antitrust regulation on this?

A: We've worked closely with our legal counsel and we are confident we can obtain all necessary approvals in a timely manner. And we'd expect to close within the second half of this calendar year.

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January 31, 2008 11:04 AM

Microsoft ad boss McAndrews: search ads get too much credit

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.


McAndrews says search ads get more than their share of credit.

"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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January 29, 2008 9:42 AM

Microsoft to be exclusive digital ads provider for WSJ network

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft continues to rack up online advertising deals, and seems to be doing particularly well with purveyors of financial information.

The company today announced a deal with The Wall Street Journal Digital Network to become the "exclusive third-party provider of contextual and paid search advertising for its network of sites, including The Wall Street Journal Online, Barrons.com, MarketWatch.com, AllThingsD.com and others." The deal begins in February. No other terms were disclosed.

The network has 20 million unique monthly visitors.

Brian McAndrews, the former CEO of aQuantive who now heads Microsoft's new Advertiser and Publisher Sollutions Group, boasted that the win makes Microsoft's extended advertising network "the premier destination for advertisers interested in reaching financially minded users." The company has announced other deals in recent months with CNBC and Edgar Online (third item).

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January 6, 2008 10:42 AM

CES: Microsoft hints at possibilities for advertising in video, mobile, gaming

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft has made clear its intentions to become an advertising company. Today, in a session at the International Consumer Electronics Show, executives in charge of advertising within the company's Entertainment and Devices Division outlined their strategy for giving advertisers a way to reach consumers online outside of the Web browser -- where search and banner advertising currently represents the majority of online ad spending.

Mark Kroese, general manager of marketing and strategy within the Entertainment and Devices Division, said the off-browser focus areas include ads in and around video games, mobile devices and video.

Those three categories represent about 25 percent of online advertising spending, compared to 75 percent for traditional Web-based advertising. And all three categories are growing faster than search advertising, and of course, much faster than traditional advertising venues, which are contracting.

Continue reading this post ...


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December 13, 2007 1:54 PM

Year in preview: Mobile, video ads to grow big in 2008

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Interactive Advertising Bureau and American Association of Advertising Agencies shared some choice predictions for 2008 in their SmartBrief e-mail today.

What sector of online advertising will show the greatest growth in 2008?

Display -- 23%
Search -- 16%
Video -- 45%
Mobile -- 18%

Where is your interactive marketing budget headed in 2008?

Our spending will go up in 2008 -- 75%
Our spending will do down in 2008 -- 11%
Our spending will stay about the same -- 7%
Don't know/Not applicable -- 7%

Which advertising platform do you expect to take off in 2008?

Smartphone/mobile device -- 36%
Social networks -- 24%
Targeted digital cable -- 22%
Product placement/brand integration -- 12%
None of the above -- 6%

Where will ad spending grow the most in 2008?

United States -- 30%
China -- 30%
India -- 22%
Russia -- 4%
None of the above -- 14%

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December 11, 2007 10:32 AM

New guildlines for mobile marketing

Posted by Tricia Duryee

The Mobile Marketing Association has released the latest edition of its "consumer best practices guidelines for cross-carrier mobile content services in the U.S."

Although that sounds like a mouthful, at least 500 member companies follow these practices today. For example, Microsoft did so when it launched advertising on its mobile MSN.com property Monday.

Unlike with other media, mobile allows ads to be portrayed in several ways, including text messages or banner ads on mobile Web sites.

These new guidelines appear to cover the ever increasing number of techniques.
They include free-to-end-user guidelines for messaging, sweepstakes and contests, mobile Web and interactive voice response, affiliate marketing, participation TV and word-of-mouth verification.

Hard to know what some of that stuff even is, but this all comes under the heading of self-regulation. The committee that comes up with these guidelines comprises Alltel Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Bango, Chapell & Associates, denuo Group (a Publicis company), Jamster, Lavalife Mobile, mBlox, MMA, MTV Networks, MX Telecom, NeuStar, Qmobile, SinglePoint, Sprint Nextel, Sybase 365, Telescope, Teligence, The Walt Disney Company, T-Mobile USA, VeriSign, and Verizon Wireless.

The guidelines can be downloaded here.

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December 10, 2007 12:20 PM

Microsoft adds banners to mobile MSN

Posted by Tricia Duryee

Microsoft said this morning that for the first time it is adding banner and text ads to its MSN Mobile properties in the U.S.

The ads, at mobile.msn.com, will start appearing today. After a brief look on my phone, I saw mostly Microsoft house ads, but then I found one on a sports story that asked me to take part in a survey.

For kicks, I clicked on the banner. The landing page thanked me and said my answers would not be sold or shared with anyone. I bravely continued. It asked me about 10 questions, ranging from what year I was born to my behavior on the phone and what I thought of certain banks.

