Microsoft Exec Touts New Online Measures

PHOENIX -- Microsoft has developed new software to track and describe all the online behaviors of an Internet user leading up to a purchase. Called Engagement Mapping, the tool should help marketers determine what role different forms of online media played in affecting the purchase decision.

Speaking to an audience at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Ecosystem 2.0 conference in Phoenix, Brian McAndrews, Microsoft's SVP of its Advertiser Publisher Solutions Group, boasted that the software will yield more insight into consumer purchases than currently provided by competitors, chiefly Google. A separate statement from Microsoft said the new service will launch in Beta March 1.

In addition to standard click-throughs, Engagement Mapping will quantify exposure to display advertising and "rich media,"--including audio and visual content, according to McAndrews. He added that it will benefit publishers as well as marketers by giving them credit for advertising seen on their sites--even if that ad content didn't lead directly to a purchase.

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Ad Age digital editor Abbey Klaassen, who was interviewing McAndrews, noted that such extensive data collection might spook publishers and advertisers leery of disintermediation--after "ecosystem" the word of the day at the IAB conference. Google's analytics applications raised similar fears, and Klaassen noted that Microsoft's data-gathering abilities would become even more formidable if it acquired Yahoo.

However, McAndrews dismissed these fears, along with general concerns about a duopoly dominated by Google-DoubleClick and Microsoft-Yahoo. As the two proposed super-companies face off, he suggested, the competitive advantage will go to the one that treats information collected from clients' ad campaigns with more respect--an assertion greeted with some skepticism by individuals in the audience.

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