What the Oath/Bing Merger Means for SEM

September 12, 2019

4 Minute Read

In January, Microsoft and Verizon announced an agreement that makes Bing the sole search advertising platform for Verizon Media Group, formerly Oath Ad Platforms or as it’s more commonly referred to, Oath. Officials from both Microsoft and Verizon expected the transition to be completed by the end of March.

We watched. We waited. It’s done. So ends Yahoo search.

Bringing together the Verizon-owned properties of Yahoo search and AOL with Microsoft promises to have a huge impact on paid search advertisers and SEM.

In a statement, Microsoft/Bing estimated an increase of 10%-15% for SEM clicks in U.S. markets. The statement specifically noted brands that use Bing Ads should monitor their activity and budgets to get the most from this anticipated rise in volume.

Understanding a little background on Oath explains why this merger matters and what you should expect to see and do now that it’s done.

Oath Became Verizon Media Group on January 8, 2019

In June of 2017, Verizon acquired Yahoo and combined it with AOL in a media division called Oath. According to CNet, the plan was to quickly create a #3 digital advertising platform behind Google and Facebook.

This didn’t happen, however, as Oath revenue only reach $1.8 billion of its $10 billion 2018 goal. Perhaps worse was the fact that projections had Oath market share falling by nearly a full percentage point in 2018.

This led to Verizon rebranding Oath under the branding of Verizon Media Group in January 2019. It also brought Microsoft and Verizon together and heralded the end of Yahoo search.

Bing Ads Now Serve All Verizon Media Properties

Yahoo introduced the Gemini platform in 2014 as a platform for advertisers to purchase mobile search and native ads. In 2015, Yahoo and Microsoft changed a current agreement with Microsoft so Bing Ads would carry 51% of Yahoo desktop search traffic with the other 49% could running whatever Yahoo wanted (ie., from Gemini). The 2017 union of Yahoo and AOL resulted in the relabeling of Gemini as the Oath Ad Platform.

With the new 2019 agreement, all Verizon Media paid search will flow through Bing Ads. Google no longer has any Yahoo search inventory. This also means Bing Ads will serve solely on other properties including Yahoo.com, AOL.com, Huffington Post, AOL, and Yahoo Mail, tumblr., and TechCrunch as well as any Verizon-owned properties.

What You Should Expect from the Bing/Oath Merger

If you were running paid search campaigns through the Oath Ads Platform, you will be using Bing Ads. This will add some new features which we believe paid search marketers are going to love.

Mobile performance for Bing Ads is likely to get a boost now that Bing is exclusively serving to Verizon Media properties.

Native advertising will also be affected.

  • Native ad inventory on MSN is now exclusively available to Verizon Media/Oath Ad Platforms’ Native Marketplace
  • Microsoft Audience Network native ads can reach Verizon properties
  • The Bing Ads UI will report Verizon Media native ad performance under syndication traffic

What You Should Do if You Use Oath Ad Platforms

Microsoft has advised advertisers to keep running campaigns in Verizon Media/Oath Ad Platforms and also run parallel campaigns in Bing Ads. This way you can ensure you don’t lose any traffic and accommodate shifts in ad spend.

Other steps we recommend include:

  1. Audit your Bing Ads. Are you capturing the full opportunity as a result of this change?
  1. Monitor your traffic. With more mobile traffic likely, it’s important to be craft a plan to optimize your SEM plan to meet the new audience.
  2. Review budgets. Are you ready for an increase in traffic and presumably clicks?

The Ultimate Impact of the Oath/Bing Merger

No one knows yet how big an impact this merger will have on SEM.

We do know paid search marketers win with the consolidation of two platforms (less work!). But it begs the question, is there really an increased audience or will they be exchanging market share?

Until we know, it’s imperative SEM’s using Oath get up-to-speed on Bing. Every SEM also needs to monitor their Bing Ads closely to see how it is truly affecting their brand.

We expect the impact will vary from one brand to another. If you have any questions about how this will affect you, please reach out and let’s talk.

Curtiss Gulash - Director, Paid Media

Curtiss Gulash

When Curtiss is not being a Brewmeister, brewing amazing craft beers at Big Cat Brewing Company, in Cedar, Michigan, he is BFO’s Paid Media Team Lead with a specialty in marketing automotive brands. Curtiss is known for his super-human energy and loves taking a project from start to completion. He understands the world of digital media through and through and manages to juggle multiple curveballs, be a terrific team player, and a super coach to his staff.