How Advertisers Can Take Advantage of Google’s Performance Max Campaigns

At Google’s Marketing Live conference in May, the company said it would double down on Performance Max campaigns, which automate campaigns in real-time to meet advertiser KPIs. For Performance Max campaigns, Google uses smart bidding and machine learning to place ads in the right place at the right time to boost conversions. 

Performance Max campaigns will automatically replace Smart Shopping and Local campaigns by September, retaining many of the same settings while adding new automation insights, new goals and smart bidding options, and new inventory across YouTube, Search, and Discovery.

In Google’s own words, “Performance Max combines Google's automation technologies across bidding, budget optimization, audiences, creatives, attribution, and more. They're all empowered by your specific advertising objective (for example, if you have a CPA or ROAS target) and the creative assets, audience signals, and optional data feeds you provide.”

But there’s the rub. Automation on Google’s end may make it easier to craft effective digital advertising campaigns, but it does not completely take the burden off advertisers and agencies to create effective campaigns at scale. For Performance Max campaigns to work, advertisers need to supply creative, audience data, and campaign goals against which the Google machine can optimize.

Here’s what advertisers and agencies need to do to make the most of Performance Max campaigns and best distribute their ads across all Google’s properties, including search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and partner display sites.

Develop compliant creative and provide high-quality assets

Perhaps the toughest challenge when it comes to Performance Max campaigns is developing enough creative inventory to provide Google what it needs to optimize ads across several different properties and many different ad types. Campaigns have different requirements in terms of image size and product presentation; they also come with divergent small rules like whether a logo is allowed. 

Mastering Performance Max campaigns means providing creative to succeed at all these different formats. This is especially challenging for agencies that serve dozens, if not hundreds, of clients. Supplying thousands of images can get overwhelming.

There are a few capabilities marketers need to develop to overcome these challenges. For one, it is helpful to gain a view into all Google’s different campaigns and their requirements at a high level to understand what creative assets are required. Secondly, marketers will need to supply different iterations of creative to present their products effectively across properties. Finally, Google is increasingly emphasizing video, so marketers will need to provide high-quality images as fuel for automated video creation. 

Establish transparency at scale

When selling PMax campaigns to advertisers, Google essentially says, “Wow! These campaigns drive much better conversion rates.” No doubt, marketers will appreciate the help. But if Google is deciding where and when advertisers’ campaigns and assets show up, marketers, and especially agencies managing many brand campaigns, will need a way to visualize what’s going where and gain some control.

Here, too, tools can help marketers visualize where their assets are going across Google properties and ad types. They can also help marketers set budget parameters so that even when campaigns are automated, marketers can maintain some control over how much they are spending and on what.

Agencies can also use tools to exercise some control over automated advertising. For example, for responsive search ads, a cousin to the PMax campaign, Google might ask for 15 headlines and tell you it will choose where and when to show them and to whom. But marketers can use software to pin top headlines, letting Google do some of the optimization while still setting priorities to reflect brand strategy. Agencies can use these measures to help advertisers regain a sense of control while still benefiting from the added efficiency and performance of Google’s automation.

Provide privacy-compliant audience data

The third imperative for marketers looking to maximize the value of PMax campaigns is to provide the richest possible privacy-compliant audience data. This is no small task when Google itself is shuttering the third-party cookie on Chrome and other privacy changes are making it tougher to collect, store, and share consumer information.

Software can help marketers unify privacy-compliant data across platforms to make the most of the information available to them. This is especially helpful for agencies who need to help dozens of brands navigate a world of less readily available audience data. With custom data enrichment and integration software, agencies can figure out what each advertiser needs to do to expand their first-party data inventory and how to safely share it with Google (and Facebook) to optimize campaigns. 

Ultimately, when Google says PMax campaigns are a step in the right direction that will capitalize on automation to drive more effective advertising, the company is right. Advertisers just need some help to make that automation work for them and establish transparency into it. With the right tools, agencies can do just that — for themselves and as many as hundreds of clients.

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