In recent weeks, there has been much discussion about how Microsoft is trying to buy out Facebook and take it over, but ultimately resigned itself to buy a minority stake. Moreover, as part of that agreement, Microsoft will be allowed to serve its own ad model on Facebook and instead of a traditional role as an ad server, the 800 lb gorilla will now focus on behavioral targeting in order to find out who you are and what your interests are so it can display the right ad for you. Peter Corbett wrote about this – or rather vblogged himself talking about this concept and I just read in DM News that this may seem to be something new, although it seems that it’s been done so it’s nothing startling.
Basically the premise behind this concept, which Facebook dubbed “Facebook Ads”, is that it will allow you to recommend products to your friends and even create corporate profiles. Wait, corporate pages on Facebook? Why yes…are you surprised? If you can have these corporate pages on Myspace or even Friendster (if anyone still uses it) then why would it NOT be feasible in Facebook? Companies on Facebook now include Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, Coca-Cola, Microsoft (ah ha!), Sony, and Verizon Wireless.
But let’s stick with this social realm and ad serving concept for a while. Could this be an extended attempt by Microsoft to totally change the way that ad serving is done? Quite possibly since Microsoft recently purchased aQuantive – a large multimedia ad agency that offers web, advertising, and research capabilities. In that acquisition, it only helps to strengthen their resolve to try and unseat Google and promote (what I think) their cause of “Google doesn’t own 100% of the ad market online.” So that leads me to my next claim/step/point/idea…
Earlier this month, Microsoft unveiled its next evolution of their social media program with Windows Live. Nothing shocking about it since Windows Live has been around for at least a few months now. However, as Windows Live is probably like Myspace-meets-AIM-meets-email, the software giant decided to add a spin onto it. They threw in behavioral ad serving. And this is where an interesting point came in from the folks at DM News:
“Unlike Google, Microsoft is not planning on scanning these messages. It instead plans to track behavior around messages.”
What they’re talking about is when you chat or email with someone in GMail, your messages are automatically scanned and when you read their chat/email, you’ll see Google ads on the right side of your screen. Google’s system is reading your messages and displaying ads that are tailored to what you wrote. You could write a message about “riding a donkey in the desert” and then see a Google ad about “donkey farms” or something like that. On the other hand, Microsoft will take the time to interpret your thoughts and track your movement online to where you go. So if you typed in “riding a donkey in the desert” and then looked up a plane ticket to Arizona, they may display an ad for a hotel in Arizona that offers those tours, as an example.
I think that Microsoft’s way is pretty good. Will it succeed? Each individual advertiser will need to assess that for themselves. Google’s way is fine, but based on context, it may be more prudent to gather more intel about your customers and then try and weasel your way into their train of thought.