Is the Microsoft Multimedia Ads Format for You?

Is the Microsoft Multimedia Ads Format for You?

Advertising Bing Microsoft

Microsoft Advertising recently launched a beta version of a new ad format, Multimedia Ads, that seeks to make ads in search results more visually appealing. This could be a useful format for lifestyle brands (especially smaller ones) that rely on the power of images to make their products. It’s also important that Microsoft Advertising clients pay close attention to how Microsoft is rolling out the feature.

What Is the Multimedia Ads Format?

The Multimedia Ads format consists of image-rich ads that appear on search results pages. With this ad format, Microsoft uses machine learning to suggest to advertisers the optimal combination of their own images, body, copy, and headlines for searches occurring on Bing. If you lack visual assets, Microsoft will auto-create them. (This is an approach similar to Google’s.) As reported in Search Engine Land,

The recommendations will use AI to speed up the launch of Multimedia Ads for your brand. If you’re not interested, you’ll have seven days to apply or dismiss recommendations. If you don’t choose either, they’ll be automatically applied. “You can also opt out of the auto-apply functionality at the account level,” according to the announcement blog.

Here’s how Microsoft explains auto-apply on its campaigns dashboard:

Multimedia Ads scree

Considerations to Keep in Mind about Multimedia Ads

Now, this ad format could be appealing to a business that lacks the time and resources to create a campaign – say, a small mom-and-pop business. And the visual format could be really appealing for brands in industries such as travel and hospitality, where images are even more important. Multimedia Ads gives such a business the means to vary their ads so long as the business does not mind giving up control to Microsoft’s AI engine to do all the heavy lifting. But as Search Engine Land notes, “The auto-recommendations mean advertisers will have to be on the lookout to make sure any tests or ads they’re launching don’t end up going in a direction they don’t want.”

In other words, the feature could create more work for a business.

Here are some caveats we have noticed as well:

It’s important that Microsoft clients check their campaigns dashboards. We have discovered instances where Microsoft activated the ad format automatically for a given campaign. It’s up to the Microsoft Advertising client to proactively uncheck the “auto-apply recommendations” features boxes (see the bottom of the image below – and note that we unchecked auto-apply recommendations):

Multimedia Ads campaign screen

In fairness, we should note that Google has also used the approach of automatically applying features to its advertising products, thus putting the burden on the client to disable a feature.

You might not like the images that Microsoft suggests. Microsoft might suggest generic and uncompelling stock images with its AI. We much prefer manually uploading our own images, where we have more control over their quality.

You might not like the ad copy that Microsoft suggests. Microsoft’s AI engine draws from past copy of yours to create new copy. But what worked for a previous ad might not apply to the one you want to run. If you carefully manage the tone of your ad copy, then the AI-generated recommendations might not be for you.

The format could make it more difficult for you to do A/B testing, as well.

Bottom line:

  • Multimedia Ads is a step in the right direction because Microsoft Advertising is dialing up the power of images during the visual age.
  • Microsoft still has work to do with the quality of the images its AI engine suggests.
  • Microsoft Advertising clients should review their campaign dashboards and uncheck the “auto-apply recommendations” options if you are not ready to use the ad format.
  • Whether you use the ad format’s AI features depends on how much control you want to hand over to Microsoft Advertising.
  • Consider using the feature but without the AI-generated recommendations.

Contact True Interactive

To make online advertising, including Microsoft Advertising, succeed for you, contact True Interactive. We help clients across multiple industries succeed online.

Photo by Afif Kusuma on Unsplash

Why the Launch of Microsoft Advertising Is Good for Brands

Why the Launch of Microsoft Advertising Is Good for Brands

Bing

For many businesses, the discussion about online advertising platforms begins and ends with Amazon Advertising, Facebook, and Google. But recently Microsoft stated the case for why it belongs in the same conversation. On April 29, Microsoft announced that its Bing Ads product has been rebranded as Microsoft Advertising. The announcement was more than a name change. Rather, Microsoft reminded advertisers that there’s a lot more to Bing than paid search.

Bing: More Than Search

Bing is already a platform for businesses to launch digital advertising in a number of ways. For example, as we blogged last year, Bing has been rolling out a feature that makes it possible for businesses to target Bing advertisements by relying on LinkedIn data. The feature, known as LinkedIn profile targeting, is an example of how Microsoft is monetizing LinkedIn a few years after Microsoft purchased the popular business-to-business platform. In addition, Bing is piloting a number of products, such as these audience marketing products:

  • In-Market Audiences: targets curated user lists determined to be in market for a particular purchase category.
  • Product Audiences for Search: businesses get remarketing lists for products that allow them to target searchers based on product IDs they interacted with – and promote those same product IDs to them.
  • Microsoft Audience Ads: Audience Campaigns: you can manage your audience budget, campaigns, and optimization separately from your Bing Ads search campaigns.
  • Similar Audiences: targets audiences that are similar to your remarketing audiences.

