“Put storytelling back at the heart of marketing,” Microsoft’s Country Director for Online Advertising tells Ad & Marketing Pros


Neville Taraporewalla, Country Director - Advertising & Online, Microsoft, opens up to YourStory.in on Microsoft Advertising Awards (MSA) and assures that “MSA is committed to bringing to the Indian market the best digital storytelling formats”What led to the conceptualization of The Microsoft Advertising Story Awards (MSAs)?

In today’s challenging economic climate, the pressure on Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) to deliver tangible results in the short-term is intense. Advertisers and marketers often do not get the digital advertising tools or platform to experiment with the process of telling great stories online that really attract their customers. In response to this need, the Microsoft Advertising Story Awards (MSA) have been initiated to help brands take a step back from all the clutter, and put storytelling back at the heart of marketing. We are therefore inviting advertising agencies and marketers from all over the world to develop a creative campaign for the most innovative use of Microsoft Advertising solutions to help either a nonprofit organization or a brand of their choice to tell a compelling digital story.

Through this contest, we also want brands and advertisers to realize that the online formats offered by Microsoft Advertising make the technology invisible so that creative agencies can focus on the storytelling and let the tech experts focus on the technology. The MSA, thus, makes it easier to marry innovation and creativity and bring out results, which are to scale and can be used across different devises and publisher formats.

How has the response been so far from Indian brands in terms of participation?

Microsoft Story Awards has been very well received in India. We have agencies like Group M, Mudra, Contract, Tribal DDB, Isobar, Reprise and Wunderman participating. It’s very encouraging to see entries from all the top agencies. Since it’s a level-playing field where all contestants, worldwide, will have the same ad solutions, it will be very interesting to see how the Indian contestants put that to use in their entries – where they will get to experiment with Kinect, Dynamic Ads, and other exciting Ad solutions.

Does the Microsoft Advertising team have any specific plans for India?

Microsoft Advertising offers advertisers the ability to reach more than 550 million unique users globally each month and close to 20 million MSN Windows Live users in India. We’re also one of the largest marketers in the world. More than 900 million global users (65% of internet users, including MSN, Messenger and Skype) interact with our technology, services and media properties every day.

MSA is committed to bringing to the Indian market the best digital storytelling formats, which can then be adapted for local audiences. MSA is already actively working with several brands in the auto, mobile, IT and FMCG sectors to help plan their digital advertising strategies. To enable brand managers to make better use of online options and as part of our commitment to standardized formats, Microsoft Advertising is partnering with industry leaders to make it easier for brands to launch digital campaigns at scale. Making use of the IAB Rising Star ad formats, we offer six creative canvases which can be run across multiple publishers and MSN is among the first to adopt these ad standards and implement them globally. The six IAB Rising Star ad formats help brands to amplify their stories – in digital and at scale. Each format has its own unique personality and appeal.

Additionally, in order to deepen our engagement within India and move beyond Tier-1 cities, we have appointed Ybrant Digital Ltd. as our sales house, with the objective of expanding our presence to cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Pune, and Goa. Our focus is to provide flexible formats, which can be used by any enterprise, regardless of their size and pocket.

How does Microsoft Advertising team plan to help startups and small businesses tell their story via Microsoft tools and technologies? Any specific programs to support these companies?

At Microsoft Advertising, our focus is to provide flexible formats, which can be used by any enterprise, regardless of their size and pocket. Marketers can leverage digital advertising tools to create effective brand resonance and traction. A startup or a small business can easily make use of any of the available Microsoft Advertising formats, as per their marketing priority, to reach their target audience at a lower cost and with far fewer resources than traditional advertising on television and in Print. Our formats also enable enterprises to use the same creative units across publishers and devises, which is a very cost effective process.As mentioned earlier, making use of the IAB Rising Star ad formats, we have on offer six creative canvases, which can be run across multiple publishers, and MSN is among the first to adopt these ad standards and implement them globally. The six IAB Rising Star ad formats help brands amplify their stories – in digital and at scale.

To help encourage and support cost-effective innovation across the entrepreneurship chain, we have appointed Ybrant digital as our sales house, to focus on Tier 2 cities, with the objective of expanding our presence to cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Pune, and Goa.

Would you like to quote any global digital marketing success for our audience?

Of course. I would like to talk about one of our key international campaigns for the auto sector. We helped one of our global clients, Alfa Romeo, successfully launch a new product – the new Giuletta, using our award winning innovation – The IAB Rising Star Filmstrip.

Buying a new car is a complex and emotional process and the brand managers at Alfa Romeo knew that an effective online campaign would be needed, to engage and connect with their target consumer at an emotive level and then guide them through understanding the features of the car and onwards, to the ‘buy decision’. Keeping the concept of ‘Purchase Funnel’ in mind (It’s the journey that consumers take, starting with brand awareness, leading to purchase and all the way to loyalty), we designed this special Filmstrip so that the different panels of the Filmstrip allowed Alfa Romeo to ‘romance’ different parts of the car- from the beautiful interiors to the powerful engine designed for optimum performance. The last panel then delivered a video that personified the car. A female voice said “excite me, take care of me, love me, take me home.” The results were fantastic. 60% of the users who interacted with this filmstrip watched the video on the last panel through to completion. The average exposure time for the ad was 7 minutes! (images show more details.)

Any India specific digital marketing success that caught your attention?

I would like to share the example of one of our high profile campaigns for Coke. Recently, we designed a special IAB Rising Star Billboard campaign for Coca Cola (Ummedon Wali Dhoop). Billboard is one of the innovative, large format tools offered by MSA.Coca Cola wanted to keep the messaging and the theme consistent throughout the media – print, electronic and online. So we had a whole video of the television commercial running as a billboard on the MSN homepage. The advantage of this format is that the advertiser is able to put the brand front and center for the consumer to look at. 100% of the viewers who visit the page see the ad, thus providing 100% brand experience (see the video).

Are there any gaps that you have noticed in the Indian marketing space? Do you think we can be better storytellers?

The current explosion in online activity has created a situation where whether you’re a mother in India or a political activist in the Middle East, social communication tools such as Messenger, Facebook and Twitter enable you to tell your story instantly to a mass audience. This kind of audience wants to be able to control their interaction with brands and hear a quick, good story, rather than simply be told about the attributes of a product or service. The challenge for the marketer today, therefore, is to capture this constantly moving audience with tools that allow a brand to tell their story creatively and innovatively in a short time. This is a gap in the market, which Microsoft Advertising is aiming to fill and is committed to growing the ecosystem around this. The online formats which are now on offer by Microsoft Advertising, support this by taking away the pain of figuring out the technical challenges and providing the brand manager with flexible templates that leave them free to focus on storytelling.

To answer the second part of your question, Indians are actually great natural storytellers, especially with audio-visual communication, be it through performances around the great epics or drama, music and dance. And, with easy to use online tools to provide the technical support to create, our very talented creatives' are bound to take to push their storytelling boundaries online in a big way.

Do you think that Indian advertisers are now mature enough when it comes to adapting online?

There is a level of conservatism about digital advertising in the marketing communities in India, but it would not be wrong to say that there is great potential in digital, and both marketers and advertisers are realizing that. It is worth mentioning that different brands in India are at different stages of evolution in the adoption of the digital medium. For example, there is maturity in the way the automobile sector is going digital. Also, BFSI and travel, as sectors are quite mature in terms of adaptation to the online medium.

I personally feel that as online advertising becomes richer and more interactive, marketers in India will increasingly start using the digital medium.

We at YourStory.in thank Mr. Neville for sharing his valuable inputs on online advertising in India.