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

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

How Verizon Media Is Evolving

Advertising

Verizon Media (formerly known as Oath) is enduring a transition. But advertisers, especially business-to-business brands, should keep the company on their radar screens and be ready to act on some of the changes occurring at the subsidiary of Verizon Communications.

Verizon Media Shares Mixed News

In recent months, Verizon Media has been the source of difficult news, including layoffs and declining revenues. One piece of news we’ve been following and reacting to throughout 2019: the closing of the Oath Ad Platforms ad server in 2020. As Verizon Media told Adweek,

Following a strategic review of our business, we have decided to close the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, effective 2020. We are working with our customers to ensure they are supported as they migrate from the Ad Server platform. This does not affect our Oath Ad Platforms SSP business.

I see the shutting down of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server as good news for Oath customers. Advertising on the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server means using the Yahoo! platform, which lacks strong functionality and uses dated features. With the shutdown of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server, your business will transition to Bing. This change is especially advantageous now that Microsoft organized its advertising products under Microsoft Advertising. The rebrand entails the launch of new features such as Sponsored Products and an enhancement of recently launched features such as Microsoft Audience Network, which is powered by artificial intelligence. Advertisers will be in a stronger position thanks to the stronger role Microsoft now plays.

A New Phase for Verizon Media

Meanwhile, Verizon Media is entering a new phase that includes the embrace of augmented reality and virtual reality, according to CEO Guru Gowrappan. In a recently published interview with Fortune, he said,

The biggest thing we’re investing in is 5G [the faster successor to 4G LTE mobile networks]. Every product is going to have an aspect of 5G. You’re going to have deeper integration of augmented reality and virtual reality.

We not just have front row seat and access to what is happening but we’re also building all of our apps, products, and content in that experience. So if you go to our Los Angeles office, we have the first 5G animation studio [Ryot Studios]. It’s brought down the cost of producing animation, and Ryot does a lot of AR content.

He also plans to integrate e-commerce with advertising more effectively, following the example set by Instagram. As he pointed out,

Let’s say you’re watching the Dallas Mavs and want to buy a jersey while you’re watching. We want to integrate commerce more deeply.

Also, the ad model itself has become combined with transactions. That’s what Instagram does. It’s advertising and sponsorships, but in the end, it’s enticing you to come in and transact on the platform.

These are bold statements for a company emerging from hard times, but the company understands that its previous game plan has been flawed.

What You Should Do

My advice to brands advertising on digital:

  • Take stock of Verizon Media’s considerable publishing assets, such as Engadget, Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and Yahoo! According to Verizon Media, its publishing platforms deliver an audience of more than 1 billion people.
  • Watch how Verizon Media evolves its ad products under Guru Gowrappan. He has made it clear that it’s no longer business as usual at Verizon Media. The possibility of ad products using AR and VR is exciting, but the more important near-term development is the integration of e-commerce with its ad products for businesses seeking a tighter integration between online ads and sales.
  • Make sure you understand the impact of the demise of the Oath Ad Platforms Ad Server. Talk with your agency partner if you’re working with one. Ensure that you understand the role of Microsoft (which I see as a positive one).

As always, contact True Interactive if you need help navigating the digital landscape. We have deep experience with online advertising. We’re here to help.

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.