The ad was clearly for one of Microsoft's three launch partners: Bank of America. The other two advertisers are Paramount Pictures and Jaguar, said Phil Holden, director of Microsoft's online services group.

Putting ads on the mobile Web is not new. In fact, a number of companies and online media brands have already been doing it for quite some time. Companies such as Third Screen Media, Medio Systems, Thumbplay and Admob are all active in the space.

For now, what Microsoft is doing is pretty limited. The ads don't take into account the user's search history, their location, or any other information. On the MSN search page, there are no relevant text links on the results page.

"That is in the pipeline, but it wasn't enabled on Monday," Holden said.

It will be launched when it's time, he added.

"Most consumers don't even know what they can do on the mobile phone today. If I talk to my friends outside of the technology space, they don't know you can get e-mail and IM on your phone. In many cases, the iPhone has helped that in terms of the hype it's gotten and awareness" he said.

The mobile ad-serving technology was created by Microsoft's Advertiser & Publisher Solutions Group and through the acquisition of ScreenTonic SA and aQuantive.

Here's a screen shot of what it will look like. Depending on your phone, the ad may appear as a text link or a banner.

msftad1.PNG

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December 10, 2007 11:30 AM

Avenue A benefits decision driven by profit-margin pressure

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft intends to hold Avenue A | Razorfish, the advertising agency it obtained with the aQuantive acquisition, "accountable to deliver profit margins in line with others in our industry," Avenue A President Clark Kokich told employees in an e-mail Sunday night.

He was responding to several requests for clarification from employees who learned last week that they would not be getting Microsoft benefits, as I reported Friday. One reason given last week: Avenue A is in a different industry than Microsoft and, therefore, should have a different compensation structure. Employees who read Kokich's e-mail last week weren't sure whether that would mean more or less total compensation, but many feared the worst.

Kokich's Sunday e-mail, obtained by The Seattle Times, starts to clear up that question and provides interesting insight into how the agency business is expected to operate under Microsoft's new Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group.

"Profits come from creating high value client work combined with disciplined business management. I certainly don't believe that any of our competitors can beat us on either of those two dimensions. So given that we need to deliver industry-benchmark levels of profitability, we need to think carefully when we are considering new expenses.


"If we take on the expense of Microsoft's benefits package, we'll be offering benefits in excess of those offered by our competitors. This might mean that we would have to offer less in other forms of compensation. We need to learn more before we make those kinds of trade-offs. That's why we're planning to conduct further competitive analysis and to hold a series of employee focus groups this spring. We need to get this right."

More than just a difference in benefits, moving to the Microsoft plan would have stripped some Avenue A employees of their titles -- not an insignificant change. Kokich continues:

"In addition, full integration into Microsoft's compensation program would mean that virtually all of our director, vice president, and president titles would go away. These titles are relevant not only to employees, but to our clients, prospects, and to the industry as a whole, especially when we speak at industry events, serve on panels, and pitch new business. It would also require us to adapt to Microsoft's salary and bonus structure. These changes would negatively impact our ability to compete for the best talent in the industry."

Kokich said the benefits decision was not mandated by Microsoft. "We decided this was the best course of action and Microsoft agreed. They listened well and showed a lot of flexibility -- a good sign as we go forward as an important member of the Microsoft organization."

He concludes by saying the changes will not result in a reduction in total compensation and benefits.

Although for Avenue A employees who are watching their peers in aQuantive's Atlas and DRIVEpm divisions get the full Microsoft benefits package, maybe the concern is not a reduction, but a less-substantial relative increase.

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December 7, 2007 8:01 AM

Avenue A employees not getting Microsoft benefits

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Here's the full text of the email Avenue A | Razorfish President Clark Kokich sent to employees Wednesday, informing them that they would not be getting Microsoft benefits, as reported in today's story.

From: Clark Kokich Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 9:54 AM

Subject:

Hello to all:

I would like to let you know of some decisions we've made regarding our total rewards programs.

After several months of careful consideration, we have made the decision to decouple the programs for Avenue A I Razorfish and for Atlas/Drive. As you know, the two groups operate in completely different competitive environments. AA-RF competes within the marketing and technology services industry. We are an agency, while our sister divisions are software and media companies.

As aQuantive, we did our best to maintain one overall total rewards program that tried to balance the needs for these two different types of businesses in one corporate parent. This challenge became more and more difficult as each business matured. Now, as part of Microsoft, which is a mature company with very well-defined programs based on the software and media model, we believe it is no longer tenable for us to attempt to treat all parts of our business the same. It would mean causing AA|RF to conform so closely to the software and media model as to make it non-competitive within its own industry. In order to continue to succeed, we must design our total rewards system to match the expectations of our industry. This includes our approach to salary, benefits, bonus, titles, levels, tools, career development, and performance management.

