Microsoft has opened up advertising inventory in the US on its MSN Mobile homepage (mobile.msn.com), Reuters reported today. This follows similar moves by Microsoft in Belgium, France, Spain, Japan and the United Kingdom. Currently the MSN’s homepage is rotating banners from Bank of America, Paramount Pictures and Jaguar in an above-the-fold position, just below the search window.
In my testing of the new, ad-enabled MSN Mobile home page, I found that Microsoft seemed to be serving ads from an internal ad server, and is clearly not optimizing the ad size for all handsets, as MSN served the same 215 X 34 ad unit for both my Blackberry 8830 (Verizon), Samsung A717 (AT&T) and Samsung A900 (Sprint)… while a broken image was served to a Motorola V3T operating on T-Mobile (perhaps due to the fact that the handset screen width is smaller than 215 pixels!). Also, it seems that MSN is unfortunately not supporting “Text Under” links below the banner, which have been shown to significantly increase click-thru by adding an additional “clickable” call-to-action.
In addition to serving the mobile ads internally, MSN appears to also be (in some cases) hosting the post-click advertiser mobile microsites. In the case of the Jaguar ad shown, clicking on the link takes you to a Jaguar mobile microsite hosted (and possibly even created) by Microsoft. I’ll leave the site criticism for another day, but if you visit the site you can see for yourself that the most critical image asset – the advertiser logo – doesn’t even render correctly.