Cannes Lions 2013: Microsoft Introduces Panoramic Ad Format and Conceptual Ads

As brands, agencies, and publishers collect hardware and strike deals at the Cannes Lions festival this week, Microsoft has been trying to interject itself into daily conversations about the future of digital media among advertising elites. The company announced a new ad format for its Windows 8 platform, released a series of prototype ads co-developed by brands and agencies, and shared the latest results from a pair of co-creation sessions that are guiding Microsoft as it aims to redefine how ads appear and what they achieve for brands and consumers.

Advertisers and publishers can now use Microsoft’s Advertising SDK for Windows 8 to build Ad Pano, an ad format that began as a concept from one of the company’s co-ideation sessions with its partners last year. The panoramic ad format, which can also be used in Microsoft’s apps for Windows 8, features a series of 15 still images designed to stimulate a stop-motion video.

Ad Pano “gives advertisers unlimited storytelling potential to customize their ad experience to deliver an interactive, immersive, panoramic ad experience comparable to a magazine fold-out,” Jennifer Creegan, GM for display advertising experiences at Microsoft Advertising, notes in a blog post.

Looking back on an initiative that Microsoft launched at Cannes Lions last year, the company shared five new ad concepts that aim to take full advantage of the latest available technology and reach of Microsoft’s platforms. A prototype from BMB for All Saints clothing presents viewers with a 180-degree screen of models wearing the firm’s latest threads.

Razorfish and Mercedes-Benz USA developed an ad experience that documents the creative process of Casey Neistat as he directs a series of short films and a TV spot for the Mercedes CLA that will go on sale this fall.

Meanwhile, a concept campaign from Rooster Worldwide for Vans Shoes on Skype gives a pair of Skype callers the ability to collaborate on the design of a Vans-branded skate park during a call. “As a reward, the Skype callers are taken on a video ride of their park with a Vans Pro skater. The park also becomes a landing page for Vans to merchandise its latest shoes and show video recaps of Vans Pros in action,” notes Stephen Kim, VP of global accounts and agencies at Microsoft Advertising’s Yarn. Microsoft will work with its partners to bring some of these prototype experiences into beta before converting the content into actual live ads, Kim adds.

Six months after Microsoft opened its first collaborative marketing space in San Francisco, Solution Studio 415, the company is sharing insights it gleaned from co-creation sessions that it held in San Francisco and London. The workshops were designed to help imagine what would be required to make ad experiences more engaging, delightful, and entertaining. “The goal was to create conceptual experiences that were more valuable and helpful to people as they moved across their purchase decision-making process,” notes Natasha Hritzuk, senior global director of research and insights at Microsoft Advertising.

Research teams worked with people who recently purchased cars or who regularly use technology to inform purchase decisions about personal care products. After Microsoft determined key points of friction in the buying process, it queried consumers to understand how technology could help improve the value and overall experience of advertising.

Hritzuk synthesized what Microsoft learned from the co-creation process into five primary scenarios that consumers want from online ads. People want personalized experiences in exchange for sharing data with brands; the ability to share brand content across screens and platforms; seamless interaction across mobile, PC, TV, and tablet; personalized reminders to purchase or maintain products; and a technology-enabled retail environment.

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