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Maintaining advertising performance as mobile attribution erodes

December 02, 2021
A person works on their phone in their living room with a colorful parrot statue in the background.

Advertisers historically have used data gleaned from mobile device activity to identify and extract the necessary intelligence for planning and executing their media. They know which channels, creative, messages, and placements deliver incremental return on investment (ROI). Increasingly, mobile platform makers are giving consumers greater control in their ability to opt out of ad tracking, which impacts some audience targeting and campaign measurement as signals weaken.1

However, giving more control to people on whether they want to be tracked is far from being the end of mobile advertising. From another perspective, this is an opportunity for publishers and advertisers to make better choices that build trust and long-term credibility for the industry.

How advertisers can adapt

Here are a few trends that advertisers should consider as they adapt to a changing landscape:

  • A greater emphasis on first-party data. Brands should consider a trusted value exchange that would enable them to gather additional, consent-based first-party consumer data and build profiles for personalizing content and ads. Marketers will need to ensure that any new experiences are frictionless. For granting the rights to use their identity, people will want something in return such as higher-value and more relevant content, more personalized advertising, or all the above.
  • Get comfortable with attribute-based data. Attributes—not just identity—are key to the future. This means not just doing logic on user profiles, but on attributes as well, and understanding how they fit into user models. This approach requires more sophistication in tooling capabilities or data sciences expertise due to the more robust statistical measurement required, but it is ultimately more durable than relying on the precision of user identity.
  • Get creative with your creativity. Before robust targeting tools, device identifiers, and behavior profiles, advertising as a practice was built on the idea of creating an emotional connection between brands and people. As identity becomes more fragmented, now is a great time to evaluate how you are standing out with creative that differentiates your brand.
  • Revisit approaches to measurement. There is a lot of investment to use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to estimate campaign performance due to signal loss. While these are helpful, it’s a good time to revisit other privacy-preserving models that do not rely on user-level data. Attention metrics have been growing in popularity in recent years as advertisers have sought better proxies for media quality. They are testing metrics like viewable cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) within the context of attention to assess the quality of ad placements. In addition, marketing mix modeling (MMM) was developed for aggregate advertising and sales data observed over time. MMM does not require any linking of lower-level tracking data.
  • Strong partnerships between publishers and advertisers. Together, marketers and publishers are partnering to identify shared users and new opportunities. By leveraging partners with large first-party datasets and privacy-safe ways to co-mingle that data (like Microsoft, LiveRamp, Adobe, and others), buyers and sellers are finding people who are permissioned across both parties that allow for rich and compliant targeting, measurement, and attribution.

How Microsoft Advertising can help

Because these changes are limited to mobile, the updates won’t materially impact desktop users. As digital acceleration continues and hybrid work grows increasingly the norm, desktop personal computers (PCs) are trusted components of everyday life where marketers can accurately understand and connect with audiences. It’s the device where many hybrid workers spend considerable time. This is where Microsoft Advertising can help.

Many people reached via Microsoft Advertising are those who use Windows PCs to complete their most important tasks in work and life. The Microsoft Search Network has a large search share on Windows devices – 47% of searches.2 Meet the Windows audience on Microsoft Advertising:

  • Purchasing power—Windows audiences on the Microsoft Advertising Network have a higher buying power index compared to the total internet population.3
  • Propensity to purchase—Windows users are more likely to make a major purchase online versus the average internet user. Further, Microsoft Bing users on Windows are more likely to make a purchase than Google users on Windows across verticals and many purchase types.4
  • Engagement with ads—Microsoft Advertising audiences are more inclined to engage with ads to try new offers. When comparing ad engagement by operating system type, Windows users have a greater inclination to engage with ads than other platforms—regardless of device type.5

Search and shopping

Online shopping via search is quickly growing, so take advantage of these new connection points. More consumers are performing detailed search queries before deciding to buy any product. This behavior makes search, where people are focused on intent-based queries, a top consideration for reaching a high-value audience.

Search is a low-funnel, attributable option that has become a core component of many advertising campaigns. With most online shoppers researching before purchase, we’ve invested in ad features that put searchers closer to making a purchasing decision even before they click.

  • Multimedia Ads are innovative text and image ads with the look and feel of social media ads.
  • Ad Extensions grab attention and position your message pre-click.

Search + Microsoft Audience Network programmatic native advertising

Search combined with native packs a one-two punch in earning results. As more shoppers conduct initial research via search engines, our data show that the combination of native and search ads can have powerful results. Combining the power of search data with Microsoft Audience Network programmatic native advertising enables advertisers to see an incremental lift in site visits and conversion rate.

Microsoft Audience Ads run on trusted, premium sites with massive reach where customers spend time. They use first-party data from our cross-channel ecosystem to reach your target audience at scale.

A changing mobile advertising landscape is an opportunity for brands

As consumers continue to make the choices that are best for them regarding mobile ad targeting, marketers will want to make decisions that help them build a sustained approach for the future. This will mean exploring new models and doubling down in proven tactics. Ensuring that customer trust is the foundation to any approach will foster long-term success as you test, innovate, and scale your media and measurement tactics.

[1] “How Technology Is Changing the Advertising Industry.” Business Insider, October 12, 2021.
[2] Comscore, PC Search Share of Windows Devices, March 2021.
[3] Comscore Custom Reporting, Aggregated browser, United States, September 2020 - December 2020.
[4] GlobalWebIndex, United States, Q2 2020 - Q1 2021.
[5] Microsoft internal data, 2021.


  • John Cosley


    John Cosley

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