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Microsoft and Facebook – the Demographics Challenge

In the search arena, there is one advantage Microsoft has over the market leader and this is the ability to target ads demographically.

I attended a seminar yesterday organised by Don’t Panic and Manchester Digital which included speakers from Google, Hitwise and Microsoft. The most exciting presentation of the day came from Mel Carson of Microsoft who talked us through the new Adcentre and the demographic developments that give them an edge.

With 25 million Instant Messenger and Hotmail/Live email accounts in the UK, they have gender and age details on many of us that can help marketers to get closer to their target audience.

Microsoft has made some interesting acquisitions over the last few years that help to shape this area of the business that still represents only 5% of turnover. Inspiring developments in both image and video search are on the radar but one recent partnership which does ring some alarm bells on the demographics front is the purchase of 5% of Facebook.

Privacy was mentioned more than once yesterday. If Microsoft starts to offer targeted ads on Facebook the move will certainly fuel the personal information debate. That is, unless Facebook creates a privacy setting to block targeted ads on profile pages.

I can’t think of many richer sources of personal information available online and the question is, does Microsoft have the right to resource it? Some would argue that it is better to receive an advert for a product or service that you want than one that you don’t.

One thing Mel made clear was that Microsoft is keen to listen to businesses, work with them and deliver ad relevance, so morality aside, Microsoft’s allegiance with Facebook is a step forward for businesses and their online reach.

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