Unpacking Bing's Latest (and Not Greatest) Digital Marketing Changes
Bing hasn’t been making a lot of friends in the digital marketing world lately.
Once a popular alternative to Google that offered affordable reach, highly customizable campaigns, and transparent user targeting, Bing's recent shifts have led to growing dissatisfaction and mistrust among digital marketers around the globe.
And to be honest? We can’t blame them.
Not only did Bing spring a major change on marketers, they also snuck the shift in with next-to-no fanfare - an uncommon approach for Microsoft.
Some (more forgiving and patient) marketers say the lack of transparency surrounding the update was an oversight, or unintentional.
Others say it was a calculated attempt to add revenue to the war chest before the news broke and marketers, brands, and businesses across industries had to reevaluate the utility and value of Bing’s “new normal.”
Not sure where you land on the matter?
Not sure how the Bing update will impact your digital marketing ROI?
Not sure what I’m even talking about?
Then read on.
Because we’re breaking down everything you need to know about Bing’s new Multi-Channel Management (MCM) system.
Bing Marketing Before the Big Update
Before we dive into why this is such a hot-button topic, let’s break down what happened.
Previously, Bing allowed brands and businesses that advertised on their platform, Microsoft Advertising, to hand-tailor their approach. Marketers could use a range of positive and negative modifiers to:
- Control audience targeting (demographics, locations, devices)
- Choose your preferred ad style (Search, vs. Audience)
- And strategically allocate your ad spend (i.e. + X% to individuals over 45, -X% for those under 25)
Let’s explore this further with a quick example.
A Fond Look Back at Bing Before…
Consider a brand or digital marketing agency with a maximum Cost-Per-Click (CPC) of $1.
They want their next campaign to target individuals between 40-55, that live in major metros, and convert at higher rates on mobile devices. Let’s also assume they want to specifically target Search ads over Audience ads due to conversion success, historical cost, engagement metrics etc.
Your Bing campaign modifiers may have looked something like:
- Max CPC: 1.00
- Device bid adjustment: +20% for mobile
- Location bid adjustment: +50% for L.A., New York, Miami
- Search Ad Bids: +100%
- Audience Ad Bids: -100%
With this system, you had the autonomy to dictate numerous aspects of your advertising spend - demographics, location, device preferences, you name it.
You could put a dynamic cap on your ad spend that prevented waste and maximized access to your ideal audience. And you could exclusively leverage whichever advertising network you wanted to maximize ROI. (Search vs. Audience)
But not any longer.
Now, Bing is asking you to let go of the reins and trust them to produce better outcomes — without your input or involvement.
Challenges Ahead: Unpacking the Impact of Bing's Update
There are three major headlines in this story:
- Bing Says “Bye-Bye” to Bid Modifiers
- The Risks of Giving Up Control Over Ad Placement
- Bing Misses Mark on Transparency
And we’re going to work through each of them!
#1: Bye-Bye Bid Modifiers
Bing’s new MCM removed bid modifiers entirely, significantly reducing digital marketers’ control over their company’s or clients’ advertising strategy.
Previously, digital marketers had the freedom and ability to:
- Customize audience targeting
- Strategically allocate ad spend
- Deploy a dynamic CPC strategy
- And opt-out of expensive, ineffective, or overly competitive areas
However, these options have now been narrowed down, leaving digital marketers with just one remaining point of control — the size of their Bing marketing budget.
In the absence of bid modification, brands and businesses are left relying on Bing's implicit promise - that it can deploy their ads and allocate their spend more effectively than their own internal experts.
The question is, can this promise hold true?
Microsoft’s Take: “Instead of using positive or negative bid modifiers…all you need to do is define your goals, and Microsoft Advertising will fully optimize your campaigns across channels.”
2. The Risks of Giving Up Control Over Ad Placement
This issue is also related to the loss of bid modifier, the “Audience Participation”modifier. So why does it get its own headline?
Because the potential consequences of this change shouldn’t just worry your digital marketing experts — it should be keeping your legal and branding team members awake at night, too.
According to Microsoft, if one of your ads is missing creative assets, like image extensions, Bing’s AI will automatically insert a stock image.
This may sound innocent enough, but the potential fall-out from a poorly-picked stock asset includes:
- Inconsistent Messaging
- Loss of Brand Cohesion
- Damaged Public Perception
- Infringement of Advertising Laws/Regulations
While Bing's AI may indeed have the capability to select somewhat relevant images, it's critical to consider: when your reputation, legal standing, and ROAS are all at stake…is the risk worth it?
Microsoft’s Take: “Search and audience should work together and not in siloes. Reaching the same user across channels can lead to increased engagement and sales.”
3. Bing Misses Mark on Transparency
After multiple shake-ups to the digital marketing landscape by big players like Google, Apple, and now Bing, it only seems fair that digital marketers expect a modicum of transparency and communication.
But the hushed development and launch of the MCM system, along with its major changes, tell us something different - Bing doesn't seem to agree.
Let’s clarify this issue quickly.
We aren’t upset that a Bing representative didn’t reach out to give a “heads-up” to every digital marketing firm and professional in America. And we aren’t demanding that Microsoft provides an open window into their upcoming projects.
But we are upset that a change this significant, with direct impacts on our clients’ campaign visibility, ad distribution strategy, CPC, and ROAS was launched almost entirely “under the radar.”
By giving digital marketers so little runway to uncover, explore, and adjust approaches to this new system, we’ve had to scramble to evolve our campaigns, reexamine budget allocations, and entirely reimagine our approach to the platform.
And if you didn’t hear the news? (AKA - most digital marketers…)
Then, to quote a fellow CMO, “you could see marketing costs suddenly climb with little to no notice.”
As I’m sure you could tell, the PowerChord team isn’t thrilled about this situation.
Our mission to provide uncompromising innovation, service, and value to our clients sets a high bar — for ourselves, and the companies we partner with.
And sometimes that means we have to push back.
That’s why we’re digging into this update to uncover what it will really mean for our clients’ marketing success.
And in the meantime, we’ve halted all activity on Bing’s platform.
Yup. All of it.