Posted February 20, 2012 3:50 pm by with 0 comments

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Social advertising is all about using the comments and recommendations of one person to influence the buying habits of another. Facebook does this handily by mentioning which of my friends like the ads that appear in my sidebar. But, to be effective, recommendations don’t have to come from friends.

A recent study by BazaarVoice showed that 51% of the all-important millennial consumers were influenced by the online comments of strangers. So that’s probably why they’ve teamed up with Microsoft Advertising for a new kind of ad they call “People Powered Stories.

The test revolved around the Windows 7 “back to school” campaign. The ads were designed to pull in real review data from college students, then deliver it to other college students as they surfed the web.

Initially, they might see an ad like the one above, from there, they could expand the ad to see this:

Here, they’re offered the name (such as it is) of the person who posted the review, along with some keywords and an option of reading the entire review with another click.  The cynic in me assumes that Microsoft filters out any negative comments before they hit the ad.

A survey of test subjects shows that students found the ads to be “believable” and “relevant.” There was a 13.5% lift in brand awareness and 6.3% lift in purchase intent. Not bad.

At first glance, these ads made me think of commercials for movies that shout out things like “The New York Times gives it Four Stars” and “Smart & Funny, says The Wheat Watcher Gazette.”

Yes, buying based on the advice of strangers is nothing new, but Microsoft’s neat, targeted package does make good use of the available technology. I would give them five stars, except for one thing — the name.

“People Powered Stories?”

We’re not talking memoirs, here. A software review is not a story, people-powered or otherwise. So let’s just agree that these are advertisements and stop trying to soften the intrusion with literary lingo.