Beyond The Like: Microsoft and Bazaar Voice Introduce “People Powered Stories”

During a Social Media Week 2012 panel at JWT on Tuesday, Jennifer Creegan, General Manager, Brand Advertising Business for Microsoft Advertising and Brant Barton Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer for Bazaar Voice announced an ad platform partnership dubbed “People Powered Stories.”

Recent research by Microsoft’s Bing shows that consumers trust sources outside of social networks when making purchasing decisions – mainly online reviews. Based on this research, Microsoft will soon introduce a new ad format for brands and publishers aimed at providing consumers with the purchasing information they need, when they need it – all around the web. Think Facebook sponsored stories outside of the Facebook domain.

In order to do this, they’ve enlisted the services of Bazaar Voice, a “a Software as a Service (SaaS) company that turns social media into social commerce by enabling authentic customer-powered marketing.” In simpler terms, Bazaar Voice is the preeminent source for customer reviews, powering the review platforms for many of the top Global brands.

Starting soon, Microsoft’s ad publishers will have the option to activate this new type of targeted display ad featuring a brand message and highlighted consumer reviews. The initial test campaign was for Windows 7 and was targeted at college students. The ad ran across Microsoft properties that offered audience targeting capabilities to assure college students would see the Windows 7 reviews at sites they visited frequently online. The results Microsoft reported back were impressive:

Ad believability increased 20 points above the market norms for technology ads

6.3% lift in purchase intent

13.5% lift in unaided brand awareness

Example of "People Powered Stories" creative

Despite the encouraging sales pitch and test results from Microsoft and Bazaar Voice, there are some still some pending questions about the product. For example, will consumers trust that the advertiser and Bazaar Voice are serving up authentic customer reviews? Bazaar Voice prides themselves on this very concept, but consumers tend to be wary.

Further, there isn’t any connection to the social graph within the ad unit. If someone decides to click on the ad, they can’t easily share what they’ve learned with their own social graph. Although Microsoft is trying to “go beyond the like,” it is important to recognize the importance of the social graph and layer it across all media properties.

Finally, the quality of review curation remains to be seen. The reviews will be contextual, based on the interests of the consumer being targeted. But will this targeting have as great of an impact as Yelp’s “highlighted reviews,” which take the most mentioned terms in a database of reviews and bring them to the forefront? That might be a feature that is integrated in the future, but in the Windows 7 example, reviews weren’t curated in that manner.

Leave a comment if you’ve come across any of these ads yet, or what you think of the idea.

As Brand Channel Manager at pure-play social media agency Big Fuel, Ross Sheingold focuses on trying to keep the “social” in social media by creating lifestyle content that consumers actually care about. Aside from the four years spent at Penn State University, Ross has been a New Yorker living in Manhattan for the whole of his nearly 30 years on the planet. When he isn’t staying up to date on the current digital and social media trends and “geeking out” on the latest tech gadget, he spends time on his fan advocacy cause as the man behind @StadiumInsider. You can follow Ross on Twitter @RossSheingold and on Google+ http://gplus.to/RossS

 

 

 

Microsoft Launches People Powered Stories

This Tuesday, partner Microsoft hosted “Beyond the Like: Using Real People’s Real Stories.” During this engaging and insightful session, Microsoft announced the launch of their social advertising solution, People Powered Stories. Jennifer Creegan, General Manager for Display Advertising Experiences at Microsoft Advertising, shares with us the story behind it.

Yesterday at Social Media Week in New York, I introduced a new social advertising solution I am pretty excited about. We’re calling it People Powered Stories (PPS) ™. With it, advertisers can incorporate real peoples’ ratings and reviews about their products within a rich brand ad. The solution will be available next month and we believe it will give marketers the ability to create ads that tell powerful stories and create brand relevancy beyond just a “Like” by adding the authenticity and believability of real people’s real stories.

To bring PPS to life, we’ve partnered with Bazaarvoice, (a company that has powered more than 290 billion customer conversations for brands across the globe) to integrate consumer ratings and reviews into the rich PPS ad format. Advertisers will be able to tap into Microsoft’s highly social and engaged audiences across multiple screens and deliver relevant ads in a way that is targeted and more measurable than is available for social advertising on the web today. PPS is the first in a suite of social ad solutions that we will create in the coming months.


The People Powered Stories offering integrates customer ratings seamlessly into a rich ad format.


And expands to give consumers a deep dive on the reviews of the product / service submitted by real people.

As an industry, we intuitively know the power of social and the potential it holds for advertisers to engage with consumers. We also know that people want to hear what others have to say about various products and services. Despite the brand dollars that are flowing toward social media, advertisers have told me they continue to be frustrated at how difficult it is to measure ROI and confirm whether they are successfully engaging their target audiences.

We recently commissioned a study of 713 social media marketers around the world to solicit their opinions on social advertising. Here’s what we found:

  • The top two reasons advertisers invest in social media is to drive word of mouth and brand awareness (27% and 26% respectively).
  • 72% of advertisers said measuring ROI on social media campaigns is too difficult.
  • Advertisers believe 65% of word of mouth misses the intended audience.
  • 73% of those advertisers surveyed said they want to make sure the ratings and reviews they curate online reach their target audience (which is more than ‘Likes’, ‘Tweets’ and any other source we asked about).

Windows 7 ‘Back to School’ Campaign
We’ve already seen the power of the ratings and reviews within PPS in action. As a part of a pilot, Microsoft integrated the PPS ad format into a Windows 7 “back to school” advertising campaign (from our Microsoft Advertising People Powered Stories Case Study – September 2011), targeting college students in the market for a new computer. The campaign ran across Microsoft properties that offered audience targeting capabilities to assure college students would see the Windows 7 reviews at sites they visited frequently online. The campaign delivered. With the authentic voice of the students included in the advertising, other college students found the Windows 7 ad units “believable” and “relevant.” The campaign drove great improvement across many marketing metrics, including:

  • Ad believability increased 20 points above the market norms for technology ads.
  • 6.3% lift in purchase intent.
  • 13.5% lift in unaided brand awareness.

After the campaign I spoke with Brenda Bown, Director of Windows Consumer Digital Marketing, and she had this to say about what PPS delivered for the Windows 7 brand: “Being able to harness the power of ratings and reviews from Bazaarvoice and incorporate it into our online marketing efforts strengthened our value proposition and established credibility by putting forth students’ voices to impact other students just like them.”

Not only is it important to be able to reach and measure the effectiveness of social ads, it’s important that the industry re-examine how we think about social. Instead of focusing just on having a Facebook page or a Twitter handle, advertisers need to focus on consumers and what they need.

Why do we believe PPS will be successful?

  • We know that consumers who are looking to make large purchases rarely turn to their social network first; rather, they turn to online reviews. This is one of the main reasons we’ve integrated ratings and reviews into our first social format.
  • As we saw with our Windows pilot, the ads lifted brand favorability, purchase intent and brand awareness.

While we are still in the early stages of unlocking the potential of social advertising, I am confident that we are moving into a world where the impact of social advertising will move beyond a ‘Like’ to a world where you can create and measure the value of social ads. We believe that the People Powered Stories ad format is critical to continuing this movement and helping brands gain credibility and relevance with their target consumers.

We’re excited to share more momentum from our People Powered Stories solution and other social ad formats in the coming months, but in the meantime, if you have questions or feedback, please feel free to post in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post. We’re always listening.

Jennifer Creegan interviewed by Mel Carson on People Powered Stories