Microsoft to Make Engagement ROI Available to All Clients

Microsoft’s Atlas division announced plans to make Engagement ROI–the research product the company designed to help online advertisers better assign credit to various ad units and to blunt the credit search ads typically receive–available to all of its ad serving clients free of charge.

To get advertisers to try Engagement ROI, Microsoft has released some results from a beta test it’s been conducting with 24 test partners since last April. According to Young-Bean Song, senior director, Atlas Institute, those brands’ experiences confirm what many in the online ad world often suspect but cannot prove: that search ads on Google and other sites tend to receive more credit than they are due when brands evaluate return on investment using the common industry standard. And that the last ad a user clicks on is the one that receives all the credit for a particular conversion, regardless of how many ads that user had previously seen. In addition, said Young, the research proves that nonsearch forms of online advertising, such as display ads, text links and video ads, all contribute to the performance of search ads.

“The point is that when one single ad gets all the credit, sites that are very good at getting that last click look pretty good,” he said, in what could be taken as an indirect reference to rival Google. “We want to attribute value to all those touch points.”

Based on Atlas’ beta test research, 94 percent of online ads a typical user encounters receive no credit for any resulting conversions.

Meanwhile, when an advertiser runs both search and display ads during a campaign, on average they enjoy a 22 percent lift in conversion compared to when running just search ads alone. “It’s clear that pure search advertisers need to feed the funnel,” said Song. “They can capture conversions at the point of awareness, not just the point of sale.” For example, the telecommunications firm Alltel saw a 56 percent lift in conversions when running search and display ads versus when then advertised in search alone.

Song predicted that buyers will eventually user Engagement ROI to better evaluate campaigns and make adjustments on the fly. Over time, he expects that certain site categories, such as music and gaming–which don’t often exhibit strong conversion rates–would receive a fairer shake. Ultimately, the hope is that the Web will be viewed by skeptical advertisers as something more than a direct response medium.

But asked whether Engagement ROI is designed to hit Google and other search companies business’ directly, Song laughed that off. Using this product, “search goes from being ridiculously effective to really effective.”