Change makes it tough to optimize
So, LinkedIn is shuttering the ad network platform it acquired when it purchased Bizo roughly a year ago. They gave it a year, it didn’t really take off, so now it’s done. And they say they’ll concentrate on Sponsored Updates, the native ad feature they launched three years ago.
I’m sure they’ve got their reasons, but given that Lead Accelerator, the renamed Bizo Multichannel Nurture program, is also closing down, there will be a not insignificant number of advertisers who spent time and money testing the new LinkedIn tools that now have no way to take advantage of their investment and learnings. And, of course, anyone who worked hard to make Bizo work as a part of their B-to-B demand generation program needs to redouble their efforts to find a replacement. Slack and Company proposed LinkedIn’s network to a client last summer, and, thankfully, budgets cuts led us to focus solely on a trade publisher execution that had more limited reach, but targeting based on behavior. We’re going to be able to iterate with that trade publisher, and push for increased ROI. Had we gone with LinkedIn, there’d be no opportunity to optimize, right now. LinkedIn says it will do what it can to incorporate some of the features in new ways, so at least they are trying to mitigate the disruption.
For advertisers or agencies, therefore, the unfortunate truth is that experimenting with new LinkedIn tools is now a crapshoot. (Somewhat understandably) LinkedIn is in it for itself, and time, effort and money spent learning new LinkedIn tools has to be viewed through the lens of the potential for a wasted investment. (It is worth noting that LinkedIn will support Lead Accelerator through the end of the year.) We like and use Sponsored Updates, but we weren’t innovators when that became available, and there doesn’t seem to be much downside to letting others test it out first, for either branding or demand gen. We also plan to test out the new Account Targeting service when it makes sense. But we’ll be cautious about relying on it for any key elements of campaigns.
The facts that LinkedIn wasn’t first (or even early) with native advertising, there's no real innovation in the network function (they had a private label ad network several years ago, as well), and they’ve shuttered the platforms they acquired from Bizo suggests aggressively moving along with LinkedIn innovations can be a mistake. Next time, it may make more sense to judge a new offering by how others have launched similar functionality, and even to give it a bit of time to see if it can make a positive impact on LinkedIn’s bottom line. After all, if it doesn’t boost their bottom line, they aren’t going to worry about canceling a service that may have improved your bottom line.