MSN’s answer to Yahoo and Google’s ad platform has been a long time coming, but they are finally gearing up here in the US (MSFT launched AdCenter in Singapore and France – an alpha of sorts – earlier in the year). Today marks AdCenter’s pilot launch in the US – you can go here to sign up to be a charter advertiser (no guarantee they will take you…). Microsoft claims to already have 500 folks signed up (word of the recruitment leaked out a week or so ago and here is the site of one of them, JenSense), and I am not surprised. I am sure that advertisers will flock to a well-considered new avenue for search advertising.
No, the question is not “will advertisers want to test AdCenter?” And the question is also not “will Microsoft innovate in massively scaled advertising platforms?” – I think the clear answer there is yes. (Microsoft is offering audience targeting, for example, and what I have been told by many is far more detailed reporting). Advertisers will very much want to try out AdCenter. Why not? If it works, great! If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul, it’s CPC!
The real question, to my mind, is will Microsoft have enough traffic of good intent to satisfy advertisers’ demand – or put another way, will Microsoft get to scale on the traffic side of the equation? To do so, it needs to enter the syndication business. Microsoft needs more than MSN Search traffic if it is going to compete. It has to learn to play nice with others – and partner with the long tail.
Yahoo has already made a play for the long tail with YPN, and Google is king of syndication with AdSense. For now, AdCenter is only available for MSN Search. But if Microsoft is going to truly compete, it has to compete for the rest of the web’s inventory. Of course, it can get a big head start by stealing AOL from Google….either as an acquisition, or just as a deal. As I’ve said before, AOL was the deal that made Google, well, Google, and it was the deal that drove Overture to profitability. Microsoft has plenty of cash, and a very keen desire to win. This is what is fueling all sides in the AOL Poker game.
In any case, I certainly look forward to seeing how folks respond to Microsoft’s entry into the field. And we’ll all be keenly watching how Microsoft competes for traffic of good intent….