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What are Creative Specs in Microsoft Advertising?

August 3, 2020
Mark Neale
written by Mark Neale
Head of Paid Media

In this article, we will look at creative specifications within the Microsoft Advertising platform, why you must follow them, and the different specs you need to follow.

What are creative specifications?

Every advertising platform, from printed newspapers to online networks, has their own specs and standards for their content.

They include technical, stylistic and editorial guidelines that all advertisers must adhere to so their adverts can be approved and published. Microsoft Ads is no exception.

Why are they so important?

The Global Microsoft Advertising Creative Acceptance Policy and other associated policies such as the Native Creative Acceptance Policy ensure that certain editorial standards are maintained and do not impact negatively on the Microsoft brand or lower the standard of user experience.

These policies govern all Microsoft properties, including:

  • Bing
  • MSN
  • Outlook.com
  • Skype
  • Xbox
  • Windows

The very nature of online advertising means that creative specifications can change rapidly. At any point, Microsoft can refuse to publish any content or make exceptions to these policies in certain circumstances.

Types of specs

MSN Display Network

In-Banner Interactive

In-Banner Interactives allow advertisers to showcase their creative and engaging assets such as games, videos and animations.

Dimensions: 300×250, 728×90, 300×600

IAB Billboard and Billboard Expand

  • Maximum 30 seconds of animation.
  • User must be allowed to hide the ad and reopen.
  • The ad unit can be expanded on the page by dragging or clicking certain areas.

Dimensions: 970×250 (billboard)

Expanding Rich Media

This ad is a standard unit that expands to a larger size to show interactive or video content.

Dimensions: 300×250, 300×600,728×90

MSN Custom Header

Advertisers can use the MSN responsive design to create a display across all three-page sizes.

Dimensions: 1272×328, 970×250, 628×162

MSN Responsive Header + Skin

A luxury ad experience. Choose a single creative across all page widths or customize for each one.

  • The banner and skin automatically match the width of the page.
  • The banner does not have a close button.
  • Ad is animation only, no video.

Dimensions: 1600×754, 1264×754, 1152×754, 942×754, 836×754

MSN Responsive Skin

Choose a single ad across all three-page widths or customize for each.

  • Banner element is 120px high and snapped to match the size and width of the page.
  • The banner does not have a close button.

Dimensions: 1600×754, 1264×754, 1152×754, 942×754, 836×754

Flip

  • Standard 300×600 with 15 seconds of animation.
  • On click, the panel will unfold up six panels of the same size.
  • The advertiser can use separate content in the expanded area until the panel is closed by the user.

Dimensions: (Initial) 300 x 600 (Full) 1800 x 3600

IAB Filmstrip

  • Allows for a storytelling sequence through a series of panels.
  • The first panel can then be clicked on to move between the panels with a clear call to action to push the user onwards.
  • Subsequent return visits to the site will move the film strip to the next panel in the sequence.

Dimensions: 300×600 (up to five panels)

For mobile and app ads

Mobile and Windows In-App Rich Media

Ads can be both expandable of static banner formats. Microsoft complies with the IAB and Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) guidelines on Mobile Display Advertising.

MSN Mobile Browse Rich Media

On click, panels will expand to 320×416 of full size of the screen.

Standard

No Rich Media allowed. Standard animation only of text/image.

Dimensions: 300×50, 250×510, 250×250, 480×80

Video ads

Bannerstream, Linear Video, Linear VPaid, Outstream Video

There is numerous option for video advertising within the Microsoft Ads network. All videos must be delivered via the IAB Video Ad Serving Template (VAST)

On Outlook.com

In-banner Interactive

Ad units can feature a range of media from animation to video. Outlook will automatically size the add for the best placement. All sizes are determined based on the dimension of the browser being used.

Dimensions: 300×250 728×90 300×600 160×600 320×50

Microsoft Audience Network

This option allows you to embed your ads within publisher sites relevant to your products/services. Ad formats are relatively simple with URL, copy and image being loaded into Microsoft Ads.

Dimensions: 1200×628 (703×368 minimum)

Policies

Ad style policies

As you’d expect, the ad style policies for Microsoft are comprehensive. Once you’ve read through hand got the hang of them, you’ll see why. They are designed to stop poor writing, clickbait-style headlines and a general decline in ad quality. They promote clear, succinct and factual messaging.

  • Accuracy
  • Keyword relevancy
  • General spelling, grammar and punctuation
  • Unsubstantiated claims
  • Repeated words/phrases
  • Inappropriate or offensive language
  • No unnecessary symbols or punctuation such as multiple exclamation marks of disguising words such as $ale.
  • All ad landing pages must comply with Microsoft Advertising Policies too.

Ad content policies

Content policies are there to make the overall user experience a good one and prevent pages from becoming swamped with low quality, repetitive ads.

  • Do not submit repetitive or multiple similar ads. They will be rejected.
  • If you are running multiple ads, they must be distinct from each other with a unique look.
  • You must use the language of the target market (e.g. English, Spanish), and the landing pages should also be in the same language.
  • Words that are not in the native language can still be allowed if they are used in the target area too (e.g. cafe)

URLs and landing page policies

Microsoft’s ad policies also extend to the landing pages of the ads they display.

  • Final URLs must be a working website. An ad cannot lead to file, email address or a page showing an error status.
  • Ad within the same group must have the same top-level domain.
  • The display and landing page URLs must match.
  • URLs cannot contain diacritics, accents or other non-Latin or ASCII characters.
  • Landing pages must be online and working
  • Users must be directed to a single landing page that is the same each time
  • All landing pages must belong to your or have the permission of the owner to link to them
  • The landing page must allow users to return to the previous page by using the back button
  • The landing page must not use intrusive pop-ups, additional windows of other features that prevent a user from leaving the site.

Conclusion

Advertising through the Microsoft Ads platform presents vast opportunities for brands. From well placed, standard image ads to full screen, sequenced, Rich Media, you are sure to find the right option for your brand and your budget.

Ad specifications are comprehensive, and the quality control aspects can make it challenging to be approved if you’re new to the platform. However, they are there to keep the user experience at a high level and build trust in the platform and its advertisers.

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Author
Mark Neale

Mark Neale
Mark has over 10 years experience in paid marketing working agency side, utilising his experience of paid search and conversion rate optimisation to deliver high performance campaigns. Mark's an avid drummer and regularly gigs in his band Urban Riff.
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