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At a presentation on Friday for the San Diego ad community, Microsoft reps played up local targeting as a key feature of its new adCenter, which is vying to win market share against Google and Yahoo! Search. Microsoft reps noted that keywords could be exclusively or incrementally targeted by location, which is determined by reverse IP. Local advertisers have the added advantage of pairing local buys with times of day or days of the week.

For instance, retailers could reinforce print ads in the Sunday newspaper by launching an online campaign on adCenter between Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Gender and age can also be added to the mix.

Also showcased was Microsoft's ability to target local users via Web 2.0 apps, including its extensive mapping and directory mashups at Local Live. A local restaurant could advertise along your route home, or you can see what's happening at a mall if you are stuck in traffic, suggested the rep.

Local retailers and other marketers also potentially benefit from Microsoft adLabs, a new collaborative resource that Microsoft has developed with centers in the U.S., U.K. and India. For instance, one lab capability detects online commercial intent on a scale of zero to one. Someone who is looking at reviews for TV sets might be given a 0.4 rating to purchase a TV. Another feature is a "search funnel" that predicts the next keyword a user might apply.

The San Diego-area agencies attending the briefing appeared to be open-minded toward using adCenter as a third outlet, in addition to their current buys on Google and Yahoo!. One, however, complained that using adCenter required a great deal of back and forth for every ad that is placed, while Yahoo! and Google offer relatively seamless, one-stop plays. "You have given us the equivalent of DOS instead of Windows," she said (unfairly, I thought).

To this, the Microsoft reps responded that they are just getting started and that things will greatly improve. For now, they boasted that the Microsoft universe of Web sites has a higher cumulative rating than Google, better conversion rates, and much lower click-fraud rates because only Microsoft sites are being included at present.

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