How to create the perfect ad with audience targeting

    Reaching specific types of consumers throughout their purchase journeys is a challenge, but contributor Christi Olson shows us how to capture their attention by using the right targeting ingredients to create the perfect ad.

    As search marketers, we are well aware of the power of audience targeting. We got a taste of it with remarketing, which blew away our conversion rates and left us scrambling to restructure campaigns.

    For years, I’ve been chronicling the shift toward audiences in articles such as Searching for searchers and Developing your audience targeting strategy. Search marketers have long been preparing for a new era of search based on more targeting, more personalization and more intelligence, even though it’s been unclear exactly when or how it would come.

    Demographic targeting

    There are many ways search marketers have been targeting their audiences: through user behavior, demographics, interests, device and location, but what’s been missing is an additional layer of demographic targetings, such as the company someone works for or their job title.

    The newly announced Microsoft Audience Network, (MSAN) is pushing the boundaries of search forward as it modernizes traditional native advertising and enhances targeting capabilities to pull in the powerful data available from the Microsoft Graph, which includes LinkedIn data no one else has.

    What does this mean for marketers? It’s now easier than ever to reach specific user sets throughout their purchase journeys.

    How easy?

    • Whereas search ads used keywords and are predominately text-based, audience ads are image- and feed-based.
    • Whereas keywords waited for your customers to search, audience ads use artificial intelligence to find and reach your specific targeted audiences.
    • Whereas keywords use algorithms, audience ads use AI and predictive analytics.

    Thanks to audience ads, marketers now have access to more targeting ingredients for a perfect ad. Let’s take a look at those ingredients.

    More native ads

    The future of advertising is non-advertising!

    How do you know if you’ve delivered the right message to the right person at the right time? When consumers don’t even realize an ad is an ad. Today’s advertisements should be designed to serve today’s customers along their daily journeys, not interrupt them.

    Salesforce research shows that by 2020, 51 percent of consumers expect that companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact.

    Recent research by Bing (my company) also found that native advertising will gain more and more popularity as search engines continue to grow into digital assistants. Based on our research, within two years, 54 percent of consumers will expect their digital assistant to make purchase recommendations. This number jumps to 85 percent within five years.

    Here is an example of an audience ad for a fine arts school that showcases how an ad can be part of the landscape without even looking like an ad. The ad format allows for responsive, visually compelling images that adapt to the layout of whatever device they appear on.

    More storytelling

    Each and every one of your customers has a story. Audience ads give advertisers the opportunity to reach specific customers at various points throughout the purchase journey. How do your products fit into their stories? Focus less on the “what” (your products) and more on the “why.” Why do your customers want your product(s), and what is driving their behavior?

    As for me, I’m a busy mom who likes running, craft beers and using red-eye flights to catch up on sleep. My time is at a premium, and I appreciate customized offers that make my life easier. According to Salesforce research, 63 percent of millennial consumers and 58 percent of GenX consumers are willing to share data with companies in exchange for personalized offers and discounts.

    More efficiency overall

    At the end of the day, we’ve come a long way from this ad:

    This was an actual ad from a campaign I managed back in the mid-2000s, and it nicely represents the opposite of today’s audience ads. This ad could literally be targeting anyone, for any type of Office product. The title is nostalgically simple and reminds us of how far we’ve come.

    In our incredibly fast-paced world, efficiency is no longer a luxury but a necessity. We live in a time when consumers want to be targeted, heard, valued and reached in smarter ways with automatic reorders, customized offers, form auto-fills and walk-out payments.

    While audience ads are certainly not the final format in search advertising, they represent a step in the right direction as we continue to strive for the perfect native, storytelling, intelligent, high-quality, efficient ad.


    ​Christi Olson is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of SEM. Prior to joining the Bing Ads team within Microsoft, Christi worked in marketing both in-house and at agencies at Point It, Expedia, Harry & David, and Microsoft (MSN, Bing, Windows). When she’s not geeking out about search and digital marketing she can be found with her husband at ACUO crossfit and running races across the PacificNW, brewing and trying to find the perfect beer, and going for lots of walks with their two schnauzers and pug.

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