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October 11, 2007

Microsoft ContentAds showing up on publisher sites

Looks like Microsoft ContentAds have started showing up in the wild, meaning it is getting a step closer to potential publishers. I just spotted some ads served by Microsoft on Digg. As you remember, Microsoft and Digg signed an agreement back in July that Microsoft would sell and serve advertisements on Digg.

Not surprisingly, these ads are only showing up for users if Internet Explorer (didn't they learn their lesson from the whole adCenter brouhaha when they failed to support Firefox for advertsers at all?) so I hope they do make the ads viewable in Firefox before launching a wider beta, because I know many webmasters won't touch them with a five foot pole if the ads are only seen by IE users.

But that also means that Google AdSense ads are being displayed to non-IE users, which means either Microsoft's ad serving doesn't work for non-IE or they don't have the inventory needed to supply Digg at this time. Or perhaps it is still in roll-out phase.

First off, here is an example of their text ad units (they are running both text and image currently).

microsoftcontentadsscreen2.gif

The ads appear to be coming from adCenter's inventory. But the targeting appears to have some issues and strikes me as being very YPN-ish. But this is a homepage which covers a mass of topics, so I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to targeting, until I can see the ads on individual pages.

Here is an example of the javascript code used:

<script type="text/javascript">
dapMgr.enableACB("top_ad_msft", false);
dapMgr.renderAd("top_ad_msft", "&PG=DIG728&AP=1390",
728, 90);
</script >
</div><div class="permalink-wrap"><div id="contents">
<div id="wrapper">
<div class="sidebar-short"><div id="item_ad_msft"
class="item_ad_image">
<script type="text/javascript">
dapMgr.enableACB("item_ad_msft", false);
dapMgr.renderAd("item_ad_msft", "&PG=DIG300&AP=1089",
300, 250);
</script >

And here is where the click on an ad goes:
http://0.r.msn.com/?ld=2vjaQLTbvSCsi7GlJaZNkak8uz6g1HBEVyKHnXY/
QPa0uO6pNLlqIi8EQNAJmc0OiLfKxWWxZym+DlUQ4PWCc3o9jiaYJYqKPlMOQuqEkSlo8LNq3
+XtW74VwlZJUEikKiwDt0XcaFKUEaCm3LIY3FjWwn5sLGoJVwAq2JzvyhLtVnljJyFUpWLoieRJqt0RNvJkGLFLMh45BAK4JGIgs=

What sort of image ads have I seen? Mostly tech (especially phone or wireless related) and business ads, with a few requisite screensaver/cursor/smiley ads, the typical kind of image based ads you see on any site. And yes, I did see some ads for Windows products ;) They are primarily Flash, however, and not gif or jpg. There does seem to be a slight delay waiting on the ads being served.

They are also running additional text ads using Kanoodle's ad inventory. I am not sure if this is simply backfill or if they are being displayed in a specific rotation. First, here is what the Kanoodle version of the ad units look like from the Digg home page:

The ad serving code used is:
<script type="text/javascript">
dapMgr.enableACB("hottest_ad_msft", false);
dapMgr.renderAd("hottest_ad_msft", "&PG=DIG16B&SEG=90&AP=1090",
160, 600);
</script >

But the ads are also being served using Kanoodle's ad inventory rather than ContentAds, with tracking links similar to
http://context3.kanoodle.com/cgi-bin/context.cgi?
id=xxxxxxx&db=context&cgroup=90&format=digg160x600if&
newtarget=1&numresults=5&signup=1
(I xxxx what appeared to be the specific ad number).

Here is an example of the Kanoodle ad units, which look different than the one with Microsoft's own text ads.

microsoftcontentadsscreen.gif

I am only seeing text ads (either adCenter or Kanoodle) when viewing the home pages (ie. the pages that show the listings of what has been Dugg), all the internal pages with the comments seem to be all Flash ads.

I am also surprised they are not branding these ad units with "Ads by Microsoft" or "Ads by ContentAds" to get all us potential publishers excited... unless they were hoping we wouldn't notice they are running ContentAds on publisher sites yet ;)

I checked with Microsoft adCenter on the ads. Natala Menezes, Product Manager at adCenter said, "We are doing testing across our network as explore the best ways to distribute ads that benefit users, publishers and advertisers."

Additionally, Microsoft has begun serving ads on Facebook as well, although I have only seen the image versions of the ads, and no text ad versions.

Which of the two ad styles do you prefer? I was surprised at how different they look from each other. The Microsoft one reminds me very much of the early version of the YPN ad units, while the Kanoodle reminds me more of the premium publisher AdSense.

And I know what everyone wants to know... how can you get in the ContentAds beta? Well, unless you are Digg or Facebook sized and sign a special deal, there are no plans to offer a version for smaller publishers yet, althogh it is safe to assume there will be one... sometime. I am still guessing "sometime" in 2008, but since this is already out of the gate, if it goes well, perhaps we will see something limited prior to then for selected publishers. Are people still interested in testing out ContentAds or are you mostly going to wait and here the feedback from other publishers before testing it out personally?

I will keep you posted when I hear more dates or when it hits beta!

Added: You can Digg it here :)

Posted by Jenstar at October 11, 2007 11:07 AM

Comments

And Microsof wants to be a big player in the ad marketplace?

By having ads only on large sites, targeting US-based only publishers and not delivering ads outside the US I can't see how either Microsoft or Yahoo could compete with the Google AdWords/AdSense combo reach in terms of properties where ads are shown and population who can see their ads.

Posted by: M Freitas at October 11, 2007 12:56 PM

I can see the ads in Canada, so they aren't restricted to US only (surprisingly). Any other non-US countries see them?

Posted by: Jenstar at October 11, 2007 05:46 PM

Yikes. I like that they are finally bringing contextual ads to websites, but I hoped that they could target just a bit better. They display OK. It is interesting that they divide the individual ad links into sections with lines.

Posted by: Gary R. Hess at October 11, 2007 07:50 PM

They've actually been rotating the Microsoft contextual ads for the past month or so. They started off with your top example and then added that second example within the past week or so. The targeting is pretty crappy and the top ones look pretty bad in my opinion. The bottom example does a lot better job looking like the AdSense Premium acct ads on the site.

Posted by: nate at October 12, 2007 12:31 AM

Based on looks alone the MSN ones have been drawn by a 3 year old with a crayon, the Kanoodle ones by a highly skilled fine artist.

Or something.

Posted by: Chris at October 12, 2007 05:21 AM

Chris, I was pretty surprised at the different looks for the two text ad units, especially since they were both served through adCenter. I honestly would have expected them to be the same, or at least much more similar.

Posted by: Jenstar at October 12, 2007 09:15 AM

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