Native Ads in Microsoft Advertising SDK

Overview

Native Ads is a component-based ad format that gives publishers the flexibility of placing the individual components of a creative – title, image, logo, description, call to action text – so as to provide the best possible fitment to the look and feel of the rest of the app. This enables the developers to use fonts, colors and animations of their own to stitch unobtrusive user experience in their app while earning high yield from advertising. For advertisers as well, this provides high performing placements since the ads experience is tightly built into the app and users tend to interact a lot more with such sponsored content. According to a report by Mobile Marketing, native in-app ads typically see five times greater engagement than traditional banner ads and, hence, get greater spend from advertisers as well (as per eMarketer and other reports).

Starting now, developers can create Native Ad slots in their apps or games using the latest version of Microsoft Advertising SDK (10.0.4 or later). Microsoft Monetization platform provides developers with the maximum amount of freedom to create their own presentations and is available to a limited set of publishers in a closed pilot. Please contact aiacare@microsoft.com to express your interest to be part of this pilot.

Where Do I Start?

As always, start with downloading the Microsoft Advertising SDK. This provides you the libraries to include Native Ads into your app or game.

Create a “Native” ad unit for your app in ‘Monetize with ads’ section on DevCenter (dev.windows.com). This is the ad unit that you will use in your app when you request for an ad in the code.

How Do I Get Native Ads Integrated into my App?

This section assumes that you are familiar with the Microsoft Advertising SDK for your UWP app or game. If you haven’t played around with this, consider going through the Get Started guide.

To show Native Ads in your app, follow the instructions for project type:

XAML/.NET

HTML/JavaScript

XAML/.NET

This section provides C# examples for your XAML/.NET project. You will need to go through these simple steps to get Native Ads in your code.

Step 1: Setup References

Open your project in Visual Studio. In Reference Manager, expand Universal Windows, click Extensions and then select the check box next to Microsoft Advertising SDK for XAML.

In appropriate code file in your app (for example, in MainPage.xaml.cs), add the following namespace reference.


using Microsoft.Advertising.WinRT.UI;

Step 2: Setting up Native Ads Manager

In an appropriate location in your app (for example in MainPage or some other page), declare a NativeAdsManager object and string fields that represent the application ID and ad unit ID for your Native Ad. The following code example assigns the myAppId and myAdUnitId fields to the test values for Native Ads provided in Test Mode values. These values are only used for testing; you must replace them with live values from Windows DevCenter before you publish your app.


NativeAdsManager nativeAdsManager = null;
string appId = "d25517cb-12d4-4699-8bdc-52040c712cab";
string adUnitId = "test";

In code that runs on startup, instantiate the NativeAdsManager.


// Ad Events

nativeAdsManager = new NativeAdsManager(appId, adUnitId);

Step 3: Request for an Ad

When you want to show an ad, request for one using the NativeAdsManager and wire up the events.


nativeAdsManager.RequestAd();

nativeAdsManager.AdReady += NativeAd_OnAdReady;

nativeAdsManager.ErrorOccurred += NativeAd_ErrorOccurred;

Step 4: Using components of the Ad to stitch up the experience

Assume you have a XAML page which has various placeholders for Title, Description, Sponsored By, Call To Action of an Ad and a container which contains all these elements. Sample StackPanel containing all the elements.


<StackPanel x:Name="NativeAdContainer" BorderThickness="2" BorderBrush="Azure">
   <StackPanel x:Name="IconImageContainer" BorderThickness="2" BorderBrush="Azure" Visibility="Collapsed" >
       <Image x:Name="IconImage" />
   </StackPanel>   
   <TextBox x:Name="TitleBox" Text="The title will go here" Margin="78,0,-78,0"/>
   <TextBox x:Name="DescriptionBox" Text="The Description will go here" Visibility="Collapsed" />
   <TextBox x:Name="SponsoredBy" Text="The SponsoredBy will go here" Visibility="Collapsed" />
   <StackPanel x:Name="MainImageContainer" BorderThickness="2" BorderBrush="Azure" Visibility="Collapsed">
        <Image x:Name="MainImage" Margin="0,8,0,4" />
   </StackPanel>
   <Button x:Name="CallToAction" Margin="0,8,0,4" Visibility="Collapsed" />
</StackPanel>

Based on components of the creative that you want to stitch up in your app, your code may differ. Here is a sample OnAdReady event listener where Title, Description, CallToAction and Image is being used.


