Bing has often been an overlooked publisher in the search world, left in the shadows of its older rival, Google Ads, and simply not given the credit it’s due. However, marketers shouldn’t overlook the dark horse that is Bing Ads. With the introduction of the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN), enhanced AI capabilities and increased partnerships within the last 12 months, Bing is becoming an even more advanced channel that should be tapped to effectively reach the right audience at key moments.
Partnerships and AI
The long-standing partnership between Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo continues to evolve; starting in March 2019, Bing began exclusively servicing Yahoo Search traffic, which included traffic currently acquired from Oath Ad Platforms (previously known as Yahoo Gemini) and other search platforms. With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn came the ability to target LinkedIn users based on job function and title, an exceptionally important development for those in the B2B sector, and a feature that Google simply cannot match.
A few key placements and sites unique to Bing that marketers should consider adding to their advertising efforts include the trifecta of MSN, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Edge. This trifecta enables marketers to deliver high-quality native ad placements across devices regardless of audience, while benefiting from Bing’s promise never to show ads next to sensitive categories such as tragic current events to help protect brands. Bing offers two layouts for native ad formats: image-based ads and feed-based ads. Imaged-based ads are highly visual and appear across multiple types of platforms. Plus, a big bonus to marketers is the ability to import their current assets from what they’re already running on the Google Display Network (GDN) or Facebook. Feed-based ads are product-based and require the use of product audiences which retarget customers on products they’ve already viewed or even added to cart but didn’t finish the check-out process.
Chatbots offer another great way to provide on-demand answers to customers, and Microsoft and Bing stand are at the forefront. This real-time ad extension format can inspire users to purchase an item or answer specific questions to help better service their needs. In fact, Bing projects that 95 percent of customer interactions will be powered by AI bots by 2025. This is something that Bing has been testing for some time now, but Google has barely set in motion.
The MSAN Factor for Bing Ads
There’s been a lot of talk about keywords becoming a thing of the past and looking toward audiences as the means to effectively reach consumers in the future, causing a ripple effect across the industry. In fact, Google AdWords dropped ‘Words’ from its name last June (announced at Google Marketing Live 2018), as the company transitions its focus to the ads themselves. But what does Bing have going for it in this aspect that Google doesn’t? The MSAN component. MSAN is powered by AI and machine learning known as the Microsoft Graph. This intelligent tool contains search and web activity and helps isolate trends to help reach a marketer’s target audience. Bing does not allow for commercial data contained in the Graph to be used for targeting ads; any data is privately stored, owned and anonymized by Bing — a critical factor in a world where privacy is at the forefront of both consumers’ and marketers’ minds.
MSAN and Google Ads’ audience network have similarities like remarketing, in-market, custom audiences and product audiences. Additionally, advertisers can target by age, gender location and device. But the real shining star of MSAN and Bing Ads is LinkedIn profile targeting. This unique feature allows advertisers to apply LinkedIn targeting to campaign and ad group levels and target by industry (with up to 145 unique industries), by company name (over 80,000) and by job function (26). Marketers can apply these targeting settings for text ads, shopping and dynamic search ads.
Artificial Intelligence Ethics
Marketers are not the only ones watching Microsoft’s next move. In a surprising revelation, the Vatican is teaming-up with Microsoft for a prize to “promote ethics in artificial intelligence.” Pope Francis even met with Microsoft’s President Brad Smith on Feb. 13 to discuss the Catholic church’s position on AI. The person who best defends their dissertation on ethical concerns involving AI will win a trip to the Microsoft headquarters and a prize of 6,000 Euros.
With all the recent talk around privacy concerns and the role tech giants play, it’s a smart move for Microsoft to approach the apprehensions head-on. It’s particularly timely since President Trump announced an executive order earlier this month outlining a plan on how the country will get ahead of AI and how the government can work directly with AI companies. However, with the public scrutiny of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal and Google’s share of privacy concerns, Microsoft is proving its reputation with no major incidents top-of-mind. The Microsoft Graph provides another layer to help reassure their commitment to protecting consumer data.
If marketers have been on the fence about tapping into Bing Ads’ potential, there is no greater time to start acting on it than now. Bing’s increased partnerships, addition of MSAN and intelligent solutions, and commitment to ethical responsibilities shouldn’t be underestimated. The odds may not have favored Microsoft products like Bing in the past, but these innovations mean marketers’ investments now will pay high dividends in the future.