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Choosing inclusive imagery just got easier: Try people filters

May 13, 2021

Microsoft advertisers are seeing a lift in performance with the help of stunning imagery that drives trust, brand support, and conversion. For the last ten months, marketers and small businesses have tested the Microsoft Advertising partnership with Shutterstock, which gives free and easy access to over 360 million high-quality, advertising-ready images.

Now we’re rolling out Shutterstock’s vast collection of images to all our advertisers, so you and your team can create campaigns with a wide variety of photos and illustrations without leaving the Microsoft Advertising platform. You can access this library across our search and audience network to find the perfect photos for Image Extensions and Microsoft Audience Ads. Plus, we’re launching a new feature called people filters to help you find highly relevant, inclusive imagery in seconds. You can filter the Shutterstock library of photos by number of people, gender, ethnicity, age and more — so you can easily find imagery that promotes authentic representation and inclusion.

Let’s say you’re an automotive advertiser who learns after watching the Inclusive Automotive Marketing Webcast: the vehicle shopping journey of women that women value different car features when deciding to purchase a car. This would be a great opportunity for you to choose images for your ad by gender so that you can craft the marketing message to highlight the specific automotive features women value. In this way, the ad is optimized for creating a more trusted customer experience where the audience feels that your brand is “for someone like me.”1 Another example could be that you’re a business located in an area or country where you’re using geo-targeting and a majority of your customers are of a specific ethnicity. It would be better to represent your potential customer in the images you choose because according to our research:

  1. Brands representing diversity in ads are more authentic and more trustworthy.2
  2. 72% of people state that they are more likely to support brands with authentic advertising.2
  3. 67% ethnic minorities, 61% women, and 59% men say they are more trusting when they see themselves represented in ads.2

And resonance matters. Microsoft Advertising research shows that consumers trust brands who create genuine, authentic connections through their imagery — and increased trust leads to greater loyalty with your brand. When we compared ads that consumers deemed ‘non-inclusive’ and ones they said were ‘inclusive,’ the inclusive ads had a much bigger lift in purchase intent, with the ‘most inclusive’ ad seeing a 23-point lift.2 The ‘most inclusive’ ad contained multiple people across age, gender, ethnicity, and disability.

High-impact imagery improves performance

Tapping into Shutterstock’s massive library of visual media right within the Microsoft Advertising platform has helped provide advertisers with the right tools to drive performance. And small and medium businesses saw these benefits. With the Shutterstock library, these businesses garnered 21% more clicks and 7% higher click-through rates when these high-quality, royalty-free images were adopted.3

With our Shutterstock partnership, we’re empowering all advertisers to quickly and easily find the right image for their campaign. These filters help advertisers sift through millions of images to find the perfect photo for every ad – and we know more relevant, inclusive images lead to better performance.

— Haily De La Cruz, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Advertising

Shutterstock imagery can drive results for your brand by enabling:

  1. Speed to market. With easy access to visual content, you can go live faster. No more wasting time searching for images that aren’t readily available.
  2. Creative testing. Test out different types of imagery, get new learnings, and analyze which assets lead to the best results for your brand.
  3. Personalized, inclusive imagery. Effectively communicate your brand by having the flexibility to add new images to match each campaign’s unique goals, targeting and story.

The secret is the ability to find the right image quickly and efficiently. Visual content drives ad performance and consumer behavior. But every image is not the same, and stale or ineffective imagery can do more harm than good. Too often, marketers and small businesses settle for low-quality, off-brand images just because they’re easy to find. When you use subpar imagery in your campaigns, you run the risk of losing consumers’ attention.

Now, the easiest image to find is the best image. With our Shutterstock partnership, it only takes seconds to search through millions of authentic images to find the most relevant content for a campaign. Plus, you can use Shutterstock’s search filters to find imagery that resonates with your audience. With the ability to filter by different dimensions, you can find imagery that feels inclusive and authentic.

When selecting authentic and inclusive imagery, consider these best practices:

  • Use genuine imagery, which is best conveyed using real people being themselves, not actors hired to play a part.
  • Seek out unique and realistic diversity, not stereotypes.
  • Within your campaign, have the creative represent the spectrum of people that your potential customer base could be.
  • Solicit diverse perspectives to uncover blind spots, such as non-obvious negative connotations, stereotypes, cultural inaccuracies, or associations.

Finding the right image for your Microsoft Advertising audience campaign is fast and simple:

  1. When you're creating an ad for your audience campaign, click Add images.
  2. In the dialog that appears, select Stock images.
  3. Browse 360M+ Shutterstock images by typing in a search term that’s relevant to your product, business, or ad campaign’s story.
  4. Use people filters to find the right image, filtering by number of people, gender, ethnicity, age and more.
  5. Keep in mind that the images you select must adhere to the Microsoft image policy.

With quick access to Shutterstock’s massive image library and cutting-edge search tools, you can find the perfect image to construct a meaningful and inclusive customer experience in every ad — all within Microsoft Advertising. And we cover all the licensing fees, so you can create incredible content and rest easy knowing you have the rights to every image.

Product view of Shutterstock filters used to search for images to use in your ads.

Through this new partnership, you can catch your target audience’s attention and use high-impact imagery to drive trust and performance for your brand.

To learn more about inclusive imagery in marketing, download the Marketing with Purpose Playbook and check out the inclusive imagery guidance starting on page 87. Take this complimentary course on Marketing with Purpose to uncover more opportunities for Inclusive Marketing and building a trusted brand.

For more information about the Microsoft Advertising and Shutterstock partnership, you can check out our on-demand webcast.

[1] Microsoft Advertising, Accelerating Brand Performance Through Trust, Love, and Loyalty, 2019.
[2] Microsoft Advertising, The Psychology of Inclusion and the Effects in Advertising, 2020.
[3] Microsoft internal data, September 2020 – January 2021, holiday period excluded for representative performance. 


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