In July, Microsoft Advertising announced its new partnership with Shutterstock. 

This partnership gives its advertisers access to 330 million free images to use in their display campaigns on the Microsoft Audience Network. 

The move was intended to help advertisers by saving them both time and resources when creating their advertising. With the Shutterstock API, they can select images and input their copy all inside the Microsoft platform. 

If you’re using Google Ads, this guide is also for you as this feature is also available for display campaigns. So, we’ve put together some top tips to selecting the best images using the Shutterstock APIs. 

What is the Microsoft Audience Network? 

The Shutterstock partnership currently only works for the Microsoft Audience Network, although it would make sense to roll out the API to search images in coming years. 

For those unfamiliar with the Microsoft Audience Network, it’s a pool of websites that you can run display campaigns on. It’s made from thousands of partner websites as well as Microsoft-owned programmes, including Skype, Outlook and LinkedIn. 

You can find out more about the Microsoft Audience Network here. 

So, let’s dive into what makes a good image for your advertising campaign. 

1. Make sure they’re relevant 

There’s no point capturing your audience’s attention for the wrong reasons.

Picture this (if you’ll excuse the pun). Someone is browsing through their favourite blog and sees this eye-catching image of someone eating delicious ice cream, topped with all the sprinkles and sauces you could imagine. They see that image and wow, it’s got their attention. They’re wanting an ice cream, so they read onto your ad. 

But your business isn’t an ice cream parlour. It’s actually a nail salon. You might have thought the person holding the ice cream had nice nails, but it’s not what grabs attention and draws people in. They came for ice cream and left disappointed. 

2. Think emotionally 

People buy with emotion and justify with logic. 

Purchases are always emotion-led. They buy because they think it’ll make them happy, because they’re scared of what will happen if they don’t buy, because they want to fit in with their friends etc. – there are all sorts of reasons. 

To make the most of your ads, you should think about the emotions that customers might have buying your product. Then, exaggerate them with your image. 

Let’s say you sell baby clothes. There’s a lot of emotions associated with this purchase, including love and excitement about raising a child. You should, therefore, pick photos that convey this emotion, building up the perfect image of a beautiful healthy baby and a loving family. 

stock photo family with baby smiling

3. Expressions count

Did you know that a smiling face can increase conversions?  

Happiness is contagious. If we see someone smiling, it makes us want to smile. It’s our base instinct to strive for happiness and we’re always drawn to it. 

Seeing someone smile in a photo doesn’t just lift your mood, it also makes you want to join them. If your product is making that person happy, then it must make others happy too. A smile can act as a second-hand testimonial about your product, giving your users trust to click and convert. 

Be careful not to go for fake smiles though. There’s nothing more off-putting than people staring at you with a fake Cheshire cat grin – especially if they’re in business wear. 

There’s a fine line between a natural smile and a creepy one. Do your best to not cross that line. 

4. Colours also play a role 

Certain colours can also play a role in enticing emotions or feelings within users. For example, blue can have a calming effect on people while red can show feelings of love or danger. 

In addition, colour can also create a tone for your advert. If you choose a warm colour pallet, (such as oranges, yellows and reds), users will naturally think about warmer things, such as sunlight and heat, providing a more positive impression of your picture. In contrast, cooler colour pallets (such as blues and greens), can feel emotionally distant. 

Natural pallets can also make your brand appear more professional, while bright colours can make your company seem childlike. 

Ready, Set, Action

These tips may seem like a lot of rules, but essentially it’s down to making sure that the picture you choose aligns with your campaign and the emotional response you want to create. 

Once you know that, you’re good to go with the new API. 

The Shutterstock API is currently available in the UK and the US but is expected to roll out to Canada, Australia and other countries later this year. If you’re using Google Ads, this feature is already available for display campaigns worldwide. 
Looking for more ways to improve your Microsoft campaigns? Take a look at some of the most underutilised Microsoft features here and how you can use them to your advantage.