Bing Debuts Hero Ad Unit To Enhance Brand Searches

Microsoft has introduced a pilot for a Bing Smart Search ad unit called Hero. The image-based interactive ad unit announced Wednesday and limited, for now, to U.S. searches in Windows 8.1 aims to serve more information through content and images. It appears when users search for specific brands and terms, yet less than half the users of the latest operating system have access.

Hero Ads capitalize on touchscreens, but the ad unit also responds to a mouse. Land Rover, Jaguar, Home Depot, Norwegian Cruise Line, Radio Shack and a few other popular brands are testing the ad unit -- part of a project to help brands build out cross-device ad strategies.

Bing wants to enable brand marketers to improve the performance of their search ads through upgrades to Location extensions, Call extensions with call analytics, enhanced campaigns, and Bing Ads Express.

Some brands already see strong results. Microsoft data shows mobile ads with call extensions can drive up to 30% greater click-through rates when compared to other mobile ads, and adding Location Extensions drives between 10% and 30% improvements in click-through rates for advertisers with local stores.  

Microsoft introduced the Hero ad unit at a Bing Ads event at the Microsoft Campus. When asked whether Microsoft considers the Hero ad unit a native advertising format, a spokesperson for the company said the industry seems to define native advertising as content that fits into the user's experience. Call it what you will, but this broad-based ad unit offers links to a variety of content and information.

While all Microsoft ads are consumer-focused, the Hero Ads being piloted are a blend of consumer focus, rich display and a relevant search advertising experience, per the Microsoft spokesperson, adding that calling Hero Ads "native" seems limiting, because they are more than that."

At the Microsoft event, Ryan DeShazer, a MediaPost contributor, notes that David Pann, GM of the company's search business said it's not about blue links, but rather the brand, the actions and the experience.

Google recently began testing an image-based search ad unit that resembles product listing ads in a search-ad format.

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