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Guide to growth: First-party data & the Microsoft Audience Network

Our Microsoft Audience Network helps reach consumers in the upper funnel and move them quickly to conversion, causing meaningful lift in search results.

Navigating through uncertainty, often with fewer resources, is the new normal. The brands who will be successful are the ones who can be agile to respond to external changes, and be efficient to move fast between upper, mid, and lower funnels.

With third-party cookies crumbling and browsers and devices restricting third-party tracking, how do you continue to grow your audiences in a cookie-less world and move them down the funnel? While this is great for user privacy, it will disrupt the way brands target, track, personalise, optimise, and even model attribution.

The trends and opportunities

Here are some expected changes (what we view as opportunities) for our industry in the next phase:

  • A greater emphasis on first-party data
  • Importance of logged-in activity
  • A new reliance on context and behaviour
  • New ways to track the consumer decision journey
  • A closer working relationship between publishers and brands


The richness and power of first-party data has never been more important/emphasised. Specifically, high-quality data that’s permissioned and coming from not only logged-in activity, but also the publishers’ relationships with consumers. Brands may have fewer but more strategic partnerships with publishers who can provide this opportunity.

Microsoft Advertising is well-positioned to help you in the journey ahead. The Microsoft Audience Network allows you to grow your audiences with first-party intent data; applying machine learning to combine search and web activity with LinkedIn and demographic profiles to increase your marketing performance — all while following strict privacy standards.

Consumers are now expecting more personalised experiences and, with the Microsoft Audience Network, you can meaningfully engage with your customers via Microsoft data and its intent signals, therefore bringing them further along the funnel and providing a value exchange by understanding audience insights and intent.

What can you do right now?

Start testing Microsoft first-party data. Using permissioned audience data at scale, a great opportunity to start testing first-party data is through the Microsoft Audience Network, where you benefit from:

  1. Premium native placements: strict publisher standards and artificial intelligence (AI)-powered curation.
  2. Brand-safe experiences: transparency and controls for advertisers.
  3. Highly contextual ad placements based on Microsoft first-party intent data.
  4. Strong industry ad performance driven by leading AI technology.
 

Microsoft Audience Ads, which are now also available in Australia, New Zealand, France, and Germany (in addition to the U.S., U.K., and Canada), are high-quality native ads served on the Microsoft Audience Network, which includes premium sites such as MSN, Outlook.com, and Microsoft Edge.

Fresh tools. In the U.S., we have a collection of new tools to maximise reach and performance in the Microsoft Audience Network. Apart from our audience library including In-market Audiences and LinkedIn Profile Targeting, the Audience Network Planner helps you research the right audience, targeting, budgets, and bids to maximise your results. Dynamic remarketing lists also pair customers with specific products based on what they looked at, considered, or already bought on your website. Especially useful during this holiday retail season, the Microsoft Merchant Center store catalog enables retailers to deliver product ads on the Microsoft Audience Network.

Just starting with the Microsoft Audience Network? You can easily import Google Display Campaigns and Google Response Display Ads. We also make it easy for you to set up ads for audience campaigns, and we’ve partnered with Shutterstock to give you free access to over 320 million high-quality, advertising-ready images for use in Microsoft Advertising!

Downstream performance impact of exposure to Microsoft Audience Network

Measuring the performance an audience campaign/native advertising campaign in a complex digital ecosystem can be a challenge. At Microsoft, we want to empower our advertisers to understand the full impact of ad exposure, beyond the traditional last-click evaluation model.

Recently, we’ve done studies measuring the downstream value of ad exposure on the Microsoft Audience Network. This can help advertisers understand the impact of a user just seeing the ad, even if they did not click on it. We’ve seen positive impact across each stage of the funnel —awareness, consideration, AND purchase.

In addition to the value of exposure to Microsoft Audience Ads, the team also analysed the performance of users who were exposed to both a native ad on the Microsoft Audience Network and a search ad on Microsoft Bing. The same consideration and purchase metrics were compared to those who were only exposed to an advertiser’s search ad. Users exposed to both types of ads by the same advertiser had a 200% higher domain visit rate and a 264% higher conversion URL visit rate. For more information on the downstream performance impact to Microsoft Audience Network, read our blog: Making sense of the multi-channel retail consumer journey.

Activate across both the search and audience networks to maximize performance for a 200% higher domain visit rate and a 264% higher conversion URL visit rate.

Brand safety is not overrated. We’ve got you!

Brand and consumer trust are hard-earned and more advertisers are concerned about brand safety. When it comes to native advertising, where ad placements and formats naturally blend into the core user experience, the impact of ads appearing next to inappropriate content can be magnified. At Microsoft Advertising, we know brand safety matters when it comes to creating genuine connections with customers and building lasting relationships. Building upon our brand safety foundations, we are now integrated with Integral Ad Science (IAS) — the global leader in digital ad verification — to offer an additional layer of brand safety protection on the Microsoft Audience Network. Through this pre-bid integration, only validated inventory from IAS will be served on our network. This partnership is currently in the U.S., U.K., and Canada; other markets will follow.

There are great opportunities to grow audiences, deliver fair value exchanges with consumers, maintain trust, and be more effective in the post-cookie era. It takes the right partnership, testing first-party data, leveraging the right tools, and applying brand safety measures to keep consumer trust of utmost importance.

Microsoft Audience Network success quantified: customer success stories

Learn how our clients and partners achieved success with the Microsoft Audience Network in the following case studies:

  • Honda achieved a click-through rate three times higher than a comparable display campaign on the Google Display Network.
  • L.L.Bean decreased its cost per acquisition (CPA) by 41% using feed-based campaigns and Dynamic Remarketing on the Microsoft Audience Network.
  • Merkle and a leading fashion retailer achieved a 182% higher return on ad spend (ROAS) than standard search by combining Microsoft Audience Ads and Dynamic Remarketing.
  • Greenlight Digital garnered 150,000 impressions in just one week for its awareness campaign.
 

To get started, contact your Microsoft Advertising representative or visit these resources: Extend your search campaign through search campaign extension or creating an audience campaign. See you on the network!

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