In connection with the unveiling of its new iPad rival, Microsoft has begun testing new ad concepts for apps that will run on its Window 8-powered Surface tablet. To aid in that effort, the company has enlisted the help of a half dozen creative agency partners: AKQA, Big Spaceship, Razorfish, Team Detroit, UM and Y&R.
With the Surface making its Hollywood debut Monday night, Microsoft has been previewing examples of potential Windows 8 ads for advertising and publishing partners at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. One mock-up made public shows an ad for Adidas’ Predator cleats integrated with the Seattle Sounders FC app.
The angled ad image of the snazzy shoes takes up about a third of the screen, which leads to a three-paneled landing page for more information about the Predators, as well as other Sounders-branded merchandise made by Adidas. Microsoft said the background of an app can also tie into a brand’s text, videos or other rich media, much the way Web pages today might run branded “skins” as part of a display campaign.
Working directly with Madison Avenue to come up with effective new ad formats marks a new approach for Microsoft, according to Jennifer Creegan, general manager of display advertising experiences at Microsoft Advertising.
“With these partners, we will look to create a new standard for what ads within Windows 8 apps can and will be, as well as ensure that experiences will be engaging for consumers and effective for marketers and publishers,” she wrote in a blog post Tuesday.
She noted that staff from the six agencies are in the process of developing several “high-level scenarios” for ad executions in Windows 8 apps, said Stephen Kim, general manager of global creative solutions, advertising and online, at Microsoft, in a separate post today.
Formal standards for tablet advertising have yet to be established, although the Mobile Marketing Association has published guidelines for ad units in the emerging category. Experimentation may remain the modus operandi when it comes to tablet advertising, but the rapidly growing segment has shown early promise for marketers.
A new study by the Online Publishers Association found 29% of tablet owners say they’ve researched a product in the last six months, while 23% have clicked on an ad, 20% have used a special offer or coupon and 19% have visited a product Web site. About 38% of tablet owners have also used their device to make a purchase.
The bigger challenge for Microsoft is competing with the iPad and Apple’s catalog of more than 600,000 apps, including some 200,000 tablet apps. That’s why at its tablet launch Microsoft chose to highlight hardware innovations “rather than show off any of the apps or content partnerships that many analysts believe it will need if it is to make the Surface a success,” noted the Financial Times.
The FT itself has released a Windows 8 app in connection with a preview release of the operating system earlier this month. Both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet will offer a library of apps when they launch later this year, with support from other brands, including Netflix. Microsoft didn’t specify when any new Windows 8 ad formats would be available.