Microsoft has iPhone ad ambitions

Microsoft has hardly embraced Apple’s iPhone platform, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t thought about making money from it.

To date, it has only contributed a couple of programs to the App Store – the Seadragon image viewer and barcode Tag Reader, both of them free.

No Microsoft games are available, but the new head of Massive, its in-game advertising acquisition, has designs on selling ads on the iPhone, both inside and outside games.

“Apple doesn’t have an ad platform,” JJ Richards (pictured) told me at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“They will either let every iPhone developer choose their own, which will hopefully be us, or they’ll pick one, which again will hopefully be us.”

That ambition may send a chill through Greystripe, a start-up ad network on the iPhone and other mobile phones, which received $5.5m in new funding this month.

The market is still young and finding its feet – Dockers showed some innovation in introducing motion-sensitive ads into games this month.

Mr Richards says a fully-fledged ad network on the Apple device is bound to happen and Massive is in a prime position.

“They’re obviously going to [do it] …we’re just trying to feed and support the ad-funded model,” he said.

The executive had Massive added in November to his remit of general manager, Advertiser and Publisher Solutions. He was previously head of Xbox Live.

His different experiences have left him seeking a more holistic approach to Microsoft’s advertising strategy. Product placement has been added – cars, clothes, store signs – to Massive’s dynamic in-game advertising, which serves interchangeable ads on billboards.

There is also “around game” advertising – ads served during pauses in action, such as when players are waiting in lobbies or looking at leader boards. In addition, Mr Richards is offering packages to advertisers that also include placements in its ad network covering Microsoft and partner web sites.

His aim is to serve ads across consoles, PCs, digital TV set-top boxes and cell phones as well. Microsoft acquired Europe’s ScreenTonic , a mobile advertising company, two years ago, to boost its offering.

“The Microsoft advertising platform means trying to pull all these things together and be a one-stop shop for advertisers,” said Mr Richards.