Microsoft lands Deadliest Catch, beats YouTube and Yahoo to 7 figure deal

In its first ad campaign to simultaneously combine Internet, mobile, and video game ads, Microsoft beat out Google’s YouTube and Yahoo! for an ad deal with Discovery Communications, Inc. to promote the upcoming 5th season of “The Deadliest Catch”, according to a report on Bloomberg.com.

To promote Discovery Channel’s fifth season of the crab fishing documentary “Deadliest Catch,” Microsoft came up with a package of ideas it has never tried before. Ads will take over the MSN.com and MSN mobile homepages and 90 percent of ad space on MSNBC and Fox Sports sites. Microsoft will run sweepstakes in video-games like ‘Shaun White Snowboarding’ and send text- message reminders to phones to watch or record the show.

“Microsoft just came in like rock stars on this,” Donna Murphy, the Discovery Channel’s vice president of marketing strategy, said in an interview. “They were the first ones to really blow it out in every direction.”

To promote the premiere of “Deadliest Catch” tomorrow night, Discovery will take over MSN.com, MSNBC and Fox Sports, the first time those sites have devoted so much space to a single advertiser. A mobile-phone contest will give away points that can be used to purchase video-games and movies from Microsoft’s Xbox online service.

deadliestcatch_thumb_62ddc368 News The Bloomberg report calls the deal a victory for Microsoft in a slow display ad market, one that is expected to grow only 1.5%, compared with 37% growth in 2007.

The report goes on to describe changes to Microsoft’s ad business that helped to land the campaign, and to point out problems with Microsoft’s programs to track ad viewers:

Microsoft may be having a hard time partially because competitors offer software with more advanced features for tracking ad viewers closely and measuring the effectiveness of ads, Microsoft and clients say. It’s been too hard to mount a campaign across different Microsoft sites, phones and video- games. Clients who do manage it can receive four different bills,  (Microsoft Corporate Vice President Scott) Howe said.

Microsoft has been reportedly talking again to Yahoo! about an ad deal, and according to Kara Swisher at All Things D, that deal might include a swap that would see the display advertising business go to Yahoo!, with Microsoft acquiring Search:

Thus, sources said, the talks include many scenarios, such as one in which the companies swap online advertising assets and deliver services to each other.

In that interesting plan, Yahoo might take over all of Microsoft’s display and premium advertising business to sell along with its own, while Microsoft would run the search advertising business for the pair.

Such a deal, which plays to each company’s strengths, would bind the two closely together, even though they still compete on many other fronts in the Internet space.

What will this latest deal means to Microsoft’s willingness to part with the display ad business?  We can only stay tuned for the next exciting episode…