In order to assure that we can continue to hire, retain, and reward the best people in our industry, we will be launching a competitive review of total rewards within the marketing and technology services industry. In addition, we will be conducting a number of focus groups with Avenue A I Razorfish people around the country to hear from you directly about what offerings you value the most. The combination of these activities will help ensure we understand clearly what we need to do to in order to compete for talent in our industry. This research and analysis will begin after the first of the year and will be completed in the spring.

All legacy aQuantive groups will continue on our existing programs through the first half of 2008. At that time (concurrent with the beginning of Microsoft's new fiscal year), we will make the change to a decoupled approach. Atlas, Drive and Franchise Gator employees will be fully integrated into the Microsoft total rewards program starting July 1, 2008. And at the same time AARF employees can expect to see changes to our own program, some right away and some over time, as we focus towards an agency-driven total rewards package.

I feel good about this direction. In the past we've on occasion made sub-optimal decisions in our desire to maintain one total rewards program across widely disparate businesses. We now have the opportunity to offer programs that will allow us to continue to build Avenue A I Razorfish by attracting the best and brightest in our industry.

Clark

I'd love to hear whether people think this is fair or justified. Add your comments below.

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December 7, 2007 8:01 AM

Avenue A employees not getting Microsoft benefits

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Here's the full text of the email Avenue A | Razorfish President Clark Kokich sent to employees Wednesday, informing them that they would not be getting Microsoft benefits, as reported in today's story.

From: Clark Kokich Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 9:54 AM

Subject:

Hello to all:

I would like to let you know of some decisions we've made regarding our total rewards programs.

After several months of careful consideration, we have made the decision to decouple the programs for Avenue A I Razorfish and for Atlas/Drive. As you know, the two groups operate in completely different competitive environments. AA-RF competes within the marketing and technology services industry. We are an agency, while our sister divisions are software and media companies.

As aQuantive, we did our best to maintain one overall total rewards program that tried to balance the needs for these two different types of businesses in one corporate parent. This challenge became more and more difficult as each business matured. Now, as part of Microsoft, which is a mature company with very well-defined programs based on the software and media model, we believe it is no longer tenable for us to attempt to treat all parts of our business the same. It would mean causing AA|RF to conform so closely to the software and media model as to make it non-competitive within its own industry. In order to continue to succeed, we must design our total rewards system to match the expectations of our industry. This includes our approach to salary, benefits, bonus, titles, levels, tools, career development, and performance management.

In order to assure that we can continue to hire, retain, and reward the best people in our industry, we will be launching a competitive review of total rewards within the marketing and technology services industry. In addition, we will be conducting a number of focus groups with Avenue A I Razorfish people around the country to hear from you directly about what offerings you value the most. The combination of these activities will help ensure we understand clearly what we need to do to in order to compete for talent in our industry. This research and analysis will begin after the first of the year and will be completed in the spring.

All legacy aQuantive groups will continue on our existing programs through the first half of 2008. At that time (concurrent with the beginning of Microsoft's new fiscal year), we will make the change to a decoupled approach. Atlas, Drive and Franchise Gator employees will be fully integrated into the Microsoft total rewards program starting July 1, 2008. And at the same time AARF employees can expect to see changes to our own program, some right away and some over time, as we focus towards an agency-driven total rewards package.

I feel good about this direction. In the past we've on occasion made sub-optimal decisions in our desire to maintain one total rewards program across widely disparate businesses. We now have the opportunity to offer programs that will allow us to continue to build Avenue A I Razorfish by attracting the best and brightest in our industry.

Clark

I'd love to hear whether people think this is fair or justified. Add your comments below.

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December 4, 2007 9:33 AM

'Mommy, Why Is There a Server in the House?'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

That's the title of a new children's book from Microsoft. It's part of a marketing campaign for the company's Windows Home Server product.

The marketing company behind the effort is Creature, an independent Seattle agency that has also done work for Google, Nike and Starbucks.

"When people hear the word 'server,' they equate it with work and a place where information is shared, managed and secure," Steven VanRoekel, senior director, Windows Server Solutions Group, told AdWeek. "There is a sense of pride in telling people that they are running a server in their home."

The 24-page children's book will apparently be sold at Amazon.com, but I couldn't find it this morning. At the Windows Home Server Blog, a post from Nov. 30 says the book "will help parents explain why there is a new member of the family. We are sure the book will become a best seller!"

An excerpt: "But guess what? Some servers aren't boring. They don't go in offices ... they go in houses! Maybe in your house! How does it get there?

"When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much, the daddy wants to give the mommy a special gift. So he buys a 'stay-at-home' server."

