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Think BR: Microsoft signals break with digital media's past

The foundations of digital marketing are being shaken, and marketers must respond to the new 'appified' architecture, writes Tom Pepper, UK sales director, Vibrant Media.

Tom Pepper, UK sales director, Vibrant Media

Tom Pepper, UK sales director, Vibrant Media

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Microsoft’s launch of Windows 8, the Surface and the Windows 8 Phone is a seismic fracture with digital media’s windows past. It signals a near-final marker in the monumental shift digital media is experiencing.

The provider of the world’s most-used operating system has transitioned from a display of windows to app-style tiled content formats. Marketers need to respond by integrating ads into appified media and devising online marketing communications strategies using tiles, not windows.

Microsoft’s new technology and advertising campaigns are reflecting consumers’ changed expectations. The ads claim they want to "see more, share more and do more" and have "everything at once", reflecting both the mass adoption of social media and the re-presentation of content initiated by Apple, and quickly followed by Google’s Android. Moreover, Microsoft’s newly launched ads in apps program is integrating ads into content, rather than placing advertising around it.

The results of Microsoft embracing appification signals two major challenges to marketers. The first is that for ads to work for new appified environments they need to appear within content, not around it.

The second is that brands will need to adapt the presentation of their online marketing communications from a windows format to an app-style of tiles. In doing so they need to assess how evolution to an appified format will impact their operations, and execute strategies that are consistent with consumers’ changing expectations.

To tackle the first challenge, brands need to start the process of advertising within content. Vibrant Media’s In-Text technology has always reached consumers within publisher content, but was updated in September to deliver new presentation and engagement functionality for both the desktop and mobile environments that reflect the requirements of appification.

To incorporate consumers’ new desire for richr content experiences, Vibrant also launched in-content systems for contextual image and video advertising. Each of these in-content formats offer marketers a response to the demands of appification, and provides an easy transition into advertising in tiled content formats.

Brands can tackle the second challenge posed by appification by changing the presentation of their branded content. Doing so will derive extra value from the huge investments they’ve made in social media and content marketing. Of course, social media platforms are launching their own apps, but it’s unlikely that they will offer an optimum environment for brands to promote themselves at no charge and without stricter terms, conditions and controls.

As Facebook’s reporting shows, they need money. Marketers need to look to other routes to appify their content that offer them both an unconstrained canvas for their creativity and optimum control to deliver content in a way that best suits them and their consumers. By integrating their social media and branded content into a single app-style interface, brands will empower consumers to easily pick and choose the information they want to view from a tiled-presentation of a variety of mixed media.

Vibrant Media undertook an R&D exercise into the demands that new content formats present to marketers. As well as the impact operation systems are having on consumers’ content expectations, the exercise identified demand for immediate and continuous access to the most up-to-date information from brands - largely driven by social media.

In response, the ad creative, design and technical experts at Vibrant Media developed Mosaic, a full-screen platform that presents branded content, apps, images, video, ads and social media feeds in the tiled format consumers increasingly expect. It runs on tablets, desktops and mobile phones to deliver a unified brand experience.

However, while the digital marketing industry generally responds quickly to incorporate changes in formats and technologies, Microsoft’s recent moves signal the need for a continental shift in online marketing communications strategies. The windows format has served computer users for 26 years - an epoch in digital media terms - but, like many empires, the demise of the format may be swift.

The fast evolution and viral adoption of app-supporting internet connected devices and the new human desire for content presented in tiled formats means that marketers must break with their windows past.

Rather than feeling forced to respond to these changes in digital media, brands should recognise the benefits of appifying their marketing methods. Placing ads within appified content achieves unprecedented levels of digital marketing viewability.

Contextually relevant brand placements within digital content make advertising an enhancement for consumers, not a distraction. Appifying branded content creates immersive digital experiences for consumers, who can discover more about the brand and have a deeper understanding of brand values.

Tom Pepper, UK sales director, Vibrant Media

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