Microsoft’s goals with Windows 8 and its Surface tablet are nothing if not lofty. The company wants to reboot computing, provide a serious challenge to Apple and, oh, revolutionize digital advertising.
Regarding that last goal, the software giant has taken a big next step with the roll out of four new in-app tablet ad campaigns that executives hope will serve as a model for a new form of creative, engaging, touch-oriented advertising.
The four charter Windows 8 advertisers include Delta, which is running a unique ad treatment within the NBC News Windows 8 app (created by Razorfish), and Jeep, which has built a custom treatment for the AccuWeather app. The other two charter Windows 8 brands are Ford (Team Detroit), which has inserted itself into Chicago Tribune’s app, and Paramount (This Is Tommy), which recently began promoting the Tom Cruise vehicle Jack Reacher within the BBC Top Gear app.
With Windows 8 ads, Microsoft is relying heavily on creative agencies to determine what sort of ad design and functionality works best for in-app ads. This strategy is part of an overall shift away from selling prepackaged media to buyers. In this case, Microsoft is playing the role of facilitator, with creative agencies doing the heavy lifting.
“We’re really great technologists. But the best people to do this are the creative community members," said Stephen Kim, general manager of Yarn, the former Global Creative Solutions. "So, we asked these creative agencies to help us to chart the future of online advertising. This is our first full step. These agencies have taken our core capabilities and run wild for their clients.”
The results are impressive. For example, Delta’s ad placement invites users to swipe up, rather than left and right—a simple twist, but one that looks to capture a central theme of the Delta’s current campaign.
Similarly, Jeep's ad placement within the AccuWeather app changes as a reader swipes through the content, morphing from a nighttime image to daylight.
Microsoft seems to have unleashed the creative potential of tablet ads. However, the challenge is to achieve scale. Right now, the company’s Surface is chasing the iPad and Samsung’s various tablet devices—from way behind. Plus, it’s hard to standardize such custom efforts.
But going forward, Microsoft hopes to take tactics from each campaign, Kim said.
"How do we take what we learn and build that into plans for scalable products and packages? That's the question," Kim added. "This is our stake in the ground for the future."