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November 30, 2007 6:15 AM

Adobe, Yahoo teaming up on ad-funded software experiment

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

As more software functions move to the Internet, where the traditional software licensing business model has limitations, companies are experimenting with new business models such as subscriptions and advertising-supported software.

Microsoft is trying it with its Works suite, which comes standard -- and free to the user -- on many new computers. Likewise, Google Docs and Spreadsheets -- online versions of the productivity apps dominated by Microsoft -- are advertising supported. Now Adobe, a leader in rich Internet applications with its Flash player and nearly ubiquitous PDF reader and writer, is getting into the act with help from Yahoo.

On Thursday, the companies announced a partnership to allow publishers to serve contextual ads into PDF documents. Like all of these early ad-funded software efforts, this is a test program for starters and it's opt-in.

From the release: "The new service allows publishers to generate revenue by including contextual, text-based ads next to Adobe PDF content, with Yahoo! providing access to its extensive network of advertisers to match a broad range of subject matter. For advertisers, Ads for Adobe PDF Powered by Yahoo! extends reach by delivering advertising across a new channel of content, while also providing the ability to track advertising performance, just as they can today with ads placed on Web sites."

DigitalCameras222.PNG

This in-PDF advertising seems clearly targeted at the long tail of the Internet, as this excerpt from AdWeek's coverage of the news illustrates:

The program will open up new real estate for its advertisers, according to Todd Teresi, svp of Yahoo!'s publisher network, especially among small-time customers that don't even have Web sites. Example: Local youth soccer leagues that create weekly e-mail newsletters could generate funds through contextual placements for soccer equipment and jerseys -- and even minivans, he said.

"The primary users long term are going to be down the tail," Teresi said.

The program is offered as a free service to US-based publishers who produce English content. Early adopters include IDG InfoWorld, Wired, Pearson's Education, Meredith Corporation and Reed Elsevier.

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November 29, 2007 3:53 PM

EA boss calls in-game ad revenue forecasts 'wildly high'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

I'm thinking Alex St. John over at Wild Tangent would agree wholeheartedly with John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, the biggest video game publisher, who said today:

"You can't be as bullish as analysts are on in-game advertising and be sane," he said. "In-game ad expectations are wildly high."

One widely reported forecast by the Yankee Group has in-game ad revenue reaching $971 million by 2011 up from just $77.7 million last year.

2003844689.gif

Riccitiello's comments came in an interview with Dow Jones.

Microsoft, for one, has been particularly bullish on in-game advertising, acquiring the Massive Network for as much as $400 million, according to unconfirmed reports, last year. Here's an in-depth look at Massive's business from earlier this year.

That deal and others helped build hype around the nascent in-game ad business, Riccitiello told Dow Jones. EA, which controls several top titles in the sports category that advertising leaders say are a natural fit for in-game promotions, is cranking out about $30 million a year from in-game ads -- a small slice of total revenue.

I spoke with St. John earlier this month. He says in-game advertising is much less efficient than other options his company offers in the category of around-game advertising. Particularly for casual games, more flexible models are working better at Wild Tangent. Some examples include giving advertisers the opportunity to sponsor game play sessions; and giving players the choice of viewing a short pre-roll ad while a game is loading, or paying for the game session.

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October 8, 2007 3:28 PM

Toyota advergame on Xbox Live to promote Yaris

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

People on Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming service can download a free game that's actually an advertisement for a car. The game, Yaris, debuted today, according to this New York Times story. It's the first free advergame to be distributed over Xbox Live Arcade, the story says.

The Times' coverage goes over the other advergames that Microsoft's Xbox team has been involved in, most notably the ones promoting Burger King, which were sold with burgers and fries, only at Burger King restaurants. Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach told an audience earlier this year that he wasn't expecting the success of the Burger King promotion.

"If you had asked me a year ago, 'Gosh, you're going to do a promotion with the Burger King on Xbox Live Arcade and it's going to generate headlines in the business press about how we lifted Burger King's sales,' I would have been truly surprised," Bach said at Microsoft's Mix conference in May. "... It had a demonstrable impact on their financial results."

More companies are jumping on the video game advertising bandwagon, as the Yaris example illustrates. There are several different flavors of video game advertising, and Microsoft is wading deeper into all of them. Check out this story on the workings of Massive, the in-game advertising network Microsoft acquired.

Sony, too, is moving on its own into in-game advertising, according to this story from paidContent.org.

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August 29, 2007 10:50 AM

MSNBC, Conde Naste team on content; CNN choses Google

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

MSNBC.com, the Redmond-based news organization owned jointly by Microsoft and NBC parent GE, will present content from several Conde Naste outlets under a deal announced today.

