Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Microsoft adCenter Canadian Launch

Today was a big day for Microsoft Canada, as they formally launched adCenter. I took part in the analyst briefing this morning, and just got back from the very fun launch event tonight. They sure know how to put on a show, but more on that later.

Quick sidebar - am I the only one asking whether they should have used Canadian spelling for adCenter? I wouldn't really expect them to, but for all the earnest flag waving going on today about the launch, and how great a market Canada is for Microsoft, it just struck me as a bit ironic. I'm odd, I know....

Everyone knows that online advertising is one of the last frontiers for Microsoft to conquer, and it's taken a while given Google's dominance of this space. It's all about search in the online advertising game, and this is an area where Microsoft has traditionally lagged Google and Yahoo. The stakes are too high for Microsoft not to be in this, and adCenter has already been launched in the U.S., France, U.K. and Singapore. They may never become the top search engine on the Internet, but it's clear to me that Microsoft has taken a bigger picture, more strategic approach to the online ad market.

Before getting to this, I must say they did a great job setting the stage for why they're in this business. I've never really followed the numbers in this market, but I see what they are now. They explained how the total spend on advertising in the U.S. is $570 billion - that's a lot of Bud, Chevys and Nikes. Online advertising only gets $22 billion - which is still a lot of money, but a small piece of the pie.

Microsoft would argue this is out of whack with consumer behavior. Their data shows that online activities account for 20% of all media viewership, which is not unreasonable to me. On that basis, online ad spending should be much larger - $115 billion. Well, guess what? That spend level is almost the size of the entire software industry, which they peg at $135 billion. If all goes to plan, Microsoft is poised to enter a very big market where they have a very good chance of becoming a major player. Especially if you agree with their assessment that "it's very early in the game". Sure, Google has made piles of money already, but I'll agree that online advertising is hardly a mature medium and, we haven't even begun to tap to potential of a Web 2.0 world.

Rather than try to beat Google and Yahoo at their own game, it looks to me like Microsoft is leveraging the ubiquity of its brand and presence in our daily lives. They see adCenter as a natural extension of the many touchpoints Microsoft has in our "digital lifestyle". It's true, at all times of the day, whether at work or at home, most of us are using some product or service from Microsoft. It could be Outlook, Windows, Office, Messenger, Hotmail, Media Center, XBox, IPTV, Zune... you get the picture. Across all ages, genders, lifestyles - Microsoft is part of our everyday lives.

This gives Microsoft something very valuable that advertisers cannot get from Google and Yahoo - a targeted audience. Of course, you somehow need to be logged in when using Microsoft apps to do this, but when you are, they can provide advertisers a much higher level of control and targeting, allowing them to get a better ROI. They cited examples to support that tonight, so there is evidence to show that adCenter is an efficient and effective vehicle for online advertisers. They also provided some terrific Canadian case studies to show how well some early trials have gone. So far, so good. Oh, and kudos to High Road Communications for putting all this together and getting me home by 8! First rate.

I'll leave you with some photo highlights, courtesy of my Nokia N93.

Don't you love the tag line - "The Search Is Over". I guess they mean the search for the right online ad vehicle is over, but are they perhaps hinting that "search" - as defined by the competition - is over - that's just so 2006, and Microsoft has taken this to a whole other level? We'll see.....


Blake Irving, Corp. VP, Windows Live --- and David Jakubowski, GM, Microsoft adCenter - these guys came a long way to get to Toronto, so this really was a big deal. Great presentations, btw.


Ok, presos are over - sushi time! And a great set by Montreal's Sam Roberts Band. Very nicely done, and guess what was in the swag bag? Their latest CD, Chemical City, signed by the band. Nice touch.


CODA - this is important folks, esp if you're a music guy like me! Sam Roberts Band is in the running for Spin's Artist of the Year. They've made it to Round 4, and are up against The Rewinds from Birmingham, Alabama. I just had a listen to their sample song, Voice In My Head - not bad, but my vote's gone to SRB. Go Canada!

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