Bing Advantages

Many advertisers aren’t aware of these and many other Microsoft ad products. But they should. As I blogged last year, Bing offers many advantages. For instance:

  • At True Interactive, we have seen larger average order values on Bing compared to Google. In other words, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. That’s because the average Bing searcher probably has a higher income level than the average Google user.
  • Bing innovates in more ways than the brand gets credit for, such as its use of visual content. The recently launched Bing visual search extends a strong visual search capability across both Android and iOS devices, whereas visual search on Google remains limited to the Android world.
  • Bing is building a stronger network of partners. As noted earlier this year, Bing is the exclusive provider of search advertising across Verizon Media properties such as Yahoo.

Microsoft used the news about Microsoft Advertising to draw attention to the launch of more advertising products. For instance, the new Sponsored Products (available exclusively in the United States) helps manufacturers to boost visibility and drive more traffic for their top products in shopping campaigns. As Microsoft noted,

With this new capability, our clients can achieve better alignment of marketing efforts between manufacturers and retailers. Together, the connections they create with shoppers work harder to drive performance — clicks, conversions, and ROI. Manufacturers gain access to new reporting and optimization capabilities, and retailers get additional product marketing support with a fair cost split.

Microsoft wants the rebrand to do for Microsoft what the launch of Amazon Advertising achieved for Amazon and the rebrand of Google AdWords to Google Ads did for Google: raise awareness for a broader portfolio of products.

Why the Rebrand Is Good

I believe that the expansion of ad products under the Microsoft brand is good for advertisers for these reasons:

  • Businesses have more options beyond the Big Three of Amazon, Facebook, and Google.
  • Stronger competition will lead to innovation with product development.
  • As I noted, Microsoft delivers a valuable audience, more so than many businesses know.

At True Interactive, we work with businesses to develop successful campaigns across all these platforms and more. Contact us to learn how we can help you succeed.

Advertiser Q&A: Bing LinkedIn Profile Targeting

Advertiser Q&A: Bing LinkedIn Profile Targeting

Bing

Bing has been rolling out in beta mode a feature that makes it possible for businesses to target Bing advertisements by relying on LinkedIn data. The feature, known as LinkedIn profile targeting, is an example of how Microsoft is monetizing LinkedIn a few years after Microsoft purchased the popular business-to-business platform. In the following Q&A, we answer questions that our clients are asking about LinkedIn profile targeting. 

1 How does LinkedIn profile targeting work?

With this new feature, businesses running search campaigns in Bing can target people based on information they’ve shared on their LinkedIn profiles – specifically their industries, companies, and job functions.

So, let’s say I want to run an online search campaign targeting marketers in the financial service sector. I can target ads toward people who have identified themselves on LinkedIn with that specific job function in that particular vertical.

2 What’s the advantage to using Linked profile targeting?

According to Bing, LinkedIn profile targeting offers three advantages:

  • Relevance: LinkedIn can help you target the right audience. More-targeted audiences allow you to bid boost more precisely.
  • Ease of use: you can set up LinkedIn profile targeting in minutes.
  • Unique to Bing ads: Bing Ads is the only digital advertising platform (outside of LinkedIn) to offer LinkedIn profile targeting.

3 Who is a good match for LinkedIn profile targeting?

LinkedIn profile targeting is ideal for any business-to-business company. Bing can target:

  • 145 industries including consumer goods, hospitality, and financial services.
  • 80,000 companies such as Adobe, Disney, and Starbucks.
  • Job functions such as marketing, finance, and operations.

Also, this tool could be a more efficient way for smaller B2B companies who want to capitalize on LinkedIn but might find LinkedIn advertising products to be a too costly. LinkedIn profile targeting makes it possible for those businesses to capitalize on LinkedIn’s audience in a more cost-effective way.

4 What are the limitations of LinkedIn targeting?

  • The feature might not be as useful for consumer-facing firms.
  • The feature is based on job function (e.g., marketing), not title (e.g., CMO). So you can’t target people with specific titles.
  • LinkedIn profile targeting is based on information that LinkedIn users share about themselves. It’s only as accurate as the data people report.

5 I don’t use Bing. Why should I consider Bing in the first place?

Advertisers should consider Bing for a number of reasons. For example, the typical consumer on Bing spends more per purchase. My colleague Tim Colucci shared more reasons in an October blog post, “Why Advertisers Need Bing.” Check it out for more insight.

Plus, I believe there is much more value to LinkedIn profile targeting that I hope Bing will make available to advertisers soon. I would like to see Bing expand this new feature to include enhanced demographic/behavioral filtering. For instance, it would be useful if we could target certain interests and specific abilities/knowledge (either based on self-reported data or on post engagement) and maybe even years of experience. This capability would have a number of benefits. For instance, in the higher education space, universities could offer an operations management MBA program to target candidates with more than two years of experience who have field-related abilities like strong communication skills, and who share an interest in inventory forecasting, logistics, and quality control.

6 What should I do next if I am interested?

It’s a closed pilot. Not everyone can just do it. Reach out to your Bing representative or agency partner, such as True Interactive. Contact us. We’d love to help!