During a Social Media Week 2012 panel at JWT on Tuesday, Jennifer Creegan, General Manager, Brand Advertising Business for Microsoft Advertising and Brant Barton Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer for Bazaar Voice announced an ad platform partnership dubbed “People Powered Stories.”
Recent research by Microsoft’s Bing shows that consumers trust sources outside of social networks when making purchasing decisions – mainly online reviews. Based on this research, Microsoft will soon introduce a new ad format for brands and publishers aimed at providing consumers with the purchasing information they need, when they need it – all around the web. Think Facebook sponsored stories outside of the Facebook domain.
In order to do this, they’ve enlisted the services of Bazaar Voice, a “a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that turns social media into social commerce by enabling authentic customer-powered marketing.” In simpler terms, Bazaar Voice is the preeminent source for customer reviews, powering the review platforms for many of the top Global brands.
Starting soon, Microsoft’s ad publishers will have the option to activate this new type of targeted display ad featuring a brand message and highlighted consumer reviews. The initial test campaign was for Windows 7 and was targeted at college students. The ad ran across Microsoft properties that offered audience targeting capabilities to assure college students would see the Windows 7 reviews at sites they visited frequently online.. The results Microsoft reported back were impressive:
Ad believability increased 20 points above the market norms for technology ads
6.3% lift in purchase intent
13.5% lift in unaided brand awareness
Example of "People Powered Stories" creative
Despite the encouraging sales pitch and test results from Microsoft and Bazaar Voice, there are some still some pending questions about the product. For example, will consumers trust that the advertiser and Bazaar Voice are serving up authentic customer reviews? Bazaar Voice prides themselves on this very concept, but consumers tend to be wary.
Further, there isn’t any connection to the social graph within the ad unit. If someone decides to click on the ad, they can’t easily share what they’ve learned with their own social graph. Although Microsoft is trying to “go beyond the like,” it is important to recognize the importance of the social graph and layer it across all media properties.
Finally, the quality of review curation remains to be seen. The reviews will be contextual, based on the interests of the consumer being targeted. But will this targeting have as great of an impact as Yelp’s “highlighted reviews,” which take the most mentioned terms in a database of reviews and bring them to the forefront? That might be a feature that is integrated in the future, but in the Windows 7 example, reviews weren’t curated in that manner.
Leave a comment if you’ve come across any of these ads yet, or what you think of the idea.