According to a press release:

"The CondeNet brands that will share content with msnbc.com include Style.com, Men.Style.com, Epicurious.com, and Concierge.com. Content from Conde Nast's publications, such as Vogue, Glamour, Self, GQ, Details, Men's Vogue, Vanity Fair, Gourmet, Bon App├ętit, Conde Nast Traveler, and Conde Nast Portfolio will also be available on MSNBC.com."

In another development, CNN.com -- which ranks third, just ahead of MSNBC, on the list of most-visited news sites -- will use Google's pay-per-click advertising technology exclusively. It previously used Yahoo's technology. See coverage from IDG News Service.

No word if Microsoft's adCenter was in the running for this high-profile customer.

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August 21, 2007 8:45 AM

More perspectives on in-game advertising

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Adweek has a broad look at the market for in-game advertising and the fact that it has not lived up to the hype of just a year ago from in-game advertising purveyors, including executives at Massive.

This story provides great ad-industry context to help understand our recent profile of Massive, which Microsoft acquired, and its business model. I also focused more on how Massive fits into Microsoft's advertising strategy.

The Adweek story outlines several gripes advertisers and analysts have with dynamic in-game advertising as it exists today, including:

Lacking impact and interactivity;

Effectiveness, execution and measurement tools remain "iffy";

Distribution mainly to the PC (read: hard-core gamers), but not as much happening on the consoles (read: the TV in the living room).


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August 9, 2007 10:43 AM

aQuantive shareholders agree to Microsoft acquisition

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In a brief, well-attended -- by aQuantive's past standards -- shareholder meeting this morning in Seattle, owners of the company overwhelmingly approved Microsoft's proposed acquisition, which will net them gains of more than $30 a share, 85 percent, over the price before the deal was announced.

On May 18, Microsoft announced plans to buy the Seattle-based digital advertising company for $6 billion, or $66.50 a share.

The crowd of about 25 shareholders and current and former employees applauded when the vote tally was read. Out of 79,985,251 shares outstanding eligible to vote on the acquisition, the holders of approximately 58,197,697 shares of common stock, 72.7 percent, cast ballots in favor of the acquisition. Here's the regulatory filing confirming the vote.

One man with a big smile on his face was Hoby Douglass. He joined what was then Avenue A in 1999, before the company went public. He was wearing a baseball jersey identifying him as employee No. 106.

Douglass said the jersey was used in a marketing campaign to attract new hires.

"We did a pub crawl all over town and came up to people and said. 'Do you want to work here? Do you want to work here?' Because that's the way it was back then. And we got some new employees out of it, so it was great," he said.

Today, the company has about 2,400 employees globally who will soon become part of Microsoft, which has close to 79,000 full-time workers. The deal is expected to be finalized later this month.

Douglass later left aQuantive, but he said he continued to buy shares of its stock on the open market to add to what he accumulated as an employee. He said he did so because he always had confidence in the company's management.

"I knew the management and I thought, this is not a risk," Douglass said. "They've proven me right."

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August 8, 2007 10:33 AM

aQuantive Q2 profit down, shareholders vote tomorrow

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Seattle-based digital advertising house aQuantive today reported second quarter profit of $9.6 million, down 22 percent from a year ago on cost increases. Shareholders of the company, which Microsoft is planning to buy for $6 billion, are scheduled to vote Thursday in Seattle on whether to approve the acquisition.

Revenue on the quarter increased 48 percent to $156 million.

See coverage of the earnings announcement from The Associated Press.

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July 25, 2007 11:56 AM

Microsoft to handle ads for Digg

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In the second significant advertising deal Microsoft has announced today, the company will "sell and serve the ads on Digg," according to this blog post by Digg founder Kevin Rose and a Microsoft press release.

Rose compared the deal to a similar one Microsoft inked with Facebook in August 2006.

The announcement says Digg, which allows users to vote on the Web's best content, has 17 million unique visitors a month.

Other details: The deal is for three years. Microsoft is the "exclusive provider of display and contextual advertising on Digg." Microsoft will work with Digg's current advertising provider, Federated Media Publishing. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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July 25, 2007 9:46 AM

EA Sports, Microsoft make in-game advertising deal

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft and EA Sports announced today that five of the video-game publisher's biggest titles will be incorporated into the Microsoft's in-game advertising network.

The titles are: "Madden NFL 08," "NASCAR 08," "NHL 08," "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08," and "Skate."

Advertisements will be placed in the games via the Massive Network, which Microsoft acquired last year.

It's doubtful that Peter Moore, the Microsoft video games executive who is leaving to head EA Sports, had much to do with negotiating the deal, terms of which were kept private. I'm asking about that and will post a response here.

