Get in the conversation

Remember those futuristic videophones from the Jetsons? Well, new instant messaging technology is making video chats available to the masses - and giving you the opportunity to run ads while the conversation windows are loading. 'It's targeting an engaged audience,' says Subtej Nijjar, communication services marketing manager at MSN Canada in Toronto.

Remember those futuristic videophones from the Jetsons? Well, new instant messaging technology is making video chats available to the masses – and giving you the opportunity to run ads while the conversation windows are loading. ‘It’s targeting an engaged audience,’ says Subtej Nijjar, communication services marketing manager at MSN Canada in Toronto.

MSN’s Messenger 7.0 launched April 7, along with its ‘MSN Video Conversation’ application, which includes new IM ad opportunities like in-window text ads and sponsorship of ‘MSN Tabs,’ in-window icons that link to MSN Web pages for news, information and services.

Advertisers can run rich media ‘commercial-like experiences.’ Nijjar says the ads will likely run for 15 seconds and will range in price from $10 to $25 CPM depending on the size and the targeting.

‘We’re doing tons of user testing to determine time limits and sizes for the ads,’ he says. Canadian advertisers already on board with the new in-window opportunities include Levi Strauss Canada, as well as Unilever Canada’s Axe body spray.

Meanwhile, AOL Canada has been offering a video conversation app for several months now. Its U.S counterpart has attracted advertisers like Atari Kids and www.careerbuilder.com, but so far no Canadian marketers have signed on.

‘Surprisingly, Canadian advertisers have been slow to respond to this type of rich media advertising,’ says Becky Bolt, Toronto-based AOL Canada’s manager of corporate communications, ‘despite the proliferation of broadband users who have the capability to view video ads online.’

Another new development in IM ad opps is the introduction of sponsored backgrounds. Yahoo Canada has been offering sponsored IMEnvironments since early this year. Sponsored backgrounds allow users to download branded backdrops.

Brands already tapping into Yahoo’s IMEnvironments include Hello Kitty and Peanuts. MSN Canada has plans to take sponsored backgrounds one step further by launching sponsored Theme Packs later this year (tentative release date: July), which will allow users to download not only branded backgrounds, but also branded display pictures and icons.