Microsoft Advertising Debuts versaTiles, Outlook's Ad Format

Microsoft-Advertising-BIn February, Microsoft shook up its email business by officially replacing its Hotmail service with a new one named Outlook.com.

One improvement -- as the software giant and users agreed -- was fewer ads. “A number of people have expressed appreciation that Outlook.com replaces advertising with the latest updates from Facebook or Twitter when they're reading email from one of their contacts,” David Law, director of product management at Outlook.com, said in February. “On average [in Outlook’s test phase], people saw 60% fewer ads when using Outlook.com because they're now getting much more relevant updates from their friends.”

Yet Microsoft can’t count its new email strategy as a success unless advertisers are happy with Outlook too.

As such, Microsoft Advertising this week is rolling out a new ad format for Outlook.com called versaTiles. The new units consist of flexible "tiles" that give brands the chance to engage in “deep storytelling,” according to Jennifer Creegan, general manager of digital advertising experiences at Microsoft Advertising.

More importantly, versaTiles put Outlook users “in the driver's seat by offering varying levels of engagement,” Creegan explained.

In an internal versaTiles pilot this past year, consumers described the units as “modern,” “interactive,” and “non-intrusive,” according to Microsoft’s internal research. “They’re built with the same modern design philosophy to ensure people using Outlook.com have a great experience and see ads in places that can enrich their mail experience, not deter from it,” according to Creegan.

With versaTiles, Microsoft is currently offering brand partners three customizable templates, including the “online retailer,” which showcases a product or a service; the “media showcase,” which focuses on brand messages using a combination of video, image galleries, and text; and the “catalogue” for campaigns featuring multiple products.

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