Google and Facebook Keep Evolving. How Do Marketers Keep Up?

Anyone who works with digital marketers has likely heard the following refrain: “I like that Google and Facebook keep evolving their ad products, but how do I keep up?”

The search and social giants continuously develop new ad products to help advertisers better reach customers. But as a result, learning how to navigate the platforms is a never-ending process that prevents small to mid-sized agencies from focusing on their true differentiators: superior client service, analytics, and creative solutions.

Figuring out how to overcome the continuous onslaught of ad platform updates requires clearly articulating the challenges platform changes present and defining possible solutions. To that end, let’s review how Google and Facebook are constantly evolving, why it is tough for agencies to keep up, and how agencies can tackle the problem.

How Digital Ad Platforms Constantly Evolve

Google and Facebook constantly roll out new products, ad formats, and bidding strategies. Many of these make digital advertising on the platforms more effective, but they also require time on agencies’ part to learn how to maximize the value of new assets and sharpen strategy.

For example, Google has been developing verticalized ad products that help local and multi-location service providers emphasize industry-unique offerings. This will help businesses like landscapers, home services and security providers, and pool cleaners. But for the agencies serving those businesses, the new verticalized offerings mean rejiggering strategy and possibly creative.

Another example is Google’s impending replacement of expanded text ads with responsive search ads. Come June 30, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads, instead needing to shift to responsive search ads. The latter adapt to show more relevant ads to consumers, which will likely benefit advertisers in the long term, but the forced switch will leave many agencies scrambling next month — and changes like this happen all the time.

In addition to new ad products and formats, agencies also need to get a handle on evolving analytics and keep up with privacy changes. For example, Facebook advertisers just about lost the ability to track users as they left the mobile app last year due to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy, and similar changes are coming to desktop with the demise of third-party cookies. Optimizing in the face of these trends is tough for large agencies and adtech companies, and in the case of more modest outfits, it can be debilitating. 

Why It is Tough for Ad Agencies to Keep Up

To cope with the complexity of digital ad platforms, some agencies have built automation solutions to simplify campaign management. But major changes routinely throw a wrench in those solutions. Then, agencies don’t just need to manage the complexity of campaigns. They also need to adapt the APIs they’ve configured to deal with the complexity of the platforms in the first place.

The core issue in the case of small and mid-size agencies is one of scale and limited expertise. Typically, in an agency, there are a few execution-level operatives with a deep well of knowledge about how to optimize campaigns on the ad platforms and how to do that for each of the agency’s verticals. It is hard enough to scale that expertise and share it with more junior campaign managers in steady times; in periods of disruption, it becomes all but impossible.

The business consequences of this inability to keep up with the pace of platform changes are stark. If mid- to high-level employees are running around coordinating campaigns, reconfiguring automation protocols, and figuring out platform changes, they cannot devote adequate time to the strategic and creative needs that differentiate one agency from another. In addition, junior employees get burnt out as they struggle to cope with the increased workload and relearn tactics. The result is turnover and less impactful service, which diminishes agency value. 

How Agencies Will Overcome Platform Changes

Technology, especially its fast and ongoing evolution, is the cause of many of digital marketers’ woes, but it is also the foundation of their discipline and can be the solution to inefficiencies. Obviously, there is no stepping away entirely from the ad giants, which so many marketers use because they provide the best means of reaching consumers with targeted marketing at scale. So, what marketers need is the ability to manage changes, minimize their impact, and accelerate speed to value.

Only the largest agencies have the personnel on staff to continually reprogram their automation protocols, and even then, large agencies, too, are notoriously suffering from burnout. To swiftly adapt to ad platform changes, agencies large and small will need to embrace flexible solutions that maintain pace with Google and Facebook’s changes with little upkeep from the agency itself. This next level of automation will keep agencies one step ahead of the ad platforms on which their clients depend.

If agencies conquer platform changes, they can focus their talent on what truly differentiates them from the competition — and on what only humans, not automation, can accomplish: superior service, engaging creative, and optimizations borne of critical thinking. If agencies meet those objectives, their clients will take note, and their employees will, too.

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