In case you haven't heard yet, Microsoft has entered the world of search engine marketing with its own Pay Per Click search engine ad system called AdCenter which has been around for about 9 months now and servers ads on the MSN search engine (perhaps you didn't even know Microsoft had its own search engine). While still in beta, I've been privilege to be a participant in the AdCenter beta program for the past 3 months.
What is interesting is that for once Microsoft seems to have done something right. While PPC has been around for a long time already, and the industry is supported by many tools to support search engine marketers, Microsoft has taken the lead of these 3rd party tools and taken the best form Google Adwords and Overture by integrated them into AdCenter PPC engine.
Some features of AdCenter include day parting tools (the ability to set specific days of the week and times to run your ads), a keyword research tool (which incorporates the best of Overtures keyword tool, WordTracker and others) and a demographics tool. All these tools fall under its research tab.
The most interesting tool is the demographic tool. With this you can enter a specific word or phrase and see the demographic of who is searching on the phrase. You can find out the split between male and female web users, age bracket and income. What is suspicious is how does Microsoft know all this? Well according to one Microsoft rep I had the privilege to talk to at a conference they gather all this info when users register for their products such as HotMail, Operating systems, MS Office, etc. So how much value should you put into these demographics? To me the answer is how truthful do you really think everyone is when registering on-line for products. Have you ever stretched the truth? Regardless it at least has some merit and may be useful in targeting specific ads to specific keywords to a specific category of user.
While AdCenter does offer some limited geotargeting, for Canadian you are out of luck. AdCenter does not allow its ads to be targeted at Canadians (msn.ca). The reason is that Micorsoft Canada still has a deal in place with Yahoo Canada (hence Overture) to continue to server ads on MSN Canada Search.
As mentioned earlier this product is in Beta, but I now know Microsoft is taking PPC and AdCenter to heart. I was invited to participate yesterday in a survey of SEM professionals here in Toronto. The focus of this survey was AdCenter. I can not comment more on the survey as most of it is confidential, but I can say get ready for a strong ad campaign for when it comes out of beta.
For now AdCenter is still in Beta and I'll keep my eye on it to see if when its ready for prime time.