Microsoft: Search Is Overrated. Please Buy A Display Ad

A hallmark of any recession: The inevitable ad campaign from the advertising industry, trying to persuade clients that a recession is a great time to buy advertising. The magazine business kicked off its campaign last week. Now comes the Web publishers, in the form of Microsoft (MSFT): It wants everyone to know that they’ve got other options beyond buying a search ad. And no, it’s got nothing to do with the fact that Microsoft continues to get hammered by Google in search, they say. WSJ:

… some ad-technology and Web-measurement companies are trying to engineer a comeback for display ads, offering data that they say show display advertising is more effective than marketers think. Microsoft is the latest company to make this declaration, with new evidence coming next week that it says proves display ads are actually better than searches at triggering consumers.

Leaving aside the actual data and methodology behind Microsoft’s argument, the logic behind it makes sense: Search is a great way to reach people who know what they’re looking for. But display ads are a great way to help them understand that they want to buy something. We agree! But what about advertisers themselves? Are they sold? Sort of, says one ad exec:

“Obviously, Microsoft has a motive to shift dollars from search to display advertising because it is getting creamed in the search space,” says Ben Winkler, a director of interactive media at the Martin Agency, a unit of Interpublic Group. “But this does help us get a much better picture of how our online advertising is working.”

Eh. Maybe, says another:

“Search is still just as powerful. But things like display that looked really bad before aren’t as bad. Now we can prove it,” says Jennifer Zola, partner and director of strategy and insights at WPP Group’s Mediaedge:cia.

One other problem: Even if advertisers do buy Microsoft’s argument, that doesn’t mean they’re going to buy Microsoft’s ads. Google, as you may have heard, has jumped into the display ad business with both feet itself.

See Also: comScore August Report Card: Google Gaining, Of Course

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