Microsoft Uses Display, Search, and Social to Push Bing

A branding campaign focuses on travel, shopping, health, and local to woo users to the new search engine.

What’s the cheapest flight to Chicago? That’s just one of the questions Microsoft’s new campaign for search engine Bing will focus on. The company will center its branding campaign over the coming months on four core categories: travel, shopping, health, and local.

Television spots began airing this week and will be closely followed by an online campaign. “The first thing we’re trying to do with this campaign is to capitalize with the latent dissatisfaction that’s going on with the market,” said Danielle Tiedt, general manager, Online Audience Business Group Marketing at Microsoft. She said people suffer from “search overload syndrome” or a tendency to get overwhelmed when they see too many links.

Banners will run online and tackle the four main categories of searches Microsoft believes people typically perform, answering questions such as “Where can you get the best price on a plasma TV?” or “Could that pain be tennis elbow?” The Web ads are expected to run on sites such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, and “any place where the audience is really engaged,” Tiedt said. Online ads were created by Microsoft-owned agency Razorfish.

“We’re [using] real world examples about the questions people would ask,” said Tiedt.

Efficient Frontier handled search engine marketing for the campaign, fittingly a large component of the online strategy. Microsoft is buying keywords related to all four categories on all the major search engines. A Google search for “cheap flights,” for instance, returned as the second sponsored result.

In advertising on other search engines, Microsoft hopes Bing can take some of that search market share. Bing will have to attract and retain users in order to get the advertisers it needs, of course. The company will integrate results from other Microsoft properties, such as mapping content from Multimap; it will offer display and cost-per-lead ad products in addition to keyword-driven sponsored search listings.

For the first two weeks of the campaign, TV ads will focus on “search overload syndrome” or SOS, as Microsoft puts it. After the initial run, commercials will address the relationship people have with search engines. “What if you had to talk to your friend or partner the way you talk to your search engine? And not really connect?” asked Tiedt, hinting at how the commercials may play out. Microsoft worked with JWT for the TV ads, while Universal McCann handled media.

In order to gain market share Microsoft is admittedly betting big online, but buying display and search ads is not the only way to go. Social media is also a significant part of the campaign strategy. “The other marketing challenge we have is being part of the conversation around search,” Tiedt said. Microsoft is trying to get people out of the habit of just going to Google, she continued. “The way we’re trying to do that is to integrate beyond just traditional ads. We made a big bet in social media.”

The first piece is a Bing Community where more can be found out about the search engine. Outside of Microsoft’s properties, Bing has a presence on Facebook. There, users can submit photos to be used on the search engine’s homepage, and also vote on what photos will appear on upcoming days.

Bing has a Twitter stream, and to date has over 16,000 followers. In addition to its updates, Bing plans to create Tweet and Decide, a microsite that pulls all of the questions people post on Twitter and answers them.

Bing will also appear on radio and TV in the coming months, in product placement form, primarily on talk shows such as Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with John Stewart,” and radio talk shows. “We’re trying to go beyond just serving ads, and get the voice working for Bing. We’re trying a lot of in-show integration,” said Tiedt.

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