Card-Linked Offers Address Local Audiences With Transaction Data

microsoft-neal-bernsteinAs part of Microsoft’s entry into the world of online “offers” with a product known as Bing Offers, Microsoft recently announced a new enhancement called “Bing Offers Card-Linked” (see the Microsoft blog post).

The product brings together transaction processors such as First Data with payment networks like MasterCard to address consumer audiences with offers fueled by transaction data.

The targeting implications are clearly attractive to marketers given the bottom-of-the-funnel nature of the data — assuming it is sensitive to privacy concerns.

The “card-linked” component is the outcome of the new CardLinx Association, which includes Microsoft, Facebook, Cardlytics, MasterCard, First Data and others (read the release).

Neal Bernstein is Senior Director at Microsoft and Microsoft Bing Advertising Group, and is responsible for card-linked offers as well as strategic partner relationships involving local ad products.

Bernstein discussed the product and its potential impact with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Can you talk about the challenge with local advertising or local marketing today and how card-linked offers could be a solution?

NEAL BERNSTEIN: We decided to get into card-linked offers because local ad products, in general, have limited targeting available. When I say limited targeting, you do get the explicit, and sometimes even implicit, intent of a consumer based on what they’re searching for. For example, I’m looking for a specific restaurant in Las Vegas, and we get back the relevant result as well as the relevant local ads associated with it — but that’s about it.

With card-linked offers, over time we’ll be able to do a better job of targeting and connecting that advertiser to the consumer in ways that we can’t do today — in ways where, if that consumer is a patron of a certain merchant, they may see one type of ad, and if they’re not a patron of a particular merchant they may see a different ad. The offer that the merchant may provide to a current consumer vs. a new consumer could be very different. As well, over time, the ability to deliver loyalty in order to reach that consumer on a repeated basis is another challenge we are addressing here.

And then on the consumer side, we saw the friction in the offline redemption process. Of course, it’s all about connecting the digital advertising with the physical world, but the way in which that’s been delivered many times is a piece of paper or something in the mobile application that the consumer has to then show the merchant. It simply creates friction.

With this new Bing Offers Card-Linked implementation, there is no paper and there is no requirement of a mobile application or anything in order to complete a redemption.

This feels very much like a direct-response type of solution. Is there a brand awareness opportunity, too? In other words, it’s CPA-driven vs. CPM-driven where reach and frequency may matter to brand awareness marketers.

From a brand awareness point of view, yes, there are ways that they can take advantage of it. Today we think of it in terms of those national brands that have local presence. I would also think about it in terms of those national brands that want to drive the sale of a specific product.

So whether it’s a McDonald’s or a Starbucks or Target, you name it, this gives them the ability to have a CPA-based model associated with that ad — whether that ad is a display ad or a search ad — in order to drive a lead, in order to drive a customer into their local story. That’s, No. 1, how it applies to the brand advertiser today.

No. 2, it can apply to the product-specific promotions of a brand: a specific Nike tennis shoe promotion for Sports Authority, for example, which links an offer to that specific sale of that product in the store.

Today we’re not doing what we call SKU-level card-linking, but there are others in the industry that are, and over time I’m sure we will as well.

Is there a connection to Bing Search somehow?

The connection would be associated with any of the Microsoft publishers that we serve advertising into, and Bing is one of them. Of course, there’s MSN and, and Skype, and others.

Specific to search, the opportunity there is that the local search advertiser over time will have more opportunities to choose from. Today we’re not doing this, but over time you can imagine that that local advertiser that’s running the search ad could choose a click-to-call model, which we offer today. They could choose a CPC model, which we have today. They can choose to have local extensions in order to further highlight their business within the search ad. Over time you can imagine these other products being associated with a search ad as well as the purchase.

What’s in it for the transaction processor or the credit card network like MasterCard? Why are they getting involved?

The CardLinx Association has brought together a great spectrum of participants that include publishers like Microsoft and Facebook, acquirers like Groupon and Living Social, processors like First Data, issuers like Bank of America and Discover and network association members like MasterCard. We’re all doing it for a common purpose, and that’s to create interoperability and business standards, in order to drive more scale and liquidity of demand.

What’s in it for them is more value that they can deliver to their consumers, to their cardholders, and to their merchants rather than just simply being a processor. They are able to actually facilitate this targeting because they have the transaction data. And, they’re able to facilitate the targeting not just from the data but also as a publisher — which you’re seeing companies like Bank of America doing. Over time, this potentially creates some preference with the consumer to use one card over another card because there’s a better offer associated with it.

Marketers have always sought that holy grail of one-to-one communication. Along those lines, how do you see this offering as another step toward more relevance in marketing or paid advertising, specifically? 

We’re not doing that today with the beta that we have launched in Seattle, but with consumers’ permission, we’re able to get information from the association, the processor, potentially even from the issuers, that allows us to profile these consumers in a totally anonymous way, so that it knows that “Neal” has kids, a dog and travels and dines out frequently. Based upon on additional what I’ll call “offline spend analytics,” the advertisers then have an ability to do better targeting so that when Neal visits a publisher, he sees offers that are relevant to his offline spend behavior and the advertiser is able to create unique advertising for Neal based upon his offline spend behavior.

It’s a fine line. We believe we’ve got to be careful as far as just how granular that is from an audience perspective, because ultimately, if you create too many filters that are too defined, there won’t be enough of an audience that’s relevant to the advertiser. Of course, the other side of it is the privacy and anonymity associated with that particular consumer and his spend behavior.

We don’t know, for example, that Neal specifically goes to this restaurant, but we know that Neal meets the profile of someone who likes to dine out frequently.

So — absolutely the opportunity of driving more relevance in advertising for both the marketers and the consumers [is possible] because of the permission to utilize the offline spend data as part of that relevance targeting.


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