As part of Social Media Week festivities in NYC, Microsoft Advertising announced what it's calling "People Powered Stories." Formally launching next month, the offering will begin by incorporating social commerce tech from Bazaarvoice and is the first step in Microsoft's social display strategy. Microsoft Advertising GM of Display Advertising Experiences, Jennifer Creegan said on the Microsoft Ad blog, "We believe it will give marketers the ability to create ads that tell powerful stories and create brand relevancy beyond just a 'Like' by adding the authenticity and believability of real people's real stories." Read more - and see examples.
Creegan and Brant Barton, GM, Media Solutions for Bazaarvoice, discussed the announcement and its implications with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: Can you talk about the significance of today's announcement for Microsoft?
Jennifer Creegan: I would bucket it down into a couple of simple points. We are passionate about how we're bringing social advertising to the entire marketing campaign. As we did research across both the consumer landscape and the marketer landscape, it became clear that there was a crossover need around word‑of‑mouth marketing, and specifically, ratings and reviews.
For us, the significance of this announcement is that we’re taking what we have been good at for a long time, which is interesting brand canvases across the digital ecosystem, and marrying that with our ratings and reviews content so that the marketer can have their story, and their consumer stories, tell a still more complete story, if you will, to potential customers. Bazaarvoice is our first partner in the People Powered Stories social framework.
Why start with Bazaarvoice?
Jennifer Creegan: Bazaarvoice works with many of the same marketers we work with, and powers their ratings and reviews on their own sites.
They have huge expertise in how do you categorize ratings and reviews, and how you think about the authentic consumer voice - for us, the most essential element..
Brant Barton As Jenn mentioned, the relationship started because we worked with Microsoft Windows and had a successful relationship with them for some time. And they very successfully use our platform. So it was a natural evolution to start working with Microsoft Advertising as they sketched out the vision of People Powered Stories, and it was very complimentary to the services that we're capable of providing as a partner.
How do you describe the competitive set for Bazaarvoice?
Brant Barton In terms of direct competition, there are companies that are doing lots of things in the community space and the social media space. But the type of company that we are, and with the platform that we offer, there aren't a lot of direct competitors.
This is such a new and evolving industry that all of our clients are doing multiple things. They're investing their efforts in various social networks, and in platforms like our own, and different ways of engaging consumers both on their websites and off their websites. In our view, the more that helps them develop an authentic relationship with their end customer, the better.
Can you take me through a use case of how this is going to work for the marketer with Bazaarvoice's capabilities?
Jennifer Creegan: At the root, the marketer must be a Bazaarvoice customer. Bazaarvoice does not harvest "signals" today. Ultimately, it has to be a customer that is using the capabilities that Bazaarvoice has for consumers to create content. That's the root, and I'll let Brant speak to more on that.
With the crossover of customers between the two companies, we will go out and pitch the capability to them, and then we'll work with them.
Part of what we're doing in the pilot is sorting out how we move from unique capability to scalable capability. That's why we're going out slowly - to sort out our technical and operational processes together so that we can scale it.
But our goal is that it will be as scalable as working with any rich media partner.
Brant Barton: And as Jenn mentioned, there are a large number of customers that we share in common. We feel like we've got a lot of opportunity ahead for the partnership.
As People Powered Stories evolves, Jenn mention in her presentation that other types of content and partners would be supported. So we're looking forward to seeing how the product evolves and the impact that it can make.
Where does brand display advertising fit within this social advertising strategy you're driving at Microsoft?
Jennifer Creegan: Brand goals are at the root of what we believe the social ecosystem can achieve.
The way we think about it is as a brand canvas where you bring the brand message into it the way you would any display advertising. Then you marry that with the content that comes through our partnership with Bazaarvoice. On top of that, you decide where you're going to serve it.
From our perspective, the unique aspects of this are around bringing that social signal, if you will, at scale across your marketing campaign no matter where you're reaching your customer. It's not locked into a particular environment.
So, is there a particular kind of display ad unit opportunity, for lack of a better way of putting it, that you think will be particularly effective for the brand marketer? Or is it just a combination of everything?
Jennifer Creegan: From an ad unit perspective, we've been particularly supportive of the IAB Rising Stars. We've deployed all six of the Rising Stars' units across our publisher properties, and across the globe. We're in over 20 markets with them.
From our perspective at the unit and interaction level – and from a creativity scenario - we're betting on the Rising Stars in PC display. There's lots of work to do in other environments, the mobile phone, the tablets, the Xbox, but certainly for PC display, we're betting significantly on the Rising Stars.
What we announced today in People Powered Stories is a set of capabilities that you can use across all those Rising Stars' solutions.
What have been the early results from the Rising Star units? Have they been accepted and sold through?
Jennifer Creegan: Rising Stars' capabilities that are attached to an IAB standard unit - whether that be they build from a 300x250, or they're attached to a 300x600 - are obviously getting more adoption across the web which is dependent on publisher adoption as much as it is advertiser adoption.
That said, we've had a ton of interest from publishers beyond ourselves. We're actively trying to act as a catalyst by deploying them across our sites and demonstrate what they can do.
Across the globe we've run more than 100 campaigns of the IAB Rising Stars. It's getting there, but, absolutely, publisher adoption is essential.
How does today's announcement play into the non‑guaranteed side of display?
Jennifer Creegan: The capabilities we announced today, because they can be used in a standard ad size, will be available across both reserved or guaranteed, and non-guaranteed campaigns. We will not limit it to just guaranteed.
In the same way some rich media is available across the ecosystem, when it makes sense, this will be available across the ecosystem. It just has to work for the brand marketer and their goals and economic principles.
By John Ebbert