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MSN AdCenter Launch: Between A Rock And An API Hard Place

MSN AdCenter opened to the public today. This is surely a good thing for MSN. And it will be a good thing for the search industry overall, as the new venue will bring increased competition and features.

My search marketing agency participated in the AdCenter pilot. This allowed us to get our large clients up on MSN over the last few months and to use the MSN API to manage our clients’ ads. MSN limited the pilot beta program to large advertisers. That makes sense, no complaints there.

Here’s the rub: at least for right now,

  1. The API only functions for “premium” client accounts (currently this is a functional code issue, not a business choice, I was told), and
  2. Premium status is tied to invoice billing (vs. credit card billing), and
  3. MSN is backlogged on reviewing accounts for premium status.

So while large clients accounts enjoy the benefit of the API, and while small advertisers using MSN through the webapp and credit cards enjoy the benefit of fast startup, there’s a very considerable number of midsized accounts which at least today don’t yet have access to the API.

And API access is key to managing search campaigns of any size or complexity.
Sigh.

Friends at MSN say many (all?) SEM agencies are also in this tough position, with midsized clients asking why MSN is telling them they need to wait patiently a bit to launch while at the same time they’re hearing MSN invite in the whole world in to AdCenter (through the public site).
Fortunately, our MSN reps have been tremendously helpful at trying to solve this issue for us (no spin — they’re really trying hard, kudos), and MSN says their developers are diligently writing code to remedy this crazy situation.

We heartily welcome AdCenter to the mix, and hope these launch API issues get solved quickly.

Update: All these startup billing issues were resolved within a week.

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  • Alan Rimm-Kaufman
    Alan Rimm-Kaufman founded the Rimm-Kaufman Group...
  • Comments
    8 Responses to “MSN AdCenter Launch: Between A Rock And An API Hard Place”
    1. Any news regarding a more publicly open API (e.g. like Google)?

    2. Alan Rimm-Kaufman Alan says:

      According to MSN, for the general public, not yet.

      As an agency, we’ve been using the API a while. As opposed to when we blogged on this in May (above), it is much, much, much, much more stable and full-featured. Still occasional hiccups, but the platform is much more reliable and the API spec itself isn’t changing so much anymore. Kudos to the MSN engineering folks.

      I suspect MSN will open it up more broadly when the last startup hiccups subside, following Google’s open approach.

    3. Ashish says:

      Does this mean, there is no automated fashion of interfacing with MSN Adcenter? If I have say 250 Ads (approx 1200 keywords), and if I want to advertise on MSN search engine, is “manual and painful” way the only option to upload my ads?

      If so, do you recommend / know of any agencies that provides MSN interface for a small fee or something?

      Thanks for your help,

      Ashish

    4. Alan Rimm-Kaufman Alan says:

      Hi Ashish —

      At this point, it is my understanding that the MSN API is reserved for large agencies and advertisers. (See their blog post on access to the MSN API). We’ve been using that API for our clients since it launched. Early startup hiccups have subsided, and the API is stable, full-featured, and functioning well. I would suspect at some point, following Google’s lead, both MSN and Yahoo open their API. I would also suspect that, again following Google’s lead, that charging API users tiny-but-not-zero API usage fees also becomes an industry norm.

      Alan

    5. Yes – it is only large clients and agencies who gain access today.

      And well, I don’t hope that MSN / Yahoo follow the Google example by charging for API usage > if you use the API as you would normally use the Google Adwords interface (regular updates + daily reports downloaded to you BI solution) then the “tiny-but-not-zero cost” API pricing model can actually be pretty substantial (can easily be USD +500 a month and more).

    6. Alan Rimm-Kaufman Alan says:

      Hi Morten –

      If carefully define what a “meaningful” bid change is, you can reduce the # of API calls w/o harming performance. A 1 cent bid change on a term that gets a click a month doesn’t need to be made daily — prioritizing bid changes by economic importance can save API calls.

      And yes, I fully expect Y and M to match G pricing on API usuage.

      I think the G API fees are fair, except their posting API rates are too high — they’re encouraging everyone to use their adwords desktop tool, and their pricing reflects it.

      All in all, I think the G rates are fair. Lower would be better of course, but certainly reasonable when used appropriately and when considered as % of ad spend.

    7. Hi Alan,

      I don’t see why their should be a price tag attached to the API at all – it doesn’t make sense. And why are the API fees fair?

      The definition of “appropriately” can be very different from one to another.

      If I decide to create 1000 campaigns, 10 adgroups in each with 100 KW. It would cost me a lot to simply buy this stuff from Google – if I decide to use the API.

      “The API” / “The Interface” is tech-wise exactly the same cost for Google – they just decide interface = free / API = fee.

      I know that when you work machine/machine (instead of human/machine) things can go wrong and I guess the reasoning is “fraud/misuse-prevention” – still other ways to detect this exist.

    8. Hi Morten –

      While the underlying Google tech cost for an action via the API is likely the same as the same action thru their web interface on a per call basis, the API can be so easily automated, and so is different beast.

      Once you have code that does this

      for (i=0;i<10; i++) {interact_with_google}

      it is trivial to change the scale

      for (i=0;i<100000000000; i++) {interact_with_google}

      Modest API fees ensure the resource is used appropriately. For folks using the API carefully, it should be much less than 1% of ad spend -- while I'd prefer 'free' to 'fee', the small API fee seems fair.

      Cheers

      Alan

      PS As to your comment that G has mispriced the fees for creation (vs. bidding), you're right. They're encouraging folks to use the Adwords Editor to bulk upload campaigns -- you might look into that alternative.