(Because in-game advertising is handled by Massive, which sits within Microsoft's Online Services Division, Moore, who is part of the Entertainment and Devices Division, had nothing to do with the deal, according to an e-mailed statement from a Microsoft PR firm.)

During the E3 Media and Business Summit earlier this month in Santa Monica, I had a chance to talk about in-game advertising with Jeff Bell, corporative vice president of global marketing in Microsoft's video games business.

Bell brings an interesting perspective to the discussion because before coming to Microsoft, he was with DaimlerChrysler, where he worked on the Jeep brand. He tried several game-related advertising strategies including in-game ads (his team helped get Jeep as the vehicle featured in Microsoft's "Zoo Tycoon" game) and adver-gaming. He was also named Interactive Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age in 2005.

From our conversation, this EA deal sounds like just what Microsoft is looking for.

I asked him what role the company sees for in-game ads, and how much advertising is appropriate.

Bell: "I think there we do know and the data is overwhelming, that if you're in a reality based game, people don't want to see Acme. They don't want to see Blogo Shoes. They want to see 7-Eleven and they want to see Adidas. And so, from that standpoint, both from a product realism, as well as an advertising realism, they would like to have the real thing.

"I think where you cross over is you're not going to be seeing Massive or advertisements in 'Mass Effect.' So science fiction doesn't make as much sense.

"For us, I think we tend to focus more on the sports franchises, the reality based driving franchises, Tony Hawk, obviously has been a pioneer in that particular realm of being able to present things in the real world, real advertisements that can attract that audience."

He said EA is leading the way with advertising in sports games, but because of the slow and complex process of negotiating advertising agreements with sports leagues, franchises and stadiums, the area is just now building momentum.

I also asked Bell if he thinks game buyers should get a price break on games that carry a lot of advertising, the reason being that now publishers have a new revenue stream to tap.

Bell: "It's an interesting question, but it's so theoretical at this point, meaning that the business is still driven by the revenue from the sales of the games themselves that, there, I think we're all interested in the growth of the advertising model, but it is at present only a very small part of our overall revenue."

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July 6, 2007 9:14 AM

Microsoft-aQuantive deal clears regulatory hurdle

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Federal Trade Commission has completed its 30-day review of the Microsoft aQuantive acquisition and raised no red flags. In a regulatory filing today, Seattle-based digital advertising company aQuantive said requirements under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act "have been satisfied."

In a statement, Microsoft indicated that the acquisition is on track to be completed this year.

"We're pleased that the FTC's automatic 30-day review period has concluded without a second request for information and look forward to finalizing this transaction by the end of the year, if not considerably sooner," said Microsoft spokesman Guy Esnouf.

On May 18, Microsoft announced plans to buy aQuantive for $6 billion, about an 85 percent premium to the company's market value the day before.

Shareholders in aQuantive will vote on the deal at a special meeting Aug. 9.

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July 5, 2007 12:09 PM

Mobile advertising: Big bucks in 2011

Posted by Tricia Duryee

JupiterResearch analyst Neil Strother put out a report recently that forecasted the market size for mobile advertising.

The conclusion is that the opportunity holds great promise.

By 2011, the market could be as large as $2.9 billion.

The caveat is that there is a lot of fragmentation and significant hurdles that could easily dampen results.

The key questions the report attempts to answer are: What ecosystem are mobile advertising networks operating in?; What hurdles do these networks face? What conditions are necessary for mobile advertising to achieve rapid growth?

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July 3, 2007 10:53 AM

aQuantive sets vote on Microsoft acquisition

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In a proxy filing today, aQuantive announced an Aug. 9 shareholder meeting to vote on the company's proposed $6 billion acquisition by Microsoft.

A letter to shareholders contained in the filing describes, in part, the mechanics of the transaction, which involves a Microsoft acquisition company called Arrow Acquisition. "The merger agreement provides for the merger of Arrow Acquisition with and into aQuantive, as a result of which aQuantive would become 100% owned by Microsoft."

The letter also reminds shareholders of the merger price: $66.50 a share, "a premium of approximately 85% over the $35.87 closing price of aQuantive common stock on May 17, 2007, the last trading day before the merger agreement was publicly announced." The company's shares gained slightly to close at $64.90 in an abbreviated holiday session.

aQuantive, a Seattle-based online advertising powerhouse, is holding the meeting in the swanky Hotel 1000, where shareholders will need to bring a couple of those aQuantive shares to trade for valet parking. Not surprisingly, the company's board of directors unanimously suggest a vote in favor of the transaction.

Meanwhile, according to this Bloomberg report, German authorities have started their review of the proposed acquisition, "triggering at least a 30-day review."

