News Article ————

ADM’s Approach to Balancing the Benefits and Challenges of New Machine Learning Ad Tools

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Published Date 29.08.2023

Accelerated Digital Media is a Chicago-based growth marketing agency focused on eCommerce and healthcare. As a Google Premier Partner, we often get advance access to the latest Google Ads tools, and we pride ourselves on mastering them quickly to keep our clients ahead of the curve.

But we’re equally committed to getting the most complete data insights to fuel continual account-wide improvement. Now that automation and machine learning play an increasingly outsized role in digital marketing, however, those two principles can sometimes be hard to reconcile.

Advanced machine learning is the bedrock of most new Google Ads implementations, like Smart campaigns and Performance Max. While these new technologies often outperform older, more manually-intensive