Microsoft, which already sells ads on its web portal MSN and in its video games, today announced the sale of ads on MSN Mobile, rounding out its digital offerings with mobile banner and text ads.
"By incorporating advertising on MSN Mobile, we are allowing advertisers to extend their existing campaigns from PCs to games and now to mobile phones, further delivering on our vision to extend advertising across multiple platforms and devices," Joanne Bradford, corporate VP-chief media officer of MSN, said in a statement.
Improves buys across divisions
Microsoft's recent actions address critics' frequent complaint about the software giant's ad sales: that there's too much separation of its various divisions, making it difficult to buy across platforms.
The announcement was one of two intended to help convince the market of Microsoft's ad muscle. Yesterday Microsoft also announced an exclusive deal to provide display and contextual ads on CNBC.com. The deal is small -- CNBC.com has 2.6 million visitors each month -- but will help build out a financial vertical on Microsoft's network.
The first marketers to show up on MSN Mobile in the U.S. include Paramount Pictures and Jaguar. Microsoft has had a similar mobile-ad program running in foreign markets, including Belgium, France, Japan, Spain and the U.K. MSN, which has 465 million unique users worldwide per month, also offers ringtones on MSN Mobile and plans a new astrology channel with free horoscopes.
Roger Wood, senior VP-general manager of the Americas region for Amobee Media, is bullish on Microsoft's mobile prospects.
'Integrated interactive media buy'
"I think Microsoft is trying to put together a slate of interactive ad inventory choices with the anticipation one day we might see an integrated interactive media buy that might cut across video games, instant messaging, e-mail, display web, mobile," Mr. Wood said. "We'll see whether interactive agencies of the future see promise in an interactive integrated buy."
Mr. Wood, whose Amobee is focused on mobile integrated video, text messaging, mobile web, games and music applications, said the trend may manifest itself more significantly by the end of 2008.
Google and Yahoo have been working to integrate mobile ads with their respective PC web offerings. Google has long planned to go beyond online media, with forays into print, TV and audio ads. At last week's UBS Global Media Communications Conference, Tim Armstrong, exec VP-advertising at Google, said while media may be "siloed," the "the underlying advertisers" are not.
The trend toward ad convergence isn't just for the big guys. This week, Burst Media, which sells ads on 6,200 medium and long tail websites, signed a deal to work with Quattro Wireless to offer an ad package that includes mobile. Consumers "want to view their favorite sites when they are not next to the computer," said David Cooperstein, CMO of Burlington, Mass., Burst Media.
Top marketers experiment
Right now, marketers experimenting primarily are those at the top, including Procter & Gamble and its brands such as Herbal Essence and Gillette, and a number of pure-play mobile companies, such as those selling mobile applications for games or ringtones. Andy Miller, Quattro Wireless CEO, said that the "market takes off when the middle comes in -- not just the NFL or a mobile guy."
As for Microsoft, he said its moves this week are likely the tip of the iceberg. "They think they can start to drive some serious revenue in 2008," Mr. Miller said.
While marketers are likely to applaud a one-stop digital ad-shopping model, Eric Bader, managing partner, Brand in Hand, cautioned that display ads are just a small part of the mobile opportunity and convenience is only a small part of the total digital-media-buying process.
"The critical thing is you've got to make sure what they are offering you is quality audience and the best content," he said.