Microsoft. Corp. (MSFT) announced it is getting into the ad-targeting business by offering marketers the option to put their brands and messages in front of their most likely customers.

Advertisers on the company's MSN Search (search) will be offered search-targeting options, such as tying ads to time, geography and gender. MSN will operate an auction to determine ad placement.

Currently, Microsoft relies on outside companies for delivering advertising on its MSN Search service. The goal is to eliminate that reliance and then place ads on its own and on other Web sites, like the competitors.

Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the MSN information services and merchant platform division, opened the second annual Advertising Week 2005 in New York by announcing the official launch of AdCenter in France and Singapore. U.S. testing is set to begin in October.

Trade publication AdWeek reported that the rollout would be by invitation only to 500 large search advertisers.