Human v machine intelligence: Google has made its biggest change to Google Ads since… ever?
Performance Max is Google’s next iteration of campaign in Google Ads, and it’s at once exciting, scary, and powerful – and advertisers will have no choice but to learn how to use it, Indago Digital’s Gary Nissim writes. Automation and machine learning is rapidly replacing human intelligence, but maybe there’s a silver lining to that.
In November 2021, Google made its new campaign format, Performance Max, accessible to all of us – and I’m surprised that so few of us are talking about it.
Performance Max is Google’s next generation of smart campaign where an advertiser allows Google’s machine learning to serve and optimise ads across the entire Google ecosphere: Search, Shopping, YouTube, Gmail, Display, Discover, and Maps.
At this point you’re likely to be in one of two camps – horrified by the thought of relinquishing this type of power to the big G, or excited at the prospect of driving increased sales at a lower price with less effort. Maybe a bit of both?
Let’s look at what it is, how it works, what it means, and weigh up the pros and cons.
What is it?
Based on conversion goal(s), Performance Max leverages Google’s entire inventory from a single campaign. Once you’ve chosen a few things – budget, objective, geo targeting, landing pages, audience signals, and creative elements (assets) – your Performance Max campaign sets off in pursuit of potential customers across YouTube, Display, Search, Maps, Discover, Gmail, and all the rest of Google’s channels.
It combines Google’s understanding of user intent, behaviour and context (based on 3.8 million searches a minute!) with budget optimisation to serve your most engaging ads to the right people at the right time, capturing new conversion opportunities as a result.
Google reports that advertisers who use Performance Max campaigns in their account see an average increase of 13 per cent total incremental conversions at a similar cost per action.
What are the pros?
- Access to the entire Google ecosphere in one place, saving you time and providing scale.
- Using Google’s world beating machine learning to find the right customers in the right place at the right time.
- Tell Google who you think your audience is and let the machine find them for you – remember audience signals, not target audience.
What are the cons?
All the above? I don’t think I need to educate you here. This is the part that scares us all.
What I do need to say is that as great as Google’s machine learning tech is, it’s certainly not infallible. It needs to be set up perfectly, takes time to learn, can often run astray, changes in spend, and seasonality messes with it. Plus, it still needs a human (dare I suggest a human from a Google Premier Partner agency?) at the helm steering and ensuring the waters remain calm.
Who is it for?
I’ve read that it’s most relevant both for advertisers with unlimited budget looking to unlock unexpected customer segments and advertisers who have limited budget and don’t know where to invest it.
In my opinion, it’s relevant to everyone – from the inexperienced first-timer who has no idea what they’re doing, through to the most experienced acquisition marketer looking to squeeze out that final bit of ROI.
What do I do?
These new campaign types normally work well, and early adopters win. So I say get on board and start trialling.
The reality is that you don’t have much choice – and for some advertisers there is no choice – as Google has already started to replace some campaign formats (Smart Shopping and Local campaigns) with Performance Max. I’d be surprised if this format doesn’t become the only one available to us in the next few years.
The future of acquisition marketing
As automation and machine learning continue to develop and outpace human intelligence, the playing field will level out and the advertising opportunities available to marketers will become equal.
Marketing will no longer be fought (and won) on Google, Facebook and other platforms – we’ll all be using the same automated campaign types, like Performance Max. The fight will be won by having:
- Better creatives and messaging,
- Better product(s) with stronger price points,
- More useful and relevant content,
- Higher customer reviews and more frequent PR,
- An online experience that is superior.
And maybe that’s not the worst thing.
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Retail media growth and the secret sauce: Nando's sees 27% sales uplift, 70% new customers in Cartology omnichannel retail campaign with Fresh Magazine, social, front of store screens and more
Retail media is forecast to triple in size over the next five years from $850 million to $2.14 billion. It has become one of the most talked about emerging media sectors – and for good reason. It has a unique, data-led approach based on real customer insights and closed loop reporting, adding real accountability to campaign investment. Just ask fan favourite Nando’s.
And it continues its growth trajectory.