void NativeAd_OnAdReady(object sender, object e)
        {
           NativeAd nativeAd = (NativeAd)e;
           TitleBox.Text = nativeAd.Title;
		
		//if description is not null show description textbox
           var description = nativeAd.Description;
           if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(description))
           {
               DescriptionBox.Text = nativeAd.Description;
               DescriptionBox.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
           }

           //if sponsoredBy is not null show sponsoredBy textbox
           var sponsoredBy = nativeAd.SponsoredBy;
           if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(sponsoredBy))
           {
               SponsoredBy.Text = sponsoredBy;
               SponsoredBy.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
           }

           //if CallToAction is not null update Button
           var callToAction = nativeAd.CallToAction;
           if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(callToAction))
           {
               CallToAction.Content = callToAction;
               CallToAction.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
           }

           // Assets consists further information about Ad
           var assets = nativeAd.AdditionalAssets;

           // Loading images
           var icon = nativeAd.IconImage;
           if (icon != null)
           {
               var bitmapImage = new BitmapImage();
               bitmapImage.UriSource = new Uri(nativeAd.IconImage.Url);
               IconImage.Source = bitmapImage;
               // Best view when using the Height and Width of the image given
               IconImage.Height = nativeAd.IconImage.Height;
               IconImage.Width = nativeAd.IconImage.Width;

               IconImageContainer.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
            }

            // There might be multiple main images sent by the server
            var mainImages = nativeAd.MainImages;
            if (mainImages.Count > 0)
            {
                var mainImage = mainImages[0];
                var bitmapImage = new BitmapImage();
                bitmapImage.UriSource = new Uri(mainImage.Url);
                MainImage.Source = bitmapImage;
                // Best view when using the Height and Width of the image given
                MainImage.Height = mainImage.Height;
                MainImage.Width = mainImage.Width;

                MainImageContainer.Visibility = Visibility.Visible;
            }

            // It is required to show the AdIcon in your container
            NativeAdContainer.Children.Add(nativeAd.AdIcon);

            // Register any xaml framework element for clicks/impressions
            nativeAd.RegisterAdContainer(NativeAdContainer);

P.S: The developer is required to “Register” the XAML ad container (any framework Element) with the Native Ads object. This is required for handling impressions and click tracking and is critical for ad earnings. Failure to do so may result in ad-units and advertising payouts being blocked by Microsoft.

HTML/JavaScript

More details on the HTML feature will be coming soon! Please reach out to us (aiacare@microsoft.com) if your apps are in HTML/JS and you need this feature.

Guidelines

Even though the developer has complete control over how to create the ad experience and which components of the creative is displayed to the user, the advertiser’s creative should get its due message out to the user. There is a fine balance that needs to be achieved to reap maximum value from the Native Ad.

Here are some guidelines to ensure the balance.

Required to Show

There are two advertiser assets that must always be shown to the user in your Native Ad design. Failing to include any of these could result in low performance of your ad unit and eventual low (or no) yield. These assets are:

  • Ad Title
  • Either Distinguishable ad icon (This Ad Icon is sent as part of NativeAd object – property named AdIcon) or Sponsored By or texts such as ‘Sponsored’, ‘Promoted’, ‘Recommended’

Not following these guidelines may result in the removal of the adUnits from the advertising system.

Ad Experience

Your Native Ad should be clearly delineated from the rest of your content and have space around it to prevent accidental clicks. Use border, background or some other treatment to separate the ad content. Always remember, getting user to accidentally click on the ad is not beneficial in the longer term for your ads based revenue and for end user experience.

You should always show the distinguishable “Ad” icon in the ad view. Whenever possible, show the “Sponsored By” field to clearly call out that the content is an ad and provided by an advertiser.

Text Display Requirements

Native Ads should always have the Title displayed. Provide enough space to display at least 25 characters of the title. If the title is longer, ensure to replace the additional text with an ellipsis.

Ensure that the Call-to-Action (CTA) is separated out from the rest of the promotional text from the advertiser.

If you choose the rest of the promotional text (Description) from the ad response, provide space to display at least 75 characters of the same. It’s best to use animations to show the full content of the ad description.

Call-to-Action

Native Ads should always have the CTA displayed to the user as something clickable like a button or hyperlink.

CTA string should always be displayed in its entirety as it is a critical component of the advertiser’s creative.

Learn and Optimize

It is recommended that different ad units are created and used for each different placement of Native Ads in the app. This enables reporting and learning for each placement which then can be used for optimizing each placement separately till optimal performance is achieved.

