First Silverlight Ad Campaign - Mass Effect 2


posted 2/16/2010 by Tina Amini
other articles by Tina Amini
With the arrival of the Internet, advertisement campaigns shifted drastically. With the arrival of popularized social networks like Facebook, advertisement campaigns shifted violently. So what technologies are the ad agencies looking towards to modify their campaigns to suit the style of the Internet? Well, one example would be Microsoft’s fairly new development of Silverlight, a browser plug-in designed to showcase high quality and interactive advertisements.

The first brand to take advantage of the Smooth Streaming and Deep Zoom that Silverlight boasts is EA with their newly released RPG-shooter hybrid, Mass Effect 2. Media agency Metia worked with EA and Ad Dynamo to develop Silverlight banners implemented on the games section of MSN Tech and Gadgets, and soon to move to the MSN homepage (Jan. 30th).

We received these relevant facts on research about online display advertising:

• The number of people online who click display ads has dropped 50% in less than two years, and only 8% of internet users account for 85% of all clicks, according to ComScore and reported in AdAge (October 2009)

• Also from ComSocore: ComScore has conducted more than 200 client studies demonstrating that online display ads generate significant lift in brand site visitation, trademark search, and both online and offline sales among those Internet users who were exposed to the online ad campaigns – whether they clicked on the ad or not. October 2009

• Coca-Cola and Unilever are shifting their digital focus away from traditional campaign sites and towards community platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, as social media begins to dictate their marketing activity in 2010. Reported in New Media Age (UK)

Metia explains that Silverlight will be able to help with the dwindling numbers. I, probably – and evidently – like many Internet users, generally avoid any and all ad banners on websites. Metia is hoping, however, that the graphic content will appeal to more users with its high-powered content like HD videos.

Although getting the click is the ultimate challenge, at the very least they expect that the richer content will serve well for the perception of the brand that is advertised. The campaign micro-sites are meant to be an all-in-one complete service, including HD video, HD images and screen grabs, and interactive games. To get everything out of the HD experience, users can zoom up to 30 times into an HD image, and are promised no lags or excessive load times with the HD videos.

The CEO at Metia, Steve Ellis, reflected on the creative opportunities this would open up: “Offering Silverlight to advertisers and agencies through Ad Dynamo is significant. Silverlight gives creatives and developers a variety of features and capabilities that cannot be achieved using any other rich Internet application.”

CEO at Ad Dynamo, Sean Riley, is optimistic about the efforts with Silverlight: “Metia has deep Silverlight expertise, working with them and Microsoft Advertising to develop this capability was the ideal collaboration. In the coming weeks and months I’m looking forward to talking to our advertiser and agency customers and showing them what is possible. Contrary to popular belief there is more than one option in the ad serving market.”

We at Gaming Nexus had a chance to interview Andrew Martin – Vice President at Metia – to get some further insight into the development of Silverlight banner advertisements, including those featuring EA’s Mass Effect 2.

What sort of creative innovation are you expecting from this new ad service?

Our view is that this development will see banner/display ads move from being a traditional billboard to being highly interactive useful, interesting and relevant. As we say above, the banner becomes the micro-site. One example is a recent campaign from Honda, which encouraged customers to 'start' the car by texting to an SMS shortcode and also downloading information through Bluetooth.

What do you expect the HD qualities will offer for the medium of advertising?
The new serving capability enables advertisers and their agencies to take full advantage of Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, Smooth Streaming and Deep Zoom.

Creatives and advertisers can now utilize functionality that enables users to zoom in to see the smallest level of detail in high definition (HD) images. It will also allow users watch HD video clips without the time lag of buffering and without excessive load times.

What would be the more optimal products for this type of advertisement, and how does gaming fit in?

Any media rich product such as games, movies or television would be a perfect match for this new platform, as would any product which traditionally creates a lot of media assets, such as a car launch or sports event.

What led to the decision to open this up to EA as the first brand to use the technology?

EA’s media agency, Mediacom, proposed Mass Effect 2 to us because it has a compelling game scenario, which they thought would be the most suitable for the technology’s debut.

Did the fact that Mass Effect 2 is a Microsoft exclusive have any impact on the choice of development technologies?

No. The initiative came from Mediacom.

Why the decision to use Silverlight over Flash given Flash's larger installed base?

The ability to serve Deep Zoom-able content, Smooth Streaming technology for an instant video experience on even the slowest connections, much crisper graphic rendering and animation. Our aim was to develop the first fully interactive and expandable Silverlight banner and the technology to serve it. This is not the only display advertisement in the campaign.

What kind of failover do you have if the users don't have the Silverlight plug-in installed?
The ad serving will detect for the presence of the required Silverlight plug-in and fail over to one of two GIF ads – one version for a user whose browser supports Silverlight where they don’t have the plug-in or the required version, and another version for those users whose browser can’t support the plug-in.

Will this new development affect ads on the Xbox 360 dashboard?
The immediate focus of this project is to build a fully interactive Silverlight banner and the ad serving technology for it to be delivered.

Where else do you plan to extend the ads beyond MSN homepage? Will we see this new ad technique on video game news sites and blogs?

The immediate opportunities are for Ad Dynamo, the ad serving company we worked with, and Mediacom to promote the capability to their clients, publishers and advertisers.

Metia and Microsoft Advertising will also be showing it to our respective clients.

Well, what do you think? Are you more likely to be interested in, or click these advertisements?