Blog Home Platform Solutions Why Microsoft Advertisers Are Seeing a 21% Lift with Shutterstock Imagery

Microsoft Advertising small-medium businesses are seeing upwards of 21% lifts in clicks, volume and revenue with the help of authentic, inclusive imagery that drives conversion.

Microsoft is determined to take the friction out of the user experience — so much so that they’ve streamlined a range of advertising workflows from search to display into one all-access platform. But as Microsoft Advertising started moving towards image-based formats, the product team discovered a gap in this otherwise streamlined user experience: access to quality creative content. 

Far too often, users had to leave the platform to find relevant, authentic imagery. Some advertisers spent hours searching for the right image, potentially paying large royalty fees. Others were unable to find imagery to best suit their needs and didn’t run image-based ads at all, losing out on a high-engagement format.

The common thread: small businesses were blocked, unable to compete against large advertisers with greater access to creative content.

“Without image assets, small businesses and search engine marketers were missing out on a lot of ad auctions, which meant they weren’t competing effectively, or even being considered,” says Microsoft Senior Program Manager Haily De La Cruz.

Photo by Pressmaster.

Microsoft’s product team knew that streamlining the ad creation process within the platform was critical to helping customers drive revenue, maximize their return on ad spend, and create compelling campaigns that resonate with consumers.

“We wanted to unblock those customers and make it as streamlined as possible to truly succeed, so they could actually compete against larger companies who have those resources,” says Haily. “We wanted to level the playing field.”

For Haily and his team, the solution was clear: provide instant access to high-quality images within the Microsoft Advertising interface — all at no cost to the user. 

Microsoft’s product team turned to Shutterstock Platform Solutions to build an API integration that would allow advertisers to search and license Shutterstock images within the Microsoft Advertising interface. 

Now, Microsoft advertisers have instant access to 360 million commercially-licensed images so they can quickly create campaigns and increase ad volume. Microsoft covers the licensing fees, so users can drive business with high-quality imagery, free of charge.

“This integration was all about reducing friction as much as possible so they could set up quickly and truly succeed,” says Haily.

Photo by GaudiLab.

But just having access to a huge collection of images isn’t enough — Microsoft wanted to make sure advertisers could easily find the right image for every campaign and audience.

“With Shutterstock’s huge library, we knew our customers could find not just any stock images, but images that were highly relevant for their audiences,” says Haily.

And relevance matters. Content with relevant imagery gets 94% more views than content without, and images that resonate deeply with a target audience have the power to boost conversion.

Microsoft research into trends in online advertising behavior showed that 85% of consumers say they consider purchasing if they trust the brand, and that trust was influenced by three key factors:

  1. Genuine and authentic connection
  2. Purposeful personalization
  3. Inclusive images and messaging

Upon further research into the psychology of inclusion in advertising, Microsoft found that the most inclusive ad, which contained multiple people across age, gender, ethnicity, and disability, drove a 23-point lift in purchase intent — whether the person who saw the ad was personally represented in it or not.

Photo by Sabrina Bracher.

Shutterstock’s diverse content library and advanced search tools allowed Microsoft to build solutions that would allow advertisers to create inclusive ads quickly and easily. 

In just a few clicks, advertisers can search through millions of images sourced from more than a million contributors representing 150+ countries.

Plus, Microsoft worked with Shutterstock to implement diversity filters, so users can filter search results by number of people, gender, ethnicity, age and more. These filters can help advertisers find the perfect image to connect with a target audience — all in a matter of seconds. 

Advertisers can now access Shutterstock imagery within the Microsoft Advertising UI, and filter by gender, ethnicity, age and more to find the perfect asset for a campaign.

“We want to make it easy for advertisers to portray realistic diversity and make genuine connections with their audiences,” says Mallory Harwood, Product Marketing Manager for Microsoft Audience Network. “Our people filters, powered by Shutterstock’s innovative AI search technology, help us put this mission into practice.”

Now, Microsoft advertisers are seeing the results.

So far, advertisers who have used Shutterstock images in campaigns are seeing a 21% lift in clicks and a 7% increase in click-through rates.

As users see greater returns with Microsoft Advertising, they want to create more campaigns so they can continue to scale customer acquisition.

“They see their marketing campaign as a profit center now,” says Haily. “Their requests for us are, ‘I just need more.’ And with easy access to images, they have the tools they need to create as many ads as possible. ” 

Now, advertisers are hitting their goals for ad volume and spending more — leading to a similar lift in Microsoft Advertising revenue upwards of 20%.


In just ten months, Microsoft’s partnership with Shutterstock has had a powerful impact for both advertisers and the Microsoft Advertising platform:

  • A streamlined workflow within the Microsoft Advertising platform allows users to create campaigns efficiently and scale ad volume
  • Advanced search technology helped Microsoft set a new standard in sourcing diverse, inclusive imagery
  • Access to millions of diverse, inclusive images helps advertisers create campaigns that resonate with audiences, build authentic connections, and convert
  • Improved user experience helped users achieve goals faster, and drove spend and ad revenue for Microsoft Advertising

“We are thrilled to see that in just the first ten months, advertisers are already seeing the impact of high-quality, inclusive imagery on volume and performance,” says Bhuvesh Arora, Program Manager for Microsoft Advertising. “Now, as we release this feature to all Microsoft advertisers, we’re excited to optimize our integration and grow with the Shutterstock API.”

Want to go behind the scenes with the Microsoft product team and learn more about their creative API strategy? Join us for a webinar on June 29, How Microsoft Advertising Unlocked a 21% Lift in Performance.

Featured photo by mavo.