Anticipating a lively digital upfront season coming this spring, Microsoft and Starcom MediaVest Group are among the first to nail down commitments of video inventory across screens. The two companies announced this weekend that they will craft ad experiences across the many ad properties Microsoft now offers, from TV to online to video calling to mobile phones. The agreement will involve inventory that is being assembled on the new Xbox One gaming console as well as the acquired Microsoft video and voice calling property Skype, plus the “Ads on Apps” program for Windows 8 that reaches across desktop and mobile devices. Microsoft is promising that SMG will be able to deploy, buy and measure this inventory in much the way agencies do on TV. Among all of these screens, Microsoft claims to reach 78% of the U.S. Internet audience.
We don't know how much inventory this involves -- or how much, if any, financial upfront commitment SMG may have made. The agency will get an exclusive look at consumer research from Microsoft's Research and Insights group. Microsoft proposes the deal as a way SMG can extend their existing TV advertising to other screens in greater synchronization. Starcom clients will also get first peek at emerging video products still in development.
Microsoft's multi-screen story has been told again and again over the years. It has been showing off synchronized video and interactive engagements for Xbox, desktop and mobile for years. How successfully the company has turned these interesting experiments into regular cross-screen programs is less clear. Certainly the Xbox platform has had some traction with buyers. You can see interesting executions featured on that platform all the time. But now the company has assembled, arguably, a unique suite of assets. In addition to the new and more media-focused Xbox One, Windows 8 has a more visual tiled experience and an app platform to move more fluidly from desktop to tablet and Windows Mobile Phone. The Skype platform is an interesting new addition to the portfolio. Its video calling capabilities have been especially strong on Android devices.
Most likely the Xbox One will prove to be the key driver of interest, despite the emergence of new opportunities. Microsoft is planning a range of new and exclusive video properties for the platform that, after all, pipes directly into the one platform where media buyers have always found the most comfort and value -- the TV.