We recently stat down with Steve Sirich, GM Bing Ads Product Marketing for this edition of Inside The Search Studio.
How long have you been working with Microsoft?
I’ve been with Microsoft for a little over 15 years. I started in field organization where I was involved in sales leadership, and then moved to corporate headquarters in Seattle. Over the past ten years I have had several different roles – running marketing, operations, and business development teams, all in the digital/online services space.
What made you become interested in search marketing/advertising?
I actually became more intimately involved in that side of the business in 2009. Prior to that, I was very involved in display and video, so it made sense. At the time, Search was emerging as strategic growth for Microsoft and the industry as a whole, and I was interested in exploring that arm of the company. In fact, I helped to write the Yahoo deal, which included a technology deal with Bing services.
What has been the biggest surprise for you in your tenure at Microsoft?
There are a couple things that have surprised me, but perhaps the one that sticks out is the growth that we’ve achieved with Bing in last five years, which has been outstanding. Today we are at 20% market share, whereas in 2009 we were trending down at 7% market share. At the time, we knew we could reverse that trend, but in last five years an average of 2% growth is great, and possibly more than we anticipated.
What has been the project that you are most proud of during your tenure?
In the 15 years I’ve been here, one of the most satisfying projects I’ve worked on has been the Yahoo relationship and partnership. Not only what we outlined, but also what we executed. In 2009, we were operating Ad Center, and set out a scope with Yahoo to transition to as many as 30 markets worldwide across search, ad platform, and make a shift in how we were selling.
We knew that there were multiple layers of complexity and a short time to execute globally. Today we operate in 35 markets with Bing ads – 33 of those are Yahoo partnerships. It was very rewarding to have such a lead role in the deal and execution.
What are some of the biggest themes that Microsoft is tackling in the next quarter when it comes to search marketing and advertising?
At Microsoft, two major themes are mobile and cloud, in relation to the function of devices and a services strategy. A primary theme we are shifting toward is a future in services and devices play. We’re moving into a departure from OS/Office Suite, and toward the idea of how we will profit relative to tech – the disruption to the current landscape is device and service.
Core to these changes is economics, more specifically a holistic means of monetization like advertising, transactions (service like Xbox movie purchase), and subscriptions (licensing fee). We are profoundly shifting from classic package/licensed software to mobile and device play. Google has had a lot of success for a services model, and we’re looking to do the same.
As far as search is concerned, we’re continuing to focus on customer experience as we think about the ongoing innovation of Bing ads. We’ve been investing in areas like user simplicity, driving industry standardization on electronic IO, and removing friction in what consumers want to buy. When it comes to reporting and analytics, today we measure customer campaign performance in hours, but soon we’ll move to less than 30 minutes.
We understand Google’s large market share, so we’re trying to make it easy for consumers to spend time with us. Microsoft recognizes the high standards Google has driven when it comes to AdWords, and we want to show the value of spending time on Bing Ads.
It’s important to understand that Microsoft thinks of search beyond the query box/destination search. Google has a strong presence, but search is more than just a web destination; it is a part of all of the services you engage in with digitally. Search is very pervasive across all our assets – Xbox, Windows 8.1, and our mobile phone – and can be the intelligent fabric that powers our devices and overall experiences. Search as a platform and technology is the foundation of our services moving forward.
What has surprised you in terms of the way search has evolved? How is/did Microsoft address(ing) this?
Search has taken on a more natural interface, weaving itself into our lifestyle and becoming part of our natural rhythms. We recently introduced Cortana – a voice enabled experience anchored by Bing technology that operates as a personal digital assistant – as an answer to Siri. I’ve also seen a shift in search as a reaction to our behaviors switching between our devices and screens that has become more personal. Search is now a means for technology to learn personal interests and become more intelligent when it comes to your daily tasks.
How has social impacted search marketing and advertising?
Social is big part of Bing strategy because we have a solid relationship with Facebook. Social makes marketing and advertising a much more personal experience because it’s an easy way to affirm/validate activity and interests. People naturally refer to a community environment when they make decisions, so it’s important for marketers and advertisers to have a presence as much as possible.
Today, social is big part of the Bing experience in terms of providing relevant info both through web searches and the social graph. We will continue to evolve search based on social’s ability to showcase what colleagues, family and friends think about any given experience.
What are three predictions you see for search marketing/advertising in the last half of 2014? What are you predictions for the next 5-10 years in search?
1.) The Idea that today’s world has unprecedented digital experiences. We have to drive well-integrated, seamless experiences that are intelligent across a number of devices. PC at work, tablets at home, and phones as you travel – the experience needs to shift to the need of the device. Currently, cross device experiences are somewhat fragmented, but we will soon need to simplify and unify them into one seamless product.
2.) We will continue to see the industry push toward more human and intuitive experiences around natural interfaces. Today it’s voice, but tomorrow you can only imagine what the experience will be to engage with devices in a natural way.
3.) The convergence of media and experiences will continue to push across search, display and TV. There will be a significant conversion – especially TV – to an on-demand model across the digital landscape.
What issues or news has sparked some of the biggest conversations on Microsoft when it comes to search advertising?
The biggest thing for us over the last 12 months is that we won’t win in search if we focus on search as a destination experience. Search is evolving into a platform of an intelligent fabric that will integrate into multiple experiences to produce a more profound experience for consumers that can separate us from the competition.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing this industry?
1.) Fragmentation is more prevalent than ever. I have been involved in digital marketing since 1998 and seen it move in several different directions with the explosion of sites and services available to marketers today. Advertisers and agencies are challenged because there are so many experiences available to buy. Programmatic is starting to solve for that, but it still has a long way to go. Microsoft has to make sure it’s connecting customers in the best, most profitable and profound way to desired audiences.
2.) The lack of standardization still makes it difficult for advertisers and agencies. Publishers offer many experiences to engage with audiences, but without standardization, it’s difficult to manage all of these relationships.
What is the most interesting search marketing/advertising campaign that you’ve seen? How about social?
In February 2013, Dodge Ram rolled out an emotive ad – “Year of the Farmer”, narrated by Paul Harvey – that linked into an integrated campaign that involved search. It appealed to your sense of the fabric of America, all while bringing awareness to Dodge Ram and their charity, FFA, for which they raised $1M. It’s a great example of a brand play that used search after showcasing what they wanted to achieve with the Super Bowl, and carried it out through the year. They maximized the footprint opportunity by using all of the different ad formats and innovations on both Google and Bing ads.
Any advice for search marketers using Bing Ads?
I recommend marketers continue to stay very close to Bing and Bing Ads in terms of what we are doing with innovation; we’re actively responding to the customer voice. There are actually a lot of things that we’re rolling out in next six months that came directly from customer feedback. For example, today we offer 50,000 keywords, but at end of the calendar year will have 1M through the Bing Ads UI.
We’re also focusing on Electronic IO – Google has offered this, and we’re working to make it easier for customers. We’re spending time on innovation in our ad footprint – site, location and call extensions are available now, and we will continue to expand this so customers can connect with consumers in other ways like introducing zip code targeting.
Overall the experience will continue to improve. I encourage marketers to stay tuned and stay close.
Any final thoughts?
Microsoft is continuing to invest in Bing as an experience and a platform. We’re focusing on innovating for the customer, agency and advertiser with Bing Ads, and also for Bing as it relates to consumers. Our next OS system will feature Bing as that experience.
With the investment Microsoft is making in Bing today, we enjoy 19% query share in the US, and as we continue to invest, it is expected to grow. We plan to double down on what search means for both the device and service experience in what Microsoft is offering.