Microsoft Audience Network

By Lexi Smith, Account Director, FAST

Background:

The 3rd Annual Bing Partner Summit took place on May 3rd during which Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Advertising, Rik van der Kooi, revealed the Microsoft Audience Network powered by the Microsoft Graph.

Details and Implications:

The Microsoft Audience Network was described as: “a new AI-powered audience marketing solution that helps businesses connect to the people that matter to them throughout the consumer journey across search, web and apps. The Microsoft Audience Network offers advanced audience targeting and brand safe native placements.”

Before you get too excited, this is mostly an update of a previous offering. Microsoft Audience Network seems to be an upgraded version of the Bing Native Ads launched in 2015 (then renamed Intent Network in 2016).

Not familiar with either? The Audience Network includes sites like MSN, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Edge, as well as other partner sites. The ad format for the Microsoft Audience Network is a Native ad (now called Microsoft Audience Ads, previously Bing Intent Ads, or Bing Native Ads).

So what’s the difference? This upgrade apparently shifts the data behind the ads from search history, previous site visits and page content to a full-scale data integration across Microsoft owned assets including, Bing, Microsoft Edge, and most importantly LinkedIn (acquired in 2016).

The data integration is happening within Microsoft’s AI ‘baby’, Microsoft Graph. The idea is that the consolidation of this data will provide more accurate customer profiles and deeper understanding of a customer journey – in turn, creating greater insight into engagement prediction, allowing for better audience segmentation and ultimately leading to a better ROI.

There is also impact beyond ROI because the more that systems that run ads consolidate cross channel data and provide customer journey insight, the more cross channel strategy and full funnel consideration become important.

Summary:

The introduction of the Microsoft Audience Network and the way in which it will use the Microsoft Graph are the first real moves by Microsoft to integrate the data that it acquired through its purchase of LinkedIn – a deal that was a hefty all cash deal for $26.2bn announced in June 2016 and which raised more than a few eyebrows. As such, this is an important moment for Microsoft.

The Microsoft Audience Network is initially being piloted in North America with brands including Kohls, Lending Tree and HomeAdvisor.

Further Reading:

The Drum  / Search Engine Journal  / Search Engine Land / Bing Ads Audience Network