Microsoft underlines presence in the media game with launch of Microsoft Audience Network

Microsoft underlines its presence in the media game with launch of Microsoft Audience Network / Microsoft

As much of the industry bemoans the dominance of ‘the duopoly’ when it comes to online media spend, Microsoft is underlining its own prowess in the space to marking the launch of its Microsoft Audience Network, a new AI-powered offering that will help brands reach audiences on its Bing search engine.

Launched to mark its third annual partner summit, Microsoft Audience Network offers advanced audience targeting that blends various data points, such as Microsoft demographic data Bing search insights plus LinkedIn professional profile information.

Advertisers can then use these insights to target chosen audience on the Bing Ads Platform, plus placements on Microsoft's various other web properties such as MSN, Outlook.com, its Edge browser plus certain other partner sites.

Rik van der Kooi, corporate vice president of Microsoft Advertising, announced the launch in a blog post earlier today (May 3), adding that AI is transforming how marketers and brands engage with audiences.

“It is no longer about optimizing your media spend by channel but understanding your customers and their interests and preferences,” it reads.

In the same post, he also acknowledges the growing public sensitivity over privacy and was quick to attempt to assuage any such concerns over online data harvesting.

“As the use of data increases in our day to day lives, we continue to be deeply committed to privacy and to earning the trust of our customers.

“We anonymize and secure all data in our advertising systems, prioritize brand safety, and do not allow targeting based on any sensitive categories.”

Partners adopting the Microsoft Audience Network ads in beta include Kohls, Lending Tree and HomeAdvisor, with Microsoft reporting that results are in line with expectations.

Speaking earlier with The Drum, Rob Wilk, Microsoft Advertising, Microsoft, vice president, search sales, North America, quoted statistics asserting that Microsoft has 34% share of the PC search market in the US, and that Bing processed 20 billion searches per month, and said the company had high ambitions for the current launch.

“We have a really good understanding of what consumers are looking for and you can infuse that with a lot of our browsing data and all of our AI and machine learning to create this product that will look basically use all this intelligence to serve ads on Microsoft properties," he said.

Wilk went on further to detail his observation of how advertisers are starting to develop their keyword strategies beyond simple optimization to focusing on “keyword-plus”.

He went on further to detail his observation of how advertisers are starting to develop their keyword strategies beyond simple optimization to focusing on “keyword-plus”.

He explained further: “Who's the audience that searches for this? Are they in market? So when I searched for a watch, so I do a lot of other watch searches in my browser and watch related websites, so when the consumer does that search, we can layer on that audience intelligence that's all driven by our machine learning and ability to scrape and understand large data sets.”

While this has been its standard practice within Bing for some time, the launch of Microsoft Audience Network will extend this offering to other Microsoft properties. "Think of this as search-powered native ads," he added.

Microsoft Audience Network will be available within the current Bing search ads interface and will have the same pricing model as search, adding that the product was built in conjunction with its advertisers.

"And if the consumer engages with the ad, they bid for it like they would in programmatic and they pay for those clicks, and if they don't engage, they don't pay," he said. "So it's the same model and search, taking it outside into, AI-driven native ads."

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