In recent years, “Automation” has been somewhat of a buzzword in the world of biddable media. For a long time, the promise of fruitful automated campaigns fuelled by intricate machine learning didn’t fulfil expectations, forcing account managers to continue relying on manual management in order to deliver the best results. But, things have changed.
Over the last few months, we’ve seen a huge shift in how reliant we can be on the advertising platforms we use for online growth. Automation on platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads and even Microsoft Ads has come on leaps and bounds, giving biddable media managers the opportunity to harness its power and focus on the most important aspect of any campaign – strategy.
If you’re an advertiser and you’re scared to let go of your manual bidding ways, then let this be the article that nudges you out of your comfort zone.
The state of ad automation today
We’ve come a long way since Google’s 2007 “conversion optimiser” was first launched, (the automation that helped advertisers reach a CPA target for their ads…if they had at least 300 conversions over a 30 day period.)
In fact, over the last few years, machine learning automation systems have advanced hugely, meaning the ad automation on offer in 2020 is far more dynamic than the lacklustre options we started out with. In addition, ad platforms now have far easier access to the data needed to make automation work as well as it does.
There are now over nine different automated bidding strategies on Google Ads alone, while paid social channels also rely heavily on automated bidding. Even Microsoft Ads has followed in Google’s footprints.
Google’s Dynamic Search Ads, Responsive Search and Display Ads have also paved the way for keyword and ad creative automation, showing that bidding is not the only place that machine learning can help us.
What’s clear is that ad automation is finally in full force, yet some advertisers are afraid to let go of the reigns.
It’s time to let strategy take over
There’s no shortage of proof that demonstrates how automation is helping companies to generate better results with their digital advertising. Head to Google’s ‘Think With Google’ blog and you’ll find an array of case studies demonstrating just that.
But Google also talks about how, in the age of automation, the human element is more important than the automation itself. This is where people-powered strategy comes in, allowing advertisers to unleash their personal creativity to harness automated results even further. In turn, bringing a whole new purpose to the people whose jobs were once to change bids on exact match keywords.
But what does the word “strategy” really mean in practice? Firstly it means trusting in the automated tools enough to utilise them as a core part of your overall campaigns strategy. Then, it means thinking about how you can use different automation tools to better meet your user’s needs in a more dynamic, intuitive way, in turn, lifting results and breaking barriers.
Advertisers getting more out of peak times with ad automation
The last quarter of 2019 saw some amazing results come out of the use of automation. And, most excitingly, a lot of these included incredible Black Friday and Christmas results.
Historically, advertisers have treated these dates as too precious to risk letting the machines lose on them only to get it all wrong. In previous years, it has made sense to maintain as much control as possible to ensure ad accounts met the steep and important targets associated with the busy shopping period.
But, last year it was different – and the sheer act of having more advertisers place their trust in automation during such key dates was a big deal in the world of Biddable Media.
An example of an automated ad strategy
So, let’s talk about what you can do to get the most out of 2020’s busy periods (and non-peak times, too!)
Firstly, as with any strategy, you need to have clear goals and targets. This is important to highlight as depending on what these are, you may want to use different automated bidding or ads. Ecommerce examples of these might be to increase revenue, increase impression share across competitors or sell X amount of certain products. As long as your goals are clear, that’s all that matters.
Once you have these, decide on what biddable channels you’re going to use. You can choose a mix of channels in order to target your audience across every possible touchpoint.
Then it’s time to weave them together, using the automation features of each channel to work towards the main goal. To highlight how this might work in action, I’ve broken down the channels and strategies we used for a successful campaign last year. Take a look:
Increase Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) and revenue YOY
Google Search, Google Shopping
- We ran Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaigns which focussed on the best-selling brands and products. We changed these campaigns from manual bidding to automated target ROAS bidding in order to ensure we’d only spend based on ROAS. We funnelled more budget into these campaigns to ensure a better return on the products we know would sell better.
- We created further lower priority DSA campaigns to target the less valuable and/or less popular products. However, we ran these campaigns on an automated Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) bid to limit needless spend. This would allow us to generate valuable conversions at an affordable cost that we knew would contribute towards the overall ROAS.
- We split our shopping campaigns similarly, creating one shopping campaign targeting the best-selling brand and products. Then we created a lower priority “catch-all” campaign that ensured we were visible for as many other products as possible – without the risk of spending so much that the ROAS would be affected.
- Then, we changed the shopping campaign’s bid strategy to automation. Shopping ads, we implemented Optimised Smart Shopping (OSS) automation with seasonal adjustments. This automation accounts for sudden increases in conversion rates during peak periods – ideal for this short, but important campaign.
This strategy worked so well because we were able to rely on automation to do the granular tasks that take time. Previously, we would have kept tight control over the bidding and the ads in an account like this – especially during such a peak period.
But by letting go of granular manual management, we were able to focus on bringing together a more intelligent strategy that reached our client’s targets in a more dynamic and proactive way. The results of this campaign were incredible – not only did we meet both goals, we exceeded them!
It’s time to let go of your manual ways
Whatever your gut tells you about giving more control to the automated tools, I’m here to tell you it’s ok. We’ve gone through the teething stage, and it works better now. What’s more, it’s only going to improve. Every major biddable channel is now more invested than ever when it comes to creating innovative automation solutions for advertisers.
My view is clear – automation is an opportunity! Instead of panicking about automation making jobs obsolete, instead, focus on the power it’s giving you as an advertiser. Automation alone can’t generate amazing results. But, with its help, you can now devise intricate, intelligent and powerful strategies that will help your biddable media campaigns do even better.
So, when you’re planning your next campaign, think about how you can let go of the manual reigns and get creative about how automation can work for you.