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August 2, 2006

Microsoft adCenter Pre-SES Community Briefing

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Microsoft held a community briefing this morning to give everybody an update on the status of adCenter before heading to San Jose. During the briefing they announced Microsoft will unveil a number of improvements to MSN adCenter on Aug. 5th. Improvements include:

  • FireFox 1.5 Support
  • Increase Cut and Paste Keyword Functionality – Microsoft will increase amount of keywords advertisers can cut and paste from 100 to 200. Product Manager Natal Menezes says Microsoft ultimately hopes to expand this number much higher.
  • Filter by Time, timestamp -Users will be able to filter performance data from different date ranges – yesterday, this month, last month, this year, last year, life to date and custom. The default setting will be month-to-date.
  • Better Functionality – The new adCenter will restructure the way reporting data is aggregated, making it more efficient and up-to-date. Data grids will be given filters, account dropdowns will be moved outside custom filers and several reported bugs have been fixed.

After giving listeners an overview of what they can expect to see in Saturday’s release, Microsoft humbly offered up a slide entitled, “So July was a little rocky”. Heh. Good for Microsoft for addressing problems head on. Their increasing amount of transparency is really helping me to get over my “Microsoft Is Evil” issues, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The slides helped Menezes to focus on a couple of the issues we had read about in the forums, such as delayed adCenter reports and ad approvals getting stuck in “pending” state.

It wasn’t the first time Microsoft addressed the delayed reports complaint. Around July 19th, many advertisers were in the forums complaining they were seeing extreme delays in adCenter’s reporting system. That day an adCenter team member addressed the problem, saying it was being worked on, and according to Menezes today, the problem has since been fixed. Modified ads and keywords are now live within two hours, which should improve campaign budgeting issues. MSN hopes to get the two hour timeline down to just five minutes over time.

The bug associated with the “stuck” ads was reportedly resolved on July 29th. Menezes didn’t elaborate further.

Today’s briefing really impressed me because MSN adCenter seems to be putting users first in a way most engines just give lip service to. During the hour-long briefing, adCenter representatives discussed many issues they have been mentioned by advertisers, such as the “waterfall attribute”, having reports delivered on time, making adCenter easier to use and simplifying the process for appealing rejected keywords.

In response to these complaints/issues, Microsoft is currently working to increase power posting (bulk manipulations) support so users can copy and paste keywords directly into an open text box. The plan is to support 2,000 lines. Over the next two quarters, MSN also hopes to improve negative keyword selection, simplify the adCenter navigation to improve workflow, increase the keyword suggestion database from 10,000 to 10 million, and adjust its “look and feel” to complement the Windows Live User Experience.

Microsoft Group Marketing Manager James Colborn took some time during the briefing to demo a few of the tools found in adLabs, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen already. I’m still not 100 percent sold on the tools.

Interestingly though, James says adLabs is currently working on adding “associated terms and keywords” to the Commercial query tool. This means when users search for the word “camera”, the tool will not only give user’s the adLab Confidence Score, but it will also give them a list of other related commercially-based tools. That will be a great improvement to the tool.

Other things to look out for from MSN:

  • ContentAds Pilot – Microsoft is gearing up to launch into the contextual advertising space this fall. At launch, the service will be invitation-only and will only show ads on Microsoft-owned properties. The initial phase of the launch will be text-based only and will target basic functionality, including demographic targeting and the ability to have separate bids from search ads. If you’re interested in participating, you can send an email to adc411@microsoft.com
  • AdCenter + DeepMatrix – Microsoft acquired DeepMatrix in May to provide site traffic measurement and analysis to adCenter customers. Advertisers will start to see this technology integrated into adCenter during the second half of FY07. Reporting will include page views, referrals, conversions, paid search ROI, site overlays, path reporting and more.

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