At the Google Marketing Live keynote this morning, Google announced a number of new features for marketers focused around enhanced automation of ad creation and management, deeper insights for advertisers, and tighter integration across their newly renamed suite of advertising products.
Google Marketing Live (Previously Google Marketing Next) is Google’s annual advertising summit, where they unveil upcoming products and solicit feedback. This year Google expanded the size of the event (to over 2,500 attendees), 65% of which represented brands and 35% of which represented agencies. Following the company’s trend of global alignment, half of the attendees are from outside the US.
One of the most exciting elements of this event is the fact that after the external keynote, the content shifts to direct presentations from the Google leaders who are directly driving the evolution of Google’s advertising and measurement products. iProspect has attended this event each year since its inception in 2013, and it’s always incredibly rewarding to connect directly with the product owners of our favorite features to discuss opportunities and ideas for future iterations.
The Announcements – More than Just Rebranding
Google surprised the marketing community a few weeks ago with its pre-event announcement introducing new advertising brands Google Ads, Google Marketing Platform, and Google Ad Manager. Several long-standing product names (including AdWords and DoubleClick) are being retired completely. While these name changes are a very visible representation of Google’s ongoing alignment of all of their ad products, iProspect believes that this change was announced prior to the event so that it didn’t overshadow the actual product updates.
During the livestream, Google shared multiple new features and changes to existing products, grouped into three primary areas of updates: “Better Results,” “Simpler Experiences,” and “Stronger Collaboration.” Given the ongoing sensitivity and growing importance of data protection, Google focused heavily on the importance of transparency and trust, for advertisers and consumers alike.
What it Means for Advertisers
iProspect sees two key themes emerging from the announcements that will ultimately be beneficial for advertisers: deeper cross-channel integration and a shift toward automation. Google products continue to evolve to create a fully cross-channel, automated ecosystem, increasing an advertiser’s visibility into performance impact while simultaneously reducing the need for intensely manual executional efforts.
1. Deeper cross-channel integration: With the announcement of Cross-Device reporting and remarketing in Google Analytics and the evolution of 3rd party measurement, we see a convergence of the digital ecosystem. The new Local campaigns carry this philosophy outside of the digital space, with ads specially built via machine learning to drive in-store visits. Advertisers will have unparalleled visibility into a consumer’s cross-channel behavior and new avenues to optimize the entire consumer journey.
The merger of Hotel campaigns (formerly Hotel Ads) into the Google Ads platform (formerly known as Google AdWords) is a significant win for hospitality industry. This will give Hoteliers an unprecedented ability to share learnings/data across the SERP and optimize each search interaction against the ideal ad response within each paid element. Our conjecture is that this will also bring with it the opportunity to share audiences across the Google Ads platform and ultimately apply paid search audience learnings into the Hotel Ad optimization strategy.
As part of this, we also see product evolution. Google continued to tout YouTube as a performance marketing channel with a focus on ad types and targeting. New enhancements to TrueView for action, the direct-response ad format announced earlier this year, provide additional functionality for marketers focused on driving KPIs that go beyond engagement. The TrueView for reach ad format expands this functionality beyond conversion-based KPIs, which delivers true accountable brand marketing focused on delivering tangible brand lift results, and pairs nicely with the newly announced maximize lift YouTube automated bidding option.
Ultimately, this shift toward cross-channel integration and visibility will present a significant opportunity for advertisers to re-think their optimization strategy and isolate opportunities to cost-effectively hit consumers at each stage of their digital journey.
2. Shift toward automation: We continue to see evolutions in Google’s advertising platform that lend themselves to further automation--everything from Responsive search ads (which automate ad selection) to a broadening of Google’s Smart Campaigns (which effectively automate everything in a search campaign from ‘soup to nuts’). While some advertisers are admittedly cautious about embracing these automated solutions, the power of machine learning and AI is proven time and time again to improve campaign performance.
For example, iProspect has been testing Responsive search ads with a number of our clients. Responsive search ads allow an advertiser to upload options for the ad headline (up to 15 headlines) and ad descriptions (up to four descriptions). The system then assess the ideal combination of ad output, based on possible combinations and expected performance. Not only this, but Responsive Search Ads get the benefit of an extra headline (three, instead of two) and a longer description (up to 180 characters, instead of 80). The speculation was certainly high about the benefit, especially considering the reduction in perceived control of the ad format. However, our client portfolio has seen improvement in CTR and a decrease in CPC across the board for all Responsive Ads since launch.
Smart Shopping Campaigns and Automated feeds also represent the shift toward automation, allowing a fully automated Shopping solution for cross-platform visibility. Shopping Campaigns have innately been more automated than Text Ads since launch. Advertisers do not get control over keyword level details - instead the Google algorithm pulls in the most qualified products based on the structured data in the product feed. Its success and subsequent expansion is evidence of the value of increasingly automated ad formats.
Ultimately, iProspect sees a strong opportunity with the influx of automation we’re seeing from Google and the rest of the industry, as long as it’s done with care and human oversight. We know a machine’s algorithmic output is only as good as the information fed into it. As such, we encourage diligent manual oversight, including critical review of inputs and ongoing evaluation of performance. It’s this combination of strategic oversight and powerful automation that unlocks new opportunities and improved performance in any digital marketing campaign, and Google’s commitment to continually evolve their toolset provides new, powerful solutions for advertisers who lean into the changes.
Jeremy Hull, VP, Innovation, also contributed to this post.