Microsoft submitted the bid, worth about $6 billion, on June 21, according to the German Competition Authority's Web site. The agency has opened an initial 30-day probe and will rule by July 23, Christiane Moch, a spokeswoman for the office said by telephone today.

The regulator can clear the takeover or start an in-depth probe that would last until Oct. 22, Moch said.

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June 14, 2007 3:50 PM

WSJ: FTC reviewing aQuantive deal ... as expected

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A report in The Wall Street Journal this afternoon cites lawyers close to three big online advertising deals -- including Microsoft's $6 billion purchase of Seattle-based aQuantive -- saying that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating them for antitrust concerns.

At least in the case of the aQuantive buy, no big shocker. When Microsoft announced the deal May 18, General Counsel Brad Smith told reporters and analysts, "The transaction is obviously subject to [Hart-Scott-Rodino] review. It's also subject to potential review outside the United States. We've been assessing that. We believe it will require a notification in Germany; at this point we don't believe it will require notification in the European Union as a whole." He added, "Acquisitions of complementary assets such as the Microsoft-aQuantive deal normally do not raise antitrust concerns."

According to the Journal story, the FTC is also reviewing Yahoo!'s purchase of Right Media. Google's purchase of DoubleClick is already being reviewed -- something Microsoft urged the government to do. In May, Microsoft was confident that its acquisition would increase competition in the online advertising market.

"Obviously, as you all know, we've consistently stated, that given the importance of this business to the future development of the Internet, we think it's very important that enforcement agencies fully study the competitive implications of acquisitions in this sector," Smith said. "... The Microsoft-aQuantive transaction will promote competition and the Google DoubleClick transaction will reduce competition, and it's really as simple as that."

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June 5, 2007 11:20 AM

InfoSpace nabs Virgin Mobile UK

Posted by Tricia Duryee

Bellevue-based InfoSpace said on Saturday that it will work with Virgin Mobile in the United Kingdom to provide search capabilities on Virgin mobile phone.

That will offer Virgin subscribers in the U.K. the ability to search the Web, sites made explicitly for mobile and Virgin Mobile's own portal and storefront, including ringtones, games and other content.

The new business is a reflection of InfoSpace's recent partnership with FAST Search & Transfer, a developer of search technologies, and InfoGin, a leader in the field of Web-to-mobile content adaptation.

InfoSpace has been trying to play in the mobile search arena for some time, transferring its knowledge over from the Web, where it owns properties such as Dogpile.com, and leveraging its expertise in mobile.

It's unknown whether mobile carriers would want to partner with InfoSpace after a series of events over the past two years. It started off when Cingular Wireless stopped using the carrier to aggregate its ringtones. Then, the company, under pressure from shareholders, decided to return about half of its cash balance -- or about $200 million -- to its shareholders.

Still, it faces major competition in mobile search, not only from the big online players such as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, but also from mobile upstarts such as Seattle's Medio Systems and JumpTap, based in Massachusetts.

In fact, in the U.S., Virgin Mobile gets its search technology from JumpTap.

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May 21, 2007 10:00 AM

Marchex developing Spanish-language sites

Posted by Kim Peterson

Seattle-based Marchex said today it's partnering with Fox's Latin American Channels division to develop a number of Web sites that it owns, including futbol.com, fotos.com, deportes.com (sports) and mujer.com (woman).

Turns out that Marchex's ongoing domain-buying spree is not just limited to English-language sites. The company owns thousands of domain names, including most of the Zip code sites in the U.S. (like 98109.com).

Marchex said it recently acquired about 100 Spanish-language Web sites for $10 million in cash. It plans to make money by selling advertisements on those sites.

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May 7, 2007 1:47 PM

AdCenter isn't the only one with problems

Posted by Kim Peterson

I wrote a story in today's paper about Microsoft's advertising system, adCenter, and some of the ups and downs it has gone through in its first year. You'll likely hear more about Microsoft's advertising plans tomorrow when Bill Gates speaks at the company's annual Strategic Account Summit.

I talked to quite a few Internet marketers about adCenter, and found that across the board they praised adCenter's return on investment, but complained about the low traffic coming in to Microsoft's search engine. The story also mentioned some of the technical issues that adCenter has had, including some problems with usability and speed.

Someone who has worked on the adCenter application for the last two years wrote me to say that Google and Yahoo! have had similar technical problems as well.

My story was about adCenter specifically, and not what's happening with the competition. But in the interest of fairness, here and here are some examples of glitches with Google adWords.

Some advertisers had a messy time converting to Yahoo!'s new Panama advertising system. You can read more about those glitches here.

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May 1, 2007 10:24 AM

Adweek gives aQuantive unit a B

Posted by Kim Peterson

Adweek puts out critical report cards on 10 interactive advertising agencies, including the Avenue A | Razorfish unit of Seattle's aQuantive.

