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,
- The API only functions for "premium" client accounts (currently this is a functional code issue, not a business choice, I was told), and
- Premium status is tied to invoice billing (vs. credit card billing), and
- 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.
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.