Microsoft Advertising Announces Open Beta for New Automotive Ads

Last month, a Microsoft Advertising automotive case study showcased a positive linear relationship between paid search clicks and automotive sales, with 99% statistical significance. What’s more, the research cited that brands earn 2.1x more clicks with paid ads versus those relying on organic alone.  Now, they’re introducing a new way for automotive advertisers to drive those clicks.

Today, Microsoft Advertising is announcing an open beta for Automotive Ads, a new ad unit, in the United States and United Kingdom.

What are Automotive Ads?

For advertisers familiar with shopping ads, Automotive Ads should feel somewhat similar. Automotive Ads are feed-based product ads (similar to shopping ads), where attributes are uploaded via a feed. The ads will then be delivered for queries that are matched to the feed, such as vehicle research and purchase intent queries. Dissimilar from shopping ads, Automotive Ads won’t require a merchant center, as the feed will be uploaded directly into the advertiser’s Microsoft Advertising account.

In addition to SERP placements, Automotive Ads are also eligible for native placements on the Microsoft Audience Network, which can be targeted through first and third-party audiences.

“One feed allows you to target multiple points in the customer journey because Automotive Ads can be leveraged in both SERP and native placements. Let’s say you’re targeting in-market audiences and you engage a prospect with a native ad. It piques their interest so then they do a search and now they see your search ad and your Automotive Ad from the feed. “They may not have been considering this vehicle before, but after seeing your Automotive Ad on native and clicking through on search, now they are in your funnel. ”

– John Lee, Microsoft Advertising Head of Evangelism

How Are Ads Displayed?

Currently, within Bing’s SERP, Microsoft Ads delivers Automotive Ads on the right rail and also on the Bing image results page. Microsoft is planning to begin delivering Automotive Ads on the mainline (just under the search bar) soon, as well.

Automotive Ads are currently only delivered on desktop but mobile formats are coming soon.

Automotive Ads are eligible to run alongside existing search campaigns for the same queries, meaning advertisers are eligible to have both ad types (Automotive Ads and a search ad) delivering in the SERP for the same ad auction.

Example of SERP right rail Automotive Ads


Example of Automotive Ads on the Bing image results page

Getting Started With Automotive Ads

Since Automotive Ads are still in beta, advertisers need to request access. The quickest way to get into the beta is likely to reach out to your Microsoft Advertising rep, if you have one. If you don’t have a rep, fill out this form to request access. Note that this beta is only available for US and UK advertisers at this time.

Setting Up the Feed

Once you have access, step number one is to provide a feed. You can do this by going to “Tools” and then “Business Data” within your ad account. (Unlike shopping, there is no merchant center or additional account required to manage the feed). As a bonus, because Microsoft recognizes that many organizations in the automotive space are reliant on APIs to manage inventory data, there are existing APIs in place to help simplify feed management.

Example of the Automotive Ads feed format

Some of the required feed attributes include: Vehicle Id, Title, Make, Model, Year, Trim, Final URL, Image URLs, State of Vehicle (New/Used/CPO), and price

Other nice-to-have feed attributes include: Body Style, Engine, Drivetrain, Transmission, Fuel Type, Interior Color, and Exterior Color

It’s highly recommended to set up the feed to automatically refresh, which will help to ensure that the feed, and therefore your campaigns, stay up to date.

Optimizing Your Photos

When it comes to advertising vehicles, there’s no secret that the images play a major role, so it’s incredibly important that advertisers provide high-quality images in order for the ads to be effective as possible.

Microsoft recommends that the first few images included in the feed are exterior views, though additional images can include interior views.

Images should show a clear view of the vehicle and shouldn’t be too zoomed out to get a good look. Images should be free of watermarks and promotional text.

If images are updated, be sure to update the image URL within the feed in order for the new image to be reflected in the ad.

Results of Early Beta Testers

Microsoft has been testing Automotive Ads with early beta testers including automotive brands advertising new inventory and third-party sites showcasing their used inventory.

They’ve shared that advertisers have seen an average of 6-15% incremental click lift as well as a 3-8% incremental conversion lift.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have had 7-16% lower CPCs than their non-brand targeted search campaigns and third-party sites have seen as much as a 28-40% drop in CPCs.


Microsoft Ads Announcement

Microsoft Insights Automotive Case Study, Feburary 2021