Quo Vadis, Microsoft Advertising Strategy?

Mobile Marketing seems hot, even in this young blog where I commented upon it here, here and here already. Now though mighty MS moves again: Microsoft acquired Screentonic, a French mobile advertising firm. This follows their acquisition of leading NY-based in-game advertiser Massive a year ago (see here). Coupled with rumours around this ominous joint venture that sent Yahoo! shares soaring one wonders if MSFT is setting itself up for a true fight with Google.

Google of course has recently bulged up again with its DoubleClick acquisition, in particular as it was said to be interested itself (not that Google hadn't done anything before: remember their Sky and MySpace deals). According to reports, Google is set to take 32% of the digital ad market this year, up 7% from 2006 (the report is not clear if that includes DoubleClick or not). Yahoo! came in at 18% in 2006 and Microsoft at a meagre 7%.

It is a very exciting space. However, when it comes to mobile advertising can I note that Google hasn't really moved there yet? Implementing AdSense and AdWord on mobile might be tough as long as screen resolutions aren't sooo great and data-inclusive plans still the exception but isn't the absence of any action noteworthy? I think not, at least not at current (becasuse, let's not forget, they are rather active when it comes to get themselves onto carrier decks as the search engine of choice).

Any move at current is a gamble: data plans can cost you anywhere from nothing to an arm and three legs, users haven't shown to be taken to ads on the mini screens of mobile phones (unless they get immediate reward: see my blog post here). Microsoft's explanations (which their GM of Digital Advertising Solutions gave to AdAge) aren't uber-convincing, more middle-of-the-road talk about CPM, CPC and CPA... These are horrific for mobile at the moment. And mighty MS doesn't reveal terribly deep insights into the space when they utter things like this when it comes to the carriers: "There's definitely an economic relationship. I can't tell you what those [revenue] shares are. Most of the mobile operators today basically look like a web portal on the mobile phone." It is just that those operators today are more what AOL was in its heydays: they control the whole thing, including the access to the end user. And they do not provide the content, so you will need someone else in there, and, and, and. It might just not be just as profitable and rosy as people often say...

The hope always is that mobiles are the devices that make it easiest to target one-to-one. Fantastic! But the above shows that the jury might very well still be out.

So - as unfashionable as it might have become - Google may just have shown some smart thinking again: sit back (and comfy on their search cushion) unless you see a business unfolding that shows significance impact for your own business - and that would arguably have to be even more to merit such a move for Microsoft (that isn't traditionally basing its business model on ad sales) than Google (that is).

A whole Armada: Nokia, Vodafone, Sony BMG! And for what?

One of my true favourites, Groove Armada, have teamed up with all the heavyweights to bring their music, more specifically, their new album "Soundboy Rocks" to the very cutting edge of digital: whenever you b uy a Nokia N76 in a Vodafone store, you will get 1) a voucher and 2) a PIN to take to 3) a website to 4) download a song (you can store 1 copy on your computer and 1 on your phone, sorry, multimedia device). Easy, isn't it?

I would hope this will work (if only to help the good folks from Groove Armada) but the whole approach would appear a wee bit cumbersome: with every click, you lose consumers. With every change from one media to another (retail to mobile, mobile to web, retail to web, etc.) you lose them tenfold. So why on earth don't they just run and show off a mobile download service and/or pre-install some content to demonstrate the superb capabilities of Nokia's really fine devices? I don't get it...

When one reads on, it becomes clear, that this is clearly more a PR affair for both sides: the remainder is a hilarious marketing blurp: Nokia loves Sony who love Nokia who love everyone else... Vodafone's role, other than providing the retail space and being represented on the rather lame microsite with a logo - below the fold - isn't entirely clear. Executives showing their superiors that they actually do "something" in mobile? Is it just me or does this appear somehow pieced together?