MSN Says IM Ads Not Based on User Chats

An MSN executive is disputing that MSN Messenger is running contextual ads based on the users' instant messaging conversations, as recent reports suggest.

MSN Messenger is, however, serving up text ads based on its users' age, gender, and other demographic information.

“Customer confidentiality and privacy is MSN's number one priority. MSN Messenger advertisements are based on demographic information the user provides when creating their Passport account, such as age, gender, language, zip code and country,” said David Jakubowski, general manager of MSN Search Strategy and Go-to-Market.

Some search consultants and others raised the concern that the ads would be targeted to users' IM chats, which would cause a similar uproar among privacy advocates as when Google announced that its GMail would serve up contextually relevant ads to its e-mail users.

In fact, MSN has been serving up the text ads since it launched Messenger 7.0 this April, Jakubowski said. The text ads at the bottom of the Messenger window send consumers directly to the marketer's ad or Web site when they click on it.

Advertisers can choose whether they want to advertise on Messenger separately or as part of a package with MSN.

Advertising in instant messaging services is a logical way for Yahoo and MSN — which recently announced a partnership on IM platforms – to monetize IM, one search marketer said.

“Why agree to combine two of the biggest [IM services] now? Because there's finally a way to monetize all that cross-platform activity,” said Peter Hershberg, managing partner, Reprise Media, New York.

In addition, advertising within IM is not new. AOL Instant Messenger's “Triton” platform includes some graphic ads at the top of the AIM window.

“This ad [in AIM] goes a step beyond the MSN implementation, actually including in-line graphics in the chat window,” Hershberg said.

So far, MSN Messenger is not serving ads directly from advertisers that are part of the MSN's pilot paid search advertising program, adCenter.

“Text ads are not linked to adCenter, but we are continually monitoring the platform and will make updates as applicable,” Jakubowski said.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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