Google Performance Max Campaigns Now Available to All Advertisers
This article was written by Jason Hartley. As Head of Search and Shopping, Jason oversees PMG’s holistic approach to search across their client portfolio. A senior member of PMG’s Center of Excellence (COEs), he consults on media strategies across clients like Nike and Gap brands. He also leads PMG’s holistic approach to privacy. Alongside his work at PMG, Jason is a member of the Google Performance Council and ANA Ethics Policy Committee.
Today, Google announced that Performance Max is now available to all advertisers, with the product positioned as the most effective way to buy ads across YouTube, Google Display, Google Search, Google Discover, Gmail, and Google Maps from a single campaign. By allowing advertisers to widen their aperture when targeting consumers across the Google ecosystem, Performance Max enables them to focus more on outcomes, not channels.
Performance Max is an automated solution for digital advertisers to help increase conversions across Google’s full range of advertising channels and ad inventory. Compared to Smart Shopping, Performance Max will show in more places, in more formats, have additional bidding options, and added control using audience signals. In many ways, Performance Max is an additional layer to expand reach and improve results, but not a replacement for current tactics. According to the announcement, Performance Max will “complement keyword-based Google Search campaigns,” as the technology empowers advertisers to increase conversions and value, identify new customers, garner consumer insights, and integrate greater automation into the digital marketing experience.
As with any new Google product that leans heavily on automation, advertisers need to be wary of the potential pitfalls of this approach. For instance, an ecosystem-based approach via Performance Max means that Google will be casting a wider net for potential conversions. Current algorithms have shown a tendency to go extremely broad, then narrow, which means that ramping up (e.g., due to a promotion) results in a significant portion of the budget being spent less efficiently during that learning period. This could be amplified if the same dynamic was applied to all of Google’s properties. Additionally, many advertisers’ organizations are designed with channels in mind, as noted above.
Blurring those lines will present challenges for forecasting, budgeting, and reporting, which are crucial, especially for retail brands that take a granular approach to their data. There could also be measurement challenges, including attribution, media mix modeling, and integrations with partners like Adobe. Finally, there will still be a need for practitioners to create and manage these campaigns to ensure maximum performance as well as to maintain brand safety. All these potential challenges will be critical for advertising leaders to work through in the months to come. Still, it’s important to note that Performance Max becoming available to all advertisers is more than just a product announcement.
Google reports that Performance Max campaigns “will also become the next generation of Smart Shopping and Local campaigns, which will both upgrade to Performance Max next year.” A date for this update hasn’t been set, but historically, Google has pushed back significant product enhancements to allow advertisers and partners more time to prepare, so the timeline could be flexible. Taking these updates into consideration, it’s clear that Google is signaling a desire to blur — if not eliminate — channel distinctions, a change that’s no longer in the distant future but within this year’s product roadmap and planning cycle.
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“The implications for this shift are profound, not only for advertisers but for business leaders as the pandemic-induced digital transformation has entwined the fates of all tech platforms,” said Keri Boerner, PMG’s search director. “It’s crucial, then, for marketers to start planning for the future now, beginning with the adoption of a test-and-learn approach to Performance Max. We recommend advertisers keep these updates in mind for 2022 planning as testing these solutions will be critical for being set up for success. Yet, for the final months of 2021 as brands are focused on ending the year strong, there are no immediate implications.”