Microsoft ads coming to a phone near you

Microsoft has started placing ads on MSN Mobile, a portal that connects mobile phone users with Hotmail, instant messaging, search, news and other Web content, reports the Associated Press. The news isn't unexpected. The move to advertise to U.S. cell phone owners follows Microsoft's mobile advertising moves in Japan and Europe. It also follows Yahoo, that has been doing the same since late 2006. Microsoft lined up some heavy hitters as its first U.S advertisers. These include Paramount Pictures, Ford's Jaguar brand, and Bank of America. These are not location-aware ads, the story reports, but a hyped-up version of your run-of-the-mill banner ads. But that's what's interesting about this announcement. Microsoft is experimenting with the advertisements themselves.

The Paramount Pictures ads, for instance were created in conjunction with Bad Robot Productions,

the company responsible for the television shows like Alias, Lost, What About Brian and Six Degrees. Bad Robot is also the production company of Star Trek and the upcoming and Cloverfield movie. Using the technology acquired from its purchase of ScreenTonic SA, maker of location-aware mobile advertising technology used in Europe, Microsoft created the mobile ad campaign for Cloverfield. Cloverfield is slated for release on January 18 and Paramount Pictures is conducting a "viral marketing" campaign for it, slowly releasing bits of information to select online communities (see picture at right).

The mobile phone ads are another component of this viral marketing campaign. Rather than flashing annoying banner ads at mobile phone users, the MSN Mobile ad will include an exclusive movie clip. This clip will be the subject of a contest, says Microsoft. The person with the most views of the movie clip from his/her mobile phone will be among the first to see the movie – before it is publicly released. Mobile phone ads become something so desirable, they are to be shared. Smart move on Microsoft's part. In addition, Microsoft announced more services to users of MSN Mobile. These include more video clips, wallpaper and games. Plus users can purchase more movie tickets and ring tones from their mobile phone browsers. One of the new services is a free astrology channel. Users can get their daily horoscopes sent to their phones. Microsoft says that MSN Mobile supports most mobile phone browsers.

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