Corporate Eye

Microsoft Launches Social Display Ads with People Powered Stories

This week, Microsoft announced it will begin rolling out social display ads powered by Bazaarvoice (a social commerce company) in April of this year. It’s another big step that the company has taken to integrate social data into its own product offerings. Already, Microsoft is partners with Facebook to offer its Bing search engine users social search results. Now, Microsoft’s premium advertisers will be able to add a social element to their display ads through the new “People Powered Stories” ad units.

The social display ads will be targeted just as traditional display ads are targeted, but they’ll include a new social component. Using information gathered from Bazaarvoice, the ads will include user-generated product reviews and ratings with more features expected to be added in the future.

For example, Microsoft plans to add blog posts, online forum comments, tweets, videos, and expert reviews to the social content included in its social display ads in the future. Microsoft also intends to launch People Powered Stories to mobile devices, and ultimately, social display ads could be made available to non-premium advertisers, too.

According to AdWeek, Microsoft is already seeing a lift in positive results for social display ads. In the company’s own People Powered Stories test ad for Windows 7, which is targeted to college students, the company has tracked a 6.3% lift in purchase intent and a 23 point lift in believability and authenticity in comparison to traditional high-tech display ad results. Furthermore, Microsoft reports that consumers spent an average of 62 seconds with its social display ads.

Social display advertising will undoubtedly be very popular among advertisers. At launch, People Powered Stories will be served on Microsoft sites as well as on sites in the Microsoft publisher network.

Research has shown again and again that consumers are more affected by reviews and ratings from other consumers (even if those other consumers are strangers) than they are by brand advertising messages, marketing brochures, and sales pitches. The concern for consumers will be related to privacy and whether or not they want their reviews, ratings, and so on shared through third-party ads. The concern for brand managers and advertisers will be how quickly they can start running social display ads. You can bet this is one type of ad unit that will be hot in 2012 and beyond.

What do you think? Write a comment and share your thoughts on People Powered Stories and social display advertising in general.

Image: Microsoft

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.