Microsoft Bing Gives WiFi Users Free Search

Microsoft's Bing and JiWire will announce Monday an advertising campaign, along with the results, that lets consumers gain free WiFi Internet access at participating hot spots in exchange for one search on the engine.

Supported by JiWire's mobile advertising network, which reaches about 20 million unique consumers monthly, Bing's nationwide campaign runs across WiFi hotspots in airports and hotels.

The campaign aims to make more people aware of Bing and allow them to try the search engine, according to David Blumenfeld, senior vice president of strategy and business development at JiWire. "We're all creatures of habit, so giving away free Internet access in exchange for one search on Bing is a great way to change user behavior," he says.

The campaign, which launched in September at thousands of locations, has attracted between 30% and 40% of consumers to Microsoft's search engine, Blumenfeld says, declining to name specific hot spots.

Good news for Microsoft. "The typical online engagement rates for ads range between .1% and .2%, so when you think of what we're seeing, it's off the charts," he says. "Let's just say the campaign has performed well above average and Microsoft plans to continue the promotion."

JiWire works with between 60% and 70% of all North American passenger airline services and hotel chains. Today, the company supports about 100 advertising campaigns.

JiWire's opt-in program, known as Ads for Access, allows advertisers to give consumers something in exchange for their time. Sometimes it means watching a video ad or taking a short survey.

The Bing campaign was developed by UM, formally known as Universal McCann, in collaboration with JiWire. Bing customized JiWire's Ads for Access platform to create a "search for access" campaign. The simple campaign has been successful in driving a high volume of consumers to at least trail Microsoft's engine.

As marketers know, when consumers "engage" with an ad, it doesn't always lead to conversion. Aaron Goldman, managing partner at Connectual, points out that sometimes the consumer is less likely to click on the ad because they are immersed in the content.

Research firm comScore released a study Friday that found Microsoft sites captured nearly 15% of time spent online worldwide in September, making it the most engaging global property. Google followed at 9.3% and Yahoo at 6.3% worldwide.

In North America, Yahoo came in at No. 1 with 11.2%, followed by Google with 9.1% and Microsoft 8.6%, according to comScore. The numbers exclude visits from mobile phones and public computers, such as libraries.

4 comments about "Microsoft Bing Gives WiFi Users Free Search".
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  1. William Alvarez from Conversion Action LLC, November 9, 2009 at 3:34 p.m.

    Microsoft still cannot figure out the difference between a legit Marketing campaign (strategy + creativity) and Buying users, which is what they usually do. Why to buy people in exchange of free WiFi? Is that the only way they can think of to attract and grow/inflate their traffic numbers? Searchers have a different motivation and are free to use their search engine of preference. This reminds me of when they launched Live not a long time ago and rewarded people who randomly did searches, like a "scratch and win" thin. Those searchers didn't want to find anything in there, they just wanted to win a prize.

    It's not about the gimmicks Microsoft, it's about relevance in the results. "Think different"!

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, November 9, 2009 at 4:40 p.m.

    It's called trial. Just like when you walk into the supermarket and the price on the 'newcomer' corn chips is slashed to encourage people to switch brands. If (say) just 1% who trial Bing like it and stick with it, then I'd have to call it a win for Microsoft. It beats me why you don't think that this is a valid tactic.

  3. Kamau Jackson, November 9, 2009 at 7:52 p.m.

    buying users?? is that like pay-per-click?

  4. Matt Ellsworth from FLMSC Inc., November 9, 2009 at 8:37 p.m.

    I think this is just another attempt to try to boost their "market share" numbers and hopefully gain a few users along the way.

    Would I do a search in exchange for free internet - of course - who wouldn't.

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