Speaking at the IAB Engage 2005 conference in London, the Microsoft chairman and chief software architect told delegates that traditional media such as television, newspapers and magazines would move to being delivered via the internet within the next decade, making debates about the role of internet advertising moot.
"The future of advertising is the internet," Gates said.
He admitted that there was still a question about building big brands on the internet. "That is the thing that traditional advertising is better at," Gates said. "But as it moves to the digital realm it will be hard to talk about what is and isn't internet advertising."
He spoke of a world in which television will become far more personal.
News bulletins, for example, would deliver stories about the sports and political issues of interest to individual viewers, while items of no interest would be skipped over entirely. Advertising would also be far more targeted, through high definition internet feeds. He predicted that over 50% of advertising will become personalised.
In some aspects, namely search advertising, this brave new world is weeks rather than years away.
Gates said that the MSN Advertising Center had given advertisers new level in their ability to buy specific audiences. This is due to MSN users filling out profiles, allowing advertisers to target those interested in their products, making them more valuable to advertisers than anonymous users.
After testing the technology in pilot markets, it is set to roll out on MSN's US search function next month.
However, Gates admitted that in the future there would be issues in protecting the privacy of internet users while at the same time allowing websites to be customised.
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