Microsoft Targets Television Advertisers For Xbox Live, Embeds Nielsen Measurement

In-Game by Laurie Sullivan, Thursday, November 19, 2009, 7:48 PM

Microsoft's Xbox Live advertising group has been courting television advertisers in an effort to expand its game console service into a cable television station. Now the Redmond, Wash. company will have the metrics to back up the eyeballs, similar to the way Nielsen tracks TV viewers.

Supported by Nielsen, Microsoft unveiled the first pilot Thursday on the second season of the Xbox LIVE show "1 vs. 100." The test will embed Nielsen's traditional TV and video measurement tool in the video game content to gather channel and add specific metrics that identify who played the game and viewed specific advertisements.

Mark Kroese, general manager of the Advertising Business Group, Entertainment & Devices division at Microsoft, says ad budgets remain tight, but dollars are moving from linear TV, 30-second spots, onto the Xbox. "We've moved past being called an emerging media, and now being considered our own cable network," he says, pointing about 20 million users the Xbox can reach.

The goal aims to provide advertisers with concrete Gross Rating Points (GRPs) and Targeted Rating Points (TRPs) to get the most from media budgets. The second season of the Xbox Live show "1 vs. 100" will run for 14 weeks. Following the test, Microsoft will continue to collaborate with Nielsen to learn how electronic measurement, panels and census data can integrate into other Xbox Live media, such as TV, video and social media.

Focusing on the "branded destination experience" tends to work best when it comes to ads in games on the Xbox console, Kroese says. It's a model that Microsoft supports based on the company's "invite, but don't interrupt during the game" mentality.

Brands that traditionally advertise on television have been telling Microsoft to figure out a way to run multimedia ads produced in Flash -- as well as Silverlight -- on the Xbox to give them the best of both worlds. Now it all makes sense. The company has been working on making this happen for the better part of a year. Microsoft began working to bring both Flash and Silverlight to Xbox Live. It's been a vision of the agencies to spend less time repurposing content for multiple platforms.

But Microsoft's three-screen ad model that extends from the PC doesn't stop at the game console. On mobile phones, the application becomes the most effective form of advertising, Kroese says. For example, Starbucks distributes an application that lets consumers find their nearest store, but also provides a coupon each time the person does a search for a location. That type of app, whether or not tied to a casual game, takes advantage of mobile capabilities. These applications are catching on, he says.

Aside from Xbox Live, mobile and PC, advertisers could one day see the power of Project Natal. Kroese says there's nothing to announce in terms of product plans, but the technology in Project Natal has the opportunity not only to revolutionize the user experience, but also the advertising experience. Project Natal enables people to control and interact with the Xbox 360 platform without the need to touch a game controller. The technology can sense the presence of movement and sentiment through cameras.


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