No agency gets higher than a B+, and Avenue A| R azorfish gets a B. With the highest annual revenue of any of the 10 -- $268 million -- the agency gets an A for numbers. But it got hit with a C+ in the creative and the emerging media categories. AdWeek called the unit's use of Web animation "uninspired" and said that its work on a Red Bull site fizzled.

"The marriage of metrics- and response-focused Avenue A and Web design rollup Razorfish has worked better than most imagined," the judges write. "The challenge for the agency will be making sure its disparate offerings do not lose out to more focused providers."

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April 17, 2007 3:16 PM

Microsoft upgrades adCenter

Posted by Kim Peterson

Microsoft said today that it has upgraded its adCenter online advertising system. At the same time, some adCenter customers said they saw a huge drop in Web traffic. Not sure if the upgrade caused the traffic to tumble; according to this blog Microsoft is playing down any connection.

The adCenter upgrade has an interesting feature. Microsoft said it will begin assessing the content of the ads and landing page in relation to the user's likely intent. (The landing page is the page you get to after you click on an ad.)

AdCenter still mostly works with Microsoft's search engine. Sounds like Microsoft is getting confident that it can figure out user intent on search.

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April 16, 2007 3:00 PM

Mobile advertising group makes a local selection

Posted by Tricia Duryee

Seattle-based OpenMarket, a division of Amdocs, said today that John Lauer, its vice president of sales and carrier relations, has been elected to the Mobile Marketing Association 2007 North American Board of Directors.

The MMA is a global association dedicated to establishing practices and guidelines for advertising in the mobile industry.

Other local executives serve on the executive committee and board.

From the executive committee:

-- Vice Chairman Jay Emmet is the president of mBlox, which has offices in London, Singapore and Sunnydale, Calif., but Emmet lives in Camas.

-- Director at large Matt Champagne is director of mobile product management at Microsoft's MSN and Windows Live divisions.

On the board of directors:

-- Doug Busk is vice president of industry relations at Bellevue-based SinglePoint.

-- Chuck Mildes is senior manager of off-deck content services at Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA.

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April 13, 2007 2:47 PM

DoubleClick: What's the big deal?

Posted by Kim Peterson

Google is buying online advertising giant DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in cash.

Why is DoubleClick worth so much to Google?

DoubleClick is huge in the online advertising business. It works directly with ad agencies to buy up online advertising space and measures how many clicks an ad gets. It also works with the publishers, the Web sites that own all of this valuable space.

DoubleClick is setting up a stock market-like exchange for those buyers and sellers to get together. There, they can run auctions for advertising space, and DoubleClick gets a cut of each transaction. The idea is that the exchange will help Web sites sell space that would otherwise be undervalued or unused.

The company has huge customers, including Ford Motor, MySpace and AOL.

DoubleClick has been in hot water for some of its practices. The Federal Trade Commission began investigating the company in 2000 after DoubleClick said it was going to begin using personally identifiable information gleaned from its new subsidiary, market researcher Abacus Direct. DoubleClick backed off and eventually sold Abacus.

Microsoft was reportedly also going after DoubleClick. I've asked the company for reaction to the sale and will update with its response.

Update: After first saying Microsoft would have a statement, a company spokesman e-mailed me this afternoon to say a statement will not be issued at this time.

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April 13, 2007 2:37 PM

YellowPages opens Seattle office

Posted by Tricia Duryee

YellowPages.com, owned by AT&T, said it is opening a Seattle office.

The opening corresponds with analyst expectations that online advertising in directories will increase as more people turn to the Internet rather than a phone book for numbers and addresses. In fact, online directory ads are expected to increase by 31 percent in the next four years, according to the Kelsey Group, an analyst firm.

The company expects the Seattle office to open on April 23, with as many as 30 employees who will be signing up local advertisers.

Seattle and Denver are among the company's first offices to be opened west of the Mississippi, following new offices in Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and others.

YellowPages.com said Seattle was selected because a large percentage of people who use its site are from there.

YellowPages.com had more than 1 billion network searches last year.

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April 10, 2007 3:24 PM

Yahoo! scores Viacom ad deal

Posted by Kim Peterson

Yahoo!'s new online advertising system, Panama, scored a big win today with an exclusive, multi-year agreement to provide all the advertising for Viacom's Web sites, including sponsored search and contextual ads. The sites include MTV.com, comedycentral.com and Nickelodeon.com.

Viacom's sites saw about 90 million unique viewers in February. Not a bad haul for Yahoo!

This Marketwatch article mentions why Viacom wouldn't have given the deal to Google -- Viacom is suing Google-owned YouTube for copyright infringement -- but what about Microsoft? Is Yahoo!'s win a loss for Redmond?

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