Today, Microsoft announced a new program, one that it hopes represents an evolutionary step in what might be called social advertising. On Facebook’s platform, user interactions with brands are employed in various ways to imbue into them an air of authenticity and trust. Six of your friends like Adidas? Well, perhaps they are on to something, and you should try them out for your next pair of kicks.
That’s well and good, and tested I should add, but it only goes so far. In Microsoft’s eyes, there is an implicit, and limiting, one-dimensional quality to a Like; it only says one thing. That’s what Microsoft intends to address with its concept of ‘People Powered Stories,’ and we think that they may be onto something.
In a nutshell, People Powered Stories (PPS) takes consumer reviews and ratings, and uses them as the meat of an ad. I’m sure you had already guessed that, but we have to make sure that all speeds reach the finish line before we can move on at times. From the Microsoft post, here are a few examples:
The Microsoft copy is intentionally vague on where the ads will go live and when, but we talked to its PR and from what we can tel, they will run on various MSFT properties (think MSN, Bing, etc.), and eventually. The post says ‘available next month,’ but to whom, and where, is open for interpretation. However, we do know that third-party companies will be able to use the platform on Microsoft sites.
Is this ‘beyond the “Like?”‘ In a way, but the question of sourcing is critical. Where will the reviews come from? How will Astroturfing be avoided? There’s potential here, the use of ‘real people’ is generally good, but until we have a better framework for the rules that PPS ads will have to run by, we’re reticent to take a firm side on how large an impact this new system will have.
We’ll keep you in the loop as more comes out.
Update: Microsoft PR just reached out to us with a point of clarification. BazaarVoice, Microsoft’s partner in the PPS project, handles the curation of reviews. That’s encouraging, but our larger questions remain; this is one place where a ‘black box’ is unnerving.