Among the dominant themes emerging from Microsoft Advertising’s presentation at the Digital Content NewFronts in New York: Xbox is emerging as one of Microsoft’s most powerful platforms for advertising. The company announced that ESPN, CBS Interactive Properties GameSpot and Last.fm, Manga Entertainment, and MUZU.TV are the latest Microsoft entertainment brands to become advertising partners on Xbox LIVE, the online entertainment community accessible via the Xbox 360 console. These brands join existing advertising partners ranging from AlloCine and Crackle to MSNBC and will now be able to insert 15- and 30-second spots across Xbox LIVE TV apps.
Ross Honey, general manager of Xbox LIVE Entertainment and Advertising at Microsoft, says the spots are an improvement over traditional television commercials in that they can be highly targeted against a specific demographic, behavioral profile, or location. “We can offer a level of targeting not available through traditional TV,” Honey tells Co.Create, noting, “You can say, ‘All right, if I buy against American Idol, it has, on average, this kind of demographic breakdown.’ But it’s nowhere the level of saying, ‘Okay, I only want to reach women 18 to 34 who live in this region.’ We can deliver that with laser precision.”
Additionally, the NuAds platform, previously unveiled by Microsoft during the Cannes International Advertising Festival last June, will allow for an ease of interactivity that isn’t possible with a standard television spot, according to Honey, who reports that the NuAd technology will be operational in the next few months. “When an ad comes up, Kinect prompts you to interact if you’re interested. All you have to do is speak to the television,” Honey explains. “You don’t have to fumble with a remote.”
As for reach, advertisers who buy 15- and 30-second spots will have the chance to get in front of an Xbox LIVE audience that totals 40 million active users worldwide. Usage of entertainment apps specifically on Xbox LIVE has doubled year over year, and entertainment app usage has actually surpassed online multi-player gaming for the first time ever in the U.S., where Xbox LIVE Gold members spend an average of 84 hours a month on Xbox LIVE. The company announced that XBox LIVE Advertising spending has increased by 142% since 2010.
In other developments shared at the Newfronts presentation on April 24, Microsoft is developing video ad units that will allow consumers to video-chat with advertisers and click-to-call ads on Skype.
Prior to the event, Rick Song, general manager at Microsoft Advertising, told Co.Create that Microsoft will continue to work with partners ranging from BermanBraun to NBC News to build and distribute “quality original programming experiences across any screen, any time, anywhere.”
In Song’s estimation, Microsoft is the perfect venue for digital content because “we are truly a platform company. We have an online destination, the MSN network, but we also have our own mobile platform with Windows phone, and, of course, the connected living room with Xbox. When Windows 8 comes out later this year, our cross-platform differentiation will come into even greater light. We can leverage the Windows operating system across multiple devices, which will include tablets, desktops, laptops, etc. and really connect all those devices in a seamless fashion. The platform differentiation is definitely a key part of our story because we are at the root a technology company.”