Microsoft have recently been putting videos online to bring attention to the internet marketing research done by their Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions (MDAS) team. There’s three installments of these videos. One shows a man trying to advertise a toaster in a fine art gallery and another shows someone encouraging partying at a funeral. The message? That “context matters”. In other words – advertise to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Well… no shit Sherlock!

Surely anyone with a most basic grasp of advertising or marketing should know this. However, one of the videos shows a group of kids dancing at a studio when the “advertisers” very literally waltz in.

Video: Microsoft – context matters

What’s clever about this is that the kids just move to another part of the room and carry on. I’ve no idea if Microsoft intended to convey this message, but the fact is that if users get overwhelmed with bad advertising on their chosen site they will just go somewhere else. It’s something that social networks (whose value is driven purely by the number of users they have) need to be very careful about in the drive to monetise their services.

Regardless of the videos, it’s definitely worth looking at the research booklet (PDF doc). They took 24 hour diaries with several thousand people across 6 countries to find out their online habits. And some of the findings are fascinating…

There’s been a 30 percent increase in social networking users in less than a year (something Facebook surely is largely responsible for). It shows how broadband users are online 20-40 times a day for a few minutes at a time, instead of the concentrated burst that they were as dialup customers. And this neatly echoes something I said just a few days ago when I was talking about why the dotcom bubble is back and stronger than before. As the document says: “broadband changes everything… What really happened is that broadband allowed the internet to be fully integrated into daily life”.

There’s some great info on what time of day people are more likely to read blogs, pay bills or check their emails etc. And I was reassured to find out the majority of people multi-task whilst using the net. I’m forever doing other stuff (whether it’s listening to an online radio show or watching TV) whilst emailing, blogging or browsing.

I’m only halfway through the document so far (I haven’t even got to the case study of the Norwegian male’s typical day online!) but it’s already proved itself as an absolutely invaluable tool for anyone involved in media planning, advertising etc etc.