Welcome to another edition of our online advertising news round-up—the recurring feature where we break down what’s been going on in the worlds of search, social, ecommerce, and more. Let’s get into it!
Bing Ads rebrands as Microsoft Advertising
In a move reminiscent of last summer’s shift from AdWords to Google Ads, Bing Ads has officially rebranded as Microsoft Advertising.
Almost exactly one year after the introduction of the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN)—a native advertising solution that enables you to reach prospects across Microsoft’s web properties according to search behavior, demographic information, professional characteristics, location, and device type—Microsoft has deemed the Bing Ads brand too narrow given the range of advertising products the tech company offers in addition to search.
An example of a Microsoft audience ad.
Say what you want about them following in the steps of Google—the decision makes sense. Across MSN, Outlook, and Microsoft Edge, Microsoft connects marketers to millions of users. Plus, thanks to a partnership with Verizon, Bing advertisers have exclusive rights to paid media on Yahoo! and AOL. And how could we forget the rapidly rising value of LinkedIn user data?
Although search remains table stakes for businesses hoping to grow via digital marketing, the importance of other channels has become increasingly clear. Generally speaking, being there only when a prospect is actively searching for a solution isn’t going to cut it. Rather, you need to meet consumers at every stage of the funnel—making them aware of your brand at the very beginning and staying at the tops of their minds as they make their way down.
Microsoft offers the necessary tools, and this rebrand reflects exactly that. With the ability to target consumers according to previous online behavior, geographic location, job title, and tons of other parameters, you can both confidently introduce yourself to cold audiences and tactfully remarket to those who’ve shown an interest in your product or service. Plus, because Microsoft audience ads leave room for visual imagery, you can build the differentiated brand you’ll need to win conversions from prospects in the final stages of their buyer journeys.
Bing advertisers have access to all these capabilities as of right now, and more tools will roll out as the year goes on. Within a few months, all Bing Ads-related materials will reflect the new brand name. Stay tuned!
Facebook tests hybrid of News Feed & Stories
In a prototype discovered by Jane Manchun Wong and verified by TechCrunch, Facebook appears to be testing a hybrid of the slowly dying News Feed and the rapidly spreading Stories.
As you can see in the GIF Wong created, when a user navigating the new interface (in the earliest stages of testing at the time of writing) taps on a News Feed post, they’re brought to a swipeable carousel of content. Although the carousel aspect is nothing novel—the hundreds of millions of people who use Stories across Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram are familiar with it—the fact that it features both Stories content and News Feed content is a major shift.
But it’s not entirely surprising. Quickly scan the transcript of Facebook’s Q4 2018 earnings call and you’ll get a picture of a company that’s undergoing fundamental change. The saturation of the News Feed has pushed users to Stories en masse, leaving Facebook—with a dual mandate of giving users a good experience and giving advertisers ROI—with the not-so-easy task of profitable monetization. Across all four of Facebook’s properties, Stories ads are relatively young, and advertisers lack the agility to adapt at the same rate as users.
So, although this hybrid interface is far from even being tested in a public capacity, it seems to be an attempt by Facebook to respond to the decline of its News Feed while upholding its responsibilities to users, advertisers, and shareholders.
Google Shopping spend continues to grow fast
According to a new report from marketing data company Merkle, it appears that Shopping ads are continuing to cannibalize the SERP. In the first quarter of this year, as YoY spend on text ads declined by 12%, YoY spend on Shopping ads increased by 41%. This is the second consecutive quarter to show both a decline in text ad spend and strong growth in Shopping ad spend.
This seems to show that Google is expanding the breadth of search queries that trigger Shopping ads, which isn’t terribly surprising. Google likes Shopping ads because they make for great on-SERP user experience—displaying images, prices, and reviews for consumers to see. Plus, we shouldn’t forget that Google is locked in an ongoing battle with Amazon to be the go-to engine for product searches.
The story gets even more interesting when you look at Merkle’s data regarding mobile search. Compared to Q1 2018, mobile Shopping ad spend has grown 77%. And the smartphone, of course, is where the true cannibalization of the SERP happens. If a mobile search query triggers Shopping ads, standard text ads are scarcely invisible above the fold.
Considering the increasing prevalence of Shopping ads on mobile SERPs and the enticing nature of those ads, it should come as no surprise that overall mobile ad spend is accelerating—the YoY growth rate has increased from 42% in Q4 2018 to 46% in Q1 2019.
Facebook introduces cost cap bidding strategy
Facebook advertisers using bidding strategies to optimize ad delivery according to their goals now have a new option: cost cap. With this newest solution, you can tell Facebook the maximum amount of money you’re willing to pay for a conversion—app installs, online purchases, or anything else you’re aiming to achieve with your Facebook campaigns.
If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because cost cap isn’t too far off from a bidding strategy that’s been around for a while now: target cost. However, whereas target cost enables you to maximize conversions at a consistent cost, cost cap enables you to maximize conversions at all costs below the ceiling you’ve set.
Both target cost and cost cap are designed to help you drive as many conversions as possible given the parameters you’ve set. Whereas the former is best for those who value cost predictability, the latter is best for those who can’t afford to pay more than a certain amount of money for a single conversion.
Each comes with its own risks, of course. When you’re using target cost, you’re liable to miss out on conversions that cost less than what you’re aiming for. And if you start using cost cap, you may find that the opportunities for conversions below that cap are finite.
If you think you’d like to give cost cap a try, you’ll have to do some math to figure out the optimal amount of money to tell Facebook you’re willing to pay. Check out this blog post to learn more about customer acquisition cost (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLV).
Facebook announces new Ads Manager interface
Would you look at that—news from Facebook! In an effort to, basically, make your life easier, Facebook has announced that all advertisers will have access to the new and improved Ads Manager interface by the time next year rolls around.
At the highest level, the new UI will make the campaign management experience more streamlined. The new navigation bar gives you direct access to your campaigns, ad sets, and ads, and the nested campaign view enables you to easily access everything within a particular campaign without having to navigate to a different page.
At a more granular level, with the new interface comes a copy-and-paste functionality that will allow you to more easily transfer messaging when building ads. This, I think, is particularly cool. Creating a consistent, cohesive voice across your ad copy is essential to building your business’ brand and delivering relevant experiences to users. Facebook has also highlighted an auto-naming feature to help you differentiate between campaigns, ad sets, and ads, as well as new tools to make editing ad creative and selecting placements simpler.
And for our agency readers: Business Manager is getting a facelift, too. Later this year, you’ll have access to a new interface that makes it quicker and simpler to manage your clients’ Facebook campaigns.