Despite all the flak Facebook has been receiving for its hyper-targeted advertising platform, Microsoft has decided now is a perfect time to launch its own version.
The Microsoft Audience Network is an AI-powered audience marketing service, combing data sourced from assets including Bing, MSN, Outlook.com, the Edge browser, LinkedIn and ‘high quality’ third-party websites, which promises to engage potential customers, at the right time, with the right message.
“The Microsoft Audience Network offers advanced audience targeting and brand safe native placements,” said Rik van der Kooi, Corporate VP of Microsoft Search Advertising.
“We recognize that the industry is ever changing, customer-centricity matters more than ever to businesses, and AI is transforming how marketers and brands engage with their customers. It is no longer about optimizing your media spend by channel but understanding your customers and their interests and preferences.”
As you can see from the image above, campaigns can potentially go incredibly in-depth, with very specific messages and almost invasive intuition. While this is common-practice across the digital economy, Microsoft has chosen a very interesting and unusual time to launch such a service.
The ‘Microsoft Graph’ offers datasets with rich knowledge of consumers’ interests and preferences, which will only become more detailed as more of the consumers life hits the digital highway. Using the Bing Ads platform, machine learning algorithms guide audience segmentation, engagement prediction and personalized offer selection. To increase the accuracy and effectiveness of these campaigns, the team has also partnered with third-parties such as Yelp, Twitter, Foursquare and TripAdvisor to add more information into the mix. Addressing the privacy issue, Microsoft promises all data will be anonymized.
Facebook is facing intense criticism over its own advertising platform, most notably the ability of advertisers to launch targeted and personalised advertising campaigns. Politicians are perched comfortably on their high-horses, clopping along, stirring up disgust in the masses. The world is not looking favourably on targeted advertising campaigns and services. It certainly is a bold move from Microsoft to make such an announcement now, potentially opening itself up to criticism.
Facebook is being made an example of right now, being blamed because we didn’t want to know the complexities of the big data machine. The internet giants are not blameless whatsoever, and do have a tendency to toe the line of ethical, while also lurking in unexplored corners of the internet, but society on the whole buried heads in the sand. No-one questioned how Facebook continued to be free, but then the world is disgusted when the answer is forced upon us.
Microsoft is now offering a service which is commonplace, but we question whether now is the right time. Launching the service in a couple of weeks, once the euphoria surrounding Facebook’s advertising practices have died down, might have been a better idea, but only time will tell.