Microsoft's online advertising researchers will spend this year teaching computers to be smart about sticking ads into video clips, and to be even smarter about targeting ads to specific Web surfers.
Microsoft unveiled a series of next-generation digital advertising technologies at its fourth annual Demo Fest, an event that showcases some of the technologies in development by Microsoft adCenter Labs. The technologies highlighted at this event included the latest advances and algorithms in content analysis and computer vision for video and images, speech recognition for contextual video ads, and advanced marketing intelligence that enable better targeting capabilities for advertisers.
The demonstrations come just days after Microsoft's $44.6 billion bid for Yahoo, which, if successful, will boost the software maker's Web traffic and online ad revenue.
A few of Microsoft's projects were aimed at helping advertisers get better at reaching their ideal customers online, particularly using search keywords.
The company showed a dashboard advertisers could use to forecast the success of certain keyword advertising campaigns and a system it says will make it easier for advertisers think about key ideas, rather than hundreds of individual keywords.
Microsoft said that spending on search keyword ads will be dwarfed by what marketers spend on other types of online advertising, such as placement based on "audience intelligence" - figuring out what kind of person the Web user is based on their surfing and searching habits - and display ads including video.
Microsoft is also hard at work on new ways for companies to advertise their brands to Web surfers watching video clips.
One crunched a clip, looking for the most appropriate stretch of time and spot on the screen for an advertiser's "bug," or logo.
For example, if a car company wanted to show its logo for 10 seconds in the bottom-right-hand corner of the screen, the computer program would find the 10 seconds in which the logo interferes least with the action in the video.
Another used speech recognition to make a transcript of a video, then served up ads - in the demonstration, they were text links - alongside the video. For example, if the topic of the video was gardening, ads related to gardening or lawn improvement could be served in an adjacent text-based ad as the video played. For advertisers, this provides access to consumers while at the point of consideration.
The third program scanned a video for surfaces where ads or product images could be inserted later. The demo showed how the same frames could display a Coke ad one moment and a Pepsi ad the next, without having to reshoot the video.
Other experiments included an interactive shopping kiosk that used elements of Microsoft Surface, a next-generation touch screen, to show ads and coupons, and a computer program that helped marketers avoid accidentally putting their brand on a Web page with distasteful content.
"The ultimate marketing objective is to find a sweet spot where you connect with a consumer on their terms," said Jeffrey Pruitt, executive vice president of Corporate Partnerships for iCrossing and president of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO). "The insights and research that are coming out of Microsoft?s adCenter Labs help provide agencies and advertisers with smarter, more relevant online advertising technologies and tools to make informed decisions on those connection points."
For additional information read Microsoft's press material