Microsoft Goes ‘Millennial’ With Video, Native Content Cards

tumblrMicrosoft wanted to drum up interest for its digital note-taking app, OneNote, and needed to reach a generation of students who’d grown up on Apple devices.

A big part of its consumer push is bringing heritage products like PowerPoint and Word into the mobile age by supplementing these tools with new cloud apps.

Last winter, it featured a campaign called the Collective Project, sharing stories of students – like Fulbright scholar Albert Manero, a designer of bionic limbs for children – who harness creativity and science to better society.

“We really looked at bringing students through the experience and letting the campaign come to life on its own,” said Emilie Bridon, senior marketing manager for Microsoft Surface Pro and various consumer products. “We didn’t have a lot of pre-planned content. A lot of it was real-time and typical banner ads were just not going to work for us.”

It was the first time Bridon’s team created a campaign that predominantly lived in social channels. Most of the OneNote content was featured on a dedicated Tumblr page, in addition to a video documenting actor Robert Downey Jr. delivering a prosthetic to a 7-year-old “Iron Man” fan who was disabled. But Microsoft wanted to amplify the content to reach more students.

Using Sharethrough’s Native Cards, a dynamic ad format that allows users to click through to content without redirecting to another site, Microsoft amplified about six Tumblr posts, the Robert Downey Jr. video and a Vine video created with Vine influencer Zach King.

Basically, Sharethrough converts existing content from advertisers and turns it into ad units that fit natively onto a publisher’s page. Because the content is dynamically rendered, the consumer doesn’t have to leave the site to view it.

“We don’t actually have a OneNote Vine account and students don’t really want to follow us in that way, anyway, but they do want to follow these influencers,” Bridon said. “Working with influencers enabled us to have broader reach without having to source a ton of native content ourselves.”

Using Sharethrough Tumblr Cards, Microsoft also embedded Collective Project stories directly in the publisher feed. Once a user clicks on the headline, the unit expands to include an image, article text, social sharing buttons and unique calls to action if a user wants to further engage or follow OneNote’s Collective Project on Tumblr.

Consumer response was favorable, Bridon noted. The Sharethrough cards campaign drove more than 300,000 downloads of the OneNote app while engagement rates increased 52% compared to pre-card campaigns.

Intel, Pepsi, Gap and Nestle also use Sharethrough’s native cards, according to company founder and CEO Dan Greenberg.

“You could say [the cards are] similar in theory to [deep linking] because you’re exposing a piece of content instead of forcing somebody to a different page, although it’s very different technically because deep linking refers specifically to native apps,” he said.

With Facebook rolling out Instant Articles, a tool that renders third-party publisher content from sites like The New York Times and BuzzFeed directly within the app as opposed to linking out, as well as Google and Twitter’s respective efforts, Greenberg expects more traction for its own format.

“We’re looking at, ‘How can we leverage the equity of Collective Project, grow it and take advantage of newer formats like the Sharethrough content cards [and] incorporate Tumblr infographics [and] image galleries?’” Bridon added. “It’s something we definitely want to do [to have] a healthy mix of video and social.”

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