Bing Ads Tweaks Its Tune: Desktop/Tablet Traffic To Be Combined, Adding Tablet Bid Modifier

David Pann, Microsoft

David Pann, Microsoft

You may recall last spring, Bing Ads issued a manifesto of sorts in response to Google’s announcement of Enhanced Campaigns titled Advertisers Deserve Control: “We do not believe bundling mobile, desktop and tablet advertising together in an opaque manner is in the best interests of our customers.”

In what would appear to be an about-face, Bing Ads announced Wednesday that it will begin lumping desktop and tablet traffic together, á la Google’s Enhanced Campaigns. The change, announced in a blog post by David Pann, General Manager for the Search Network at Microsoft, will take place in September.

After much analysis and feedback, what we’ve found is that flexibility also means more complexity for many of our customers. The balance between flexibility and complexity is a moving target, but something we always strive to find. As a result, we’ve decided to change how Bing Ads handles device targeting. These changes will make it easier and more efficient for customers to manage their campaigns….

With this update, we’ll have complete compatibility with how ad campaigns are managed within Bing Ads and Google AdWords, simplifying campaign management between platforms.

Key Difference: Tablet Bid Modifier

So, the driving forces are simplified management and greater compatibility with AdWords. However, Bing Ads is towing a balance between its earlier positioning and the change announced today.

Advertisers will still have some control over tablet bidding with the addition of a tablet bid modifier. The new tablet bid modifier will run from -20 percent to +300 percent on bids against desktop.

I asked why the negative bid modifier is limited to -20 percent. Pann responded,

Historically, the industry has seen that desktops and tablets have very similar performance characteristics; with approximately 15 percent – 20 percent variance in performance between these devices. This is supported through our own marketplace analysis, where we see even slightly less performance variance between desktops/PC and tablet devices. By allowing advertisers to have this added tablet bid modifier flexibility, we are achieving greater parity between platforms and delivering the added volume to customers while still allowing them to maintain their return on investment.

For advertisers that wish to opt out of tablets altogether, the negative 20 percent maximum may feel more like a token gesture than a legitimate solution. Still, it’s better than no control at all. The +300 percent modifier will to appeal more those select advertisers with tablet specific offerings, like apps, for example. It also acts as a de facto opt-out of, or negative bidding on desktop.

Continued Move Toward Consistency With The Market Leader

The change to combine tablet and desktop traffic is clearly aimed at making it easier for advertisers to manage campaigns across the two platforms with as little friction as possible and increase traffic volume for advertisers from the Yahoo Bing Network. The ultimate goal, of course, is to increase advertiser participation on Bing Ads.

So what about the inevitable questions about backtracking on earlier statements. Pann responded,

 If listening to, and responding to, customer feedback is a “backtrack” we’re okay with that. What makes us different is that we listen to our customers and make changes based on their needs when it comes to enhancements and updates. Our goal is not to create more disruption for our customers, but to minimize disruptions with efficiency.

This change will benefit the majority of our advertisers. While we maintain advertiser control with bid modifiers, we will continue to focus on providing advertisers efficiencies across their search campaigns and investments.

More Changes In 2015

Bing Ads will continue to fold in bid modifiers as the preferred way to manage device targeting. Next year, Bing Ads will eliminate explicit mobile device targeting in exchange for bid modifiers.

Pann tells Search Engine Land,

We are taking a phased approach towards how we update device targeting to more closely align to enhanced campaigns. The first phase is to combine tablet and PC.

The move toward incorporating more bid modifiers and away from explicit device targeting is likely a smart one in the long run. And, in the end, this move isn’t likely to ruffle many advertisers beyond an initial outcry or two.