Microsoft Makes Case for Display, Pushes Engagement Mapping

Microsoft’s Young-Bean Song began a speech at the MIXX conference in New York yesterday with a beer analogy: Consider a scenario, he said, in which Corona determined to put its whole ad spend toward whatever consumer contact point immediately preceded most of its sales. Its obvious move, according to Song, would be to “put all its marketing budget into neon signs at pubs.”

Ridiculous idea, but Song, who is VP of analytics in Microsoft’s Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group, argues most digital marketers assign credit in just that fashion — with search, affiliate marketing, and other sources of lower-funnel clicks grabbing more recognition than they rightly should.

Microsoft wants them to think more holistically. A new study based on advertisers’ use of the company’s Engagement Mapping product argues for a model where more credit goes to high-funnel channels like special interest sites and ad networks. The data, drawn from 500 advertisers that are using the fledgling tool, do indeed show that marketers given the choice to assign greater value to those channels do so.

Broken down by channel, Microsoft found that under its attribution regime, vertical content sites and ad networks gain credit for conversions. Meanwhile, the median search buy loses 7 percent credit for conversions among those using Engagement Mapping.

Furthermore, Microsoft research indicates navigational search is responsible for a large portion of click behavior. Sixty percent of total sponsored search clicks specify the precise name of a brand advertiser, or even an exact URL. And search clickers exposed to display advertising were 22 percent more likely to produce a sale than those who weren’t exposed.

However the findings shouldn’t be read as a critique of search marketing, said Song.

On the contrary, “This is money well spent as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The issue we have with navigational search is that… it completely obliterates the value we’re creating from other digital marketing we’re doing.”

He added, “The idea that search is this magical fountain of customer acquisition — In many cases it�s not.”

Engagement Mapping is available only to customers of Microsoft’s Atlas ad management unit.

It assigns more or less weight to different ad impressions based on factors like frequency, recency, and ad size. Larger ad units get more credit, as do video and rich media. More frequently and recently delivered ads are also given greater influence. Advertisers can also tweak the dials on Atlas’s interface to assign greater influence to those Web publishers and ad formats it deems most powerful.

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