COLOGNE – With the ad industry’s preoccupation with premium video and digital media transparency, things like search engines tend to fly beneath the radar. But considering how search has morphed into personal digital assistants, it’s still a key driver of growth and opportunity for advertisers.

This is particularly resonant for Microsoft, which unveiled Bing in 2009 as the successor to MSN Search, Windows Live search and then simply Live Search. “People don’t understand the size of Bing,” says Bing Ads GM Steve Sirich.

In this interview with Beet.TV at the 2017 DMEXCO advertising and trade show, Sirich explains Microsoft’s ongoing digital transformation and how search represents real-life artificial intelligence (AI).

As for Microsoft’s transformation, Sirich points to cloud computing and data, the ability to harness data, analytics and processing and AI. “Those are three areas that are really kind of anchoring a lot of the effort at Microsoft,” Sirich says. In all three, “Bing and search play a big role.”

When Microsoft thinks of digital transformation, search is at the forefront. “It’s becoming very personal. The outgrowth in many ways is now the personal digital assistants,” including Microsoft’s Cortana,” says Sirich. “Search is the intelligence that powers those experiences that are really artificial intelligence. Search is becoming very pervasive.”

It’s not just desktop queries he’s referring to, as he cites the projected growth of Internet of Things. Today people connect with technology on an average of four devices but it could be more than 10 by 2020.

So it’s not possible to talk about AI without reference search because “It means new entry points. New ways that people are interacting with technology.”

Microsoft wants to help brands figure out how to connect with consumers in a voice-search environment, using data and analytics. “It means how do you take their graph and understanding of their customers and end up combining it with our Microsoft graph” to understand “how do you drive audience segmentation and targets that are going to drive higher ROI and higher conversion,” says Sirich.

Even though Google can seem to be all things to all people, Sirich says some underestimate the value of Bing. It handles some one-third of desktop personal computer searches in the U.S. and has double-digit query share of those searches in some 13 markets.

“It’s an opportunity for advertisers to really capitalize on those unique queries that they’re not seeing with our competitor Google but they’re seeing with Bing, and the ROI behind it.”

This video was produced as part of Beet.TV leadership series from DMEXCO, presented by NBCUniversal. For more videos from the series, please visit this page.