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Honda expands its digital footprint with the Microsoft Audience Network

  Article , Automotive , Success stories

Achieves great results above expectations

Honda test drives the Microsoft Audience Network

Honda logo

Japanese automotive manufacturer Honda is one of the world’s largest car producers. Working in collaboration with agency Dentsu Aegis Network, Honda was looking for new ways to expand its digital footprint to reach new customers. When the Microsoft Audience Network was proposed, they jumped on the chance to increase their brand reach.

When we saw we could expand our display campaigns across the Microsoft properties without the need to learn a completely new platform, it just made sense.

— Oliver Kersey, Paid Search Manager, Dentsu Aegis Network

Increasing brand awareness in new digital spaces

Image of four Honda Civic cars driving over a bridge.

Honda Civic lineup

Honda’s digital strategy combines display advertising, social channels, paid and organic search to support its dealers across four main objectives. The conversion drivers they look to achieve are brochure downloads, car configurators, booking test drives and finding a dealer.

While social and display channels are primarily used for brand awareness, search is the primary channel to drive consideration and conversions. The halo effect of brand building in the display and social channels aids Honda’s search activity further down the customer journey. The company already has a successful strategy combining the power of display and search with Google, so when the opportunity came to replicate this strategy with Microsoft Advertising using the Microsoft Audience Network there was obvious upside to testing the product.

“We were looking to increase volume and the potential pool we could covert from,” commented Jeff Bilson, Paid Search Manager at Dentsu Aegis Network. “When we saw we could expand our display campaigns across the Microsoft properties without the need to learn a completely new platform, it just made sense,” said Oliver Kersey, Paid Search Manager at Dentsu Aegis Network.

The Dentsu Aegis Network team proposed a test of the Microsoft Audience Network with the Honda Civic account. This represented the perfect middle ground for testing, being big enough in terms of volume and spend to get quick results that would have meaningful impact, without jeopardizing the primary revenue driver of the main car account. With the creative and ads uploaded to the Honda Civic account, testing began in earnest.

Great results above expectations

Over a four-month period between September and December 2019, the Microsoft Audience Network drove 11% incremental clicks for Honda and contributed to a massive 64% of their total impressions with Microsoft Advertising. The campaign achieved a click-through-rate (CTR) of 0.07% which while significantly lower than Honda’s standard search activity was 3 times higher than a comparable display campaign on the Google Display Network (GDN).

“It performed better than I’d expect,” commented Bilson, “we have our benchmark with Google and we know what to expect from the Google Display Network, so to see these numbers be so high was quite pleasant to see.”

Not only was the campaign a success in terms of increased visibility for the Honda brand, it also drove incremental leads and conversions. The benefit of the Microsoft Audience Network highly targeted matching algorithm meant that a brand awareness campaign was also delivering solid conversions. “I would never expect a display campaign to drive that many leads in the first place,” commented Bilson.

An important feature of this campaign was the collaboration and communication between Microsoft Advertising, Honda and Dentsu Aegis Network. Honda was looking for increased reach, which they got with a huge increase in ad impressions. However, that meant that overall click-through rate (CTR) for the campaign came down. Managing expectations between all three parties was essential to understanding the real benefits of the campaign.

“CTR can be quite subjective as a metric, and sometimes as search practitioners we fixate on it too much,” said Jeff. “But if you are paying attention to what is happening in correlation with your CTR, and your impressions are going up and your overall clicks are going up, then it’s a strong set of results for us.”

And because the Microsoft Audience Network charges on a pay-per-click model rather than cost-per impression, Honda was only paying for the additional clicks they received, while getting all the additional branding benefit of incremental impressions on the network for free.

Renewed interest in Microsoft Advertising

Following on from the successful test, Honda has taken the next steps to implement the Microsoft Audience Network across all campaigns. It’s also inspired the team to work closer with Microsoft Advertising and do more tests for new products. As Louise McMahon, Marketing Manager at Honda said: “We’ve been really impressed with the results and now we find ourselves asking the question – what other untapped potential is there in the Microsoft Advertising platform? We have a renewed interest in Microsoft Advertising and will be allocating more time to testing the unique products the platform has to offer.”

We’ve been really impressed with the results and now we find ourselves asking, what other untapped potential is there in the Microsoft Advertising platform.

— Louise McMahon, Marketing Manager, Honda

See a summary

Learn how Honda found new ways to expand its digital footprint to reach new customers with the Microsoft Audience Network.

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