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Working at Microsoft – An adCenter Story

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Editor’s note: On occasion we reach out to people in the search marketing industry we’ve come to know and respect with a request to contribute. Today’s contribution comes from Microsoft’s adCenter Community Manager – Europe, Mel Carson. Mel’s job is to support, educate & evangelize through the adCenter Blog, industry forums, and to speak about adCenter at conferences such as SMX, SES, Pubcon and others. Mel writes his own blog at DigiTales & Other Stories.

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This post tells a personal tale of getting involved with Microsoft at the beginning of adCenter’s deployment to the paid search marketing world along with some good examples of unique adCenter features and why Mel thinks it’s great working for Microsoft.

My first day at Microsoft began at 4am on 11th July 2005 as I got up in St Margaret’s, South West London, in order to get the Eurostar to Paris to witness the launch of the adCenter Pilot in France.

As the train trundled through the Paris countryside, I pondered what the next few months would hold. Had I made a mistake by jacking in my account director role at 24/7 Real Media? What would it be like working in one of the most well known companies in the world? Were all the interviews I went through going to be worth it?

When I logged into adCenter for the very first time later that afternoon I was, shall we say, distinctly underwhelmed. I thought to myself, “What have they been doing?”, and more importantly “what on earth am I doing here?!”

That evening our team was given a pep talk from our head of service operations:

“The next few months is not going to be easy. As we work both internally, and with our customers, to scale the product and onboard all our advertisers, have the courage to make difficult decisions, even if you make some mistakes. People rarely get anything right 1st time, and you never learn unless you go back over what you’ve done, and see if you could have done it any better.”

Those words settled me a great deal, and I realised it was game on!

We all had a challenge on our hands, to grow adCenter from its bare bones in partnership with both the development team in Redmond, and our advertisers dotted around the globe.

Every time we took on a new person in London in preparation for the UK launch in August 2006, they would utter after their first few days – “But I just thought you’d be a bit further along by now!”

That was the point! The paid search team was, to all intents and purposes, a start up, a brand new business for Microsoft. As with all new businesses, there’s always a period of learning, growth and, more often than not, growing pain! Once every one of my new colleagues got that, they knew they had an opportunity to shape the business using whatever skill or competency they’d been hired for.

The guys I work with, the adCenter Community Team, have a great role. Our mission is support advertisers, large or small, through the adCenter Blog and education programs, like the soon to be released adExcellence Program.

The reason why the team was set up was, when we came to market, one of the top two asks from advertisers was “great service please!” So we’re all over the search marketing forums, answering questions, providing tips, pointing people in the right direction and gathering feedback, feedback on adCenter that goes right back to the dev team who then act on it.

You’ll also find us at all the major conferences too, SMX, SES and PubCon among others, talking to delegates, chatting to the speakers, recruiting for betas, listening to ideas and problems, because you know what? It’s not about us or this Evil Empire I keep hearing about, it’s about you – The Advertisers, advertisers, advertisers!

The second big request from our customers was for more insight. Who is clicking on my ad? Who is searching for my brand term? Can you give me better targeting options? Microsoft adCenter’s demographic tools answered those questions and so did our adCenter Labs team.

These tools use Passport, or Windows Live ID data, to assess a searchers age and gender when they type in a keyword into Live Search. Within adCenter you can, for any given Ad Group, up-weight your bids by between 10% and 100% for your target demographic and so serve an ad that is likely to be more relevant to that user.

For example if you sell financial services products to people about to retire, what’s the point in wasting expensive clicks on users under 50 years-old? By up-weighting your bids by say 50% for searchers aged 50-plus, you’re more likely to rank higher for customers more likely to convert.

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It doesn’t mean you exclude the other demographics though. This is just a great way of getting a better ranking for those customers you know will be more likely to convert, and advertisers that have utilized this functionality have seen dramatic reductions in cost per acquisition of up to 76%.

Microsoft adCenter Labs is the quickest place to see all this awesome innovation in action. Check out the demos for tools to help with Paid Search, Contextual Advertising, Audience Intelligence and Emerging Media.

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So not content with simply building a product that would do what others did before; the product team took the opportunity to push the boundaries, using existing Microsoft properties and research to give advertisers that extra edge and better ROI.

For me, those are the three things that I love about working at Microsoft:

  1. We get encouraged to make decisions, learn from any mistakes, and grow into our roles.
  2. We’re encouraged to get out there and meet our customers, find out their needs, work with them to help them get the best out of their campaigns, or do the best for their clients and not live in a bubble too far removed from reality.
  3. And we get to innovate, working with some of the coolest gadgets, gizmos and widgets. Cross-pollinating technologies to build the beginnings of a great eco-system for advertisers to tap into our rich and diverse audience around the world.

The last couple of releases of adCenter have shown we’ve been listening, that we are agile and that we put the needs of our advertisers first, and in turn we’ve received great feedback from them.

If, for one second, I thought that we didn’t have our customer’s interests central to everything we do, I probably wouldn’t stick around.

But I know that’s not going to happen..

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Working at Microsoft – An adCenter Story
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About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer
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