Application analysis

15 Feb 2009

Advertising in computer-user applications, rather than just in web browsers, offers huge opportunities and challenges for marketers.

With people spending a significant amount of their computer time involved in activities other than browsing the internet, finding ways of reaching them during those periods is a challenge that offers a whole new raft of opportunities for marketers and advertisers.

It’s a subject that took centre stage at the ‘The Next Frontier: Advertising in Applications’ session at the recent Ad:Tech conference in New York.

Web browsing is a very significant part of our lives, but only represents 40pc of the time we spend on computers, said Thomas Escourrou, principal at Oliver Wyman and chair of a panel discussion that included Brad Kurtson, senior brand marketing manager at Microsoft’s business division; Brant Breen, worldwide digital solutions director with Initiative Media; Liza Hausman, VP of marketing at Gigya; Bob Garfield of AdAge; and Dean Carignan, director of advertising business strategy at Microsoft.

“Sixty per cent, the remainder, is spent doing other things that are related to emails, working with documents, playing games or creating and editing pictures,” said Escourrou. “There is still a very large amount of time spent outside of the traditional ‘surfing the web’. And when you pair that with the actual view of how advertising dollars align to this, you see a significant imbalance, with advertisers today primarily focusing their interests, their efforts, on browsing scenarios.”

The 60pc of activities Escourrou mentioned is usually application-based. For an advertiser, an application usually refers to one of four main areas – social media, gaming, productivity and smart-phone apps. Online behaviour has changed over the past couple of years: where people previously spent time browsing destination sites, they are now more likely to bring the content and experience to the place where they want to consume it, be it a social network site, blog, desktop or start page.

In a leaked email in 2005, Bill Gates revealed his thoughts on where Microsoft needed to steer its business model: “The broad and rich foundation of the internet will unleash a ‘services wave’ of applications and experiences available instantly over the internet to millions of users. Advertising has emerged as a powerful new means by which to directly and indirectly fund the creation and delivery of software and services, along with subscriptions and licence fees.”

As Google starts to offer a premier edition of its productivity apps to companies for a licence fee, Microsoft has launched Microsoft Office Live, a free application service aimed at small businesses and designed to be funded by advertising.

According to Microsoft’s Brad Kurtson, advertising in productivity software has been something of a unique challenge. However, research the company has carried out indicates that advertising in this area must conform to the following principles: ‘Don’t break my concentration, don’t waste my time and don’t invade my space’.

Users who sign up for Microsoft Office Live are offered a series of free trials and discounts from relevant partners, such as professional web designers, marketers and postal services providers. As part of the offering, they are given resource support in the form of relevant, targeted business offerings.

By Niall O’Driscoll

Niall O’Driscoll is creative director at vStream Digital Media.

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