In case of any further queries, please reach out to aiacare@microsoft.com and we’ll be glad to help you out.

Before deploying Skype for Business, follow these key steps

Microsoft has been a dominant unified communications vendor for almost a decade, but most customers have used it primarily for chat, presence, web sharing and other desktop-related functions. And as popular as Microsoft’s Skype for Business has been for desktop UC, it has struggled as an enterprise voice platform.

But Microsoft, it seems, has turned a corner, as Skype for Business voice is now becoming a mainstream platform.

In a declining voice market, Skype for Business has taken share from many incumbent voice equipment and platform vendors, according to Synergy Research Group. Synergy’s most recent market data shows the voice market and the revenue for all major vendors have declined — except for Microsoft (see table below).

Over the next few years, I expect many of the Microsoft customers deploying Skype for Business for chat and presence will shift their focus toward using it for enterprise voice as well.

voice market revenue

Checklist for deploying Skype for Business voice services

Deploying Skype for Business enterprise voice and its cloud-based equivalent, Office 365, is unlike voice services from other vendors. Traditional voice systems are more turnkey in nature, where the business buys the call servers, applications, phones and often the network from a single vendor. Instead, Microsoft provides the call control and some of the applications, but everything else is purchased from a Skype for Business partner, which can make the deployment more challenging.

Skype for Business deployment checklist

When deploying Skype for Business voice services, the predeployment work is extremely important. Many large companies with massive deployments have no issues, showing that the technology does work.

Organizations that are considering deploying Skype for Business voice services should take the following steps:

  • Do a network assessment. This is an absolute must for deploying Skype for Business enterprise voice. With an on-premises deployment, companies must pay attention to the local area network and Wi-Fi network. With Office 365, organizations should assess the wide area network and internet connection because traffic will be going to and from the cloud.
  • Start with a small pilot. Deploying Skype for Business enterprise voice isn’t overly complicated, but some adjustments to the network and other infrastructure are necessary. Starting with a small pilot allows the IT department to iron out kinks in the deployment, measure the benefits and build best practices. Once the pilot group has migrated successfully, a larger group can be addressed.
  • Due diligence required when selecting technology partners. A large number of technology partners work with Skype for Business and Office 365, but not all partners are equal. Some partners require custom software or gateways to interoperate with Microsoft. In addition, the quality of voice and video can vary greatly from vendor to vendor. Organizations should perform due diligence and thoroughly test technology partners to ensure the best experience and easiest deployment.
  • Keep the handset. Microsoft pushes customers hard to give up their desk phones and have workers make calls directly from a PC or laptop with a headset. As convenient as computer-based calling may seem, however, it isn’t appropriate for all sessions. A desk phone is significantly better suited for speakerphone calls and allows workers to make calls when they don’t have their computer or when it is rebooting. Also, most handsets generally provide better audio quality than PCs and laptops, particularly low-end ones.
  • Consider video as part of the deployment. Video is becoming increasingly popular with younger workers, particularly millennials, who now constitute 24% of the workforce and will grow to 47% within 10 years. Video adds an extra element to collaboration, as it lets workers interpret body language and facial queues. Organizations using Skype for Business or Office 365 should consider including video now or at least having it on their roadmap for the near future. 

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Windows 10 Tip: Organize your Start files with new tile folders

Happy Monday! Today, we’re going to show you how you can organize your Start files with tile folders, new to Windows 10 with the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Here’s how to get started:

Simply click and drag one icon onto another to create a tile folder with both. Then, you can add any other icons you’d like by dragging them onto the folder, or resize it by right-clicking on it.

Have a great week!

Rev your engines with the Forza Horizon 3 Mountain Dew Car Pack

This month we’re featuring seven very special cars, including two legendary classics, one from Australia and the other, America. The 48-215, otherwise known as the 1951 Holden FX Sedan, was a post-war breakthrough for Australian car fans, featuring the roomy ruggedness that Aussies demanded. For Americans, the AMC Gremlin X was a response to the fuel crisis of the 1970s, resulting in a car whose distinctive shape has become the stuff of legend. For fans who want a bit more speed, this month’s pack features the GT version of Ferrari’s classic F50, as well as the 2016 Lotus 3-Eleven – a track car in its purest form.

The Mountain Dew Car Pack is available as a standalone purchase for Forza Horizon 3 on Xbox One and on Windows 10 PCs, with Xbox Play Anywhere. As always, all the cars in the pack are compatible with both the Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels expansions.

For a closer look at each of the cars in the pack, head over to Xbox Wire!