Microsoft Target You

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by: Gary Hayes

Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft (The big three) are relatively open in recent posts about the fact that behavioural targeting & personalization is now high on their agenda and part of an on-going strategy. Microsoft’s press announcement yesterday was picked up in MediaPost, amongst many others, their plans to follow up on Bill Gates’s CES themes – to quote him from my post a few days ago

Another theme is that this all has to work across these devices, whether it’s calling people, seeing their presence, knowing what they’re interested in, making it easy for them to navigate; it’s got to be user centric, and that’s a big theme that’s going to make these things a lot simpler.

So the MS labs in Beijing particularly are busy building targeting engines. The MediaPost article entitled “Microsoft Demos Behavioral Targeting” looks at the new incubation labs in China and at headquarters in Seattle.

AdLab is divided into two offices–one in Redmond, and one in Bejing, each with 22 researchers–and will work on roughly 40 projects at a time. According to Redetzki, the company decided to place one of the centers in China because of the large pool of talented researchers there. “We do go where we feel the people are,” she said. “Search is a hot deal in China, and that’s where the talent is–that’s where we’ll get the people to work for us.”

This is part of a strategy I believe to get Microsoft ahead of the targeting game – and inherently, personalization – once you know what people want you can target and allow them to use the same engine to filter of course. The big advantage they have is a healthy mix of hardware and software (which Google and Yahoo! do not) – this puts them a lot closer to the consumer in terms of tracking behaviour across a range of devices and from games to business software…

“We’re really going to change the paradigm of online advertising with particular emphasis on contextual, paid search, and behavioral, as well as display,” said Microsoft Product Manager Karen Redetzki. (snip)
AdLab will focus on monetizing all of Microsoft’s properties, not just search, Redetzki said. “This is now about monetizing Microsoft … It’s about looking at Microsoft assets–Xbox, OfficeLive, XboxLive,” she said. “It really goes way beyond MSN.”

Being able to key click track across online games, office software, one of the largest online portals and XBox offline titles gives MS a real advantage in cross-referencing user behaviour – particularly users who are crossing media. The article and announcement finishes on strangely familiar suggestions as to where this may be leading.

“Video hyperlink ads,” which allows users to select products placed in TV shows or movies on DVD, and get products and purchase information on them–if a viewer is watching “Sex in the City,” for example, and likes Carrie’s Jimmy Choos, he or she might be able to select the product, get information on price, styles, colors, and sizes, and then find a Web site where the shoes might be purchased. Redetzki said that product is roughly three to five years from launch.

Having been personal involved at producer level in projects that demonstrate this as much as 5 years ago it is ironic that MS still think it is 5 years away – perhaps the hyper-linked ads (as Redetzki describes it) are just an advertisers wet dream and in fact the sort of interactive TV ads that are already matured in the UK and others part of Europe are as deep as consumers (at the moment) want to go with click through rich-media advertising. Just stick to developing rich, background consumer profile building algorithms and targeting/personalization engines MS and leave the front end to other more ‘understanding audience needs’ companies – you know it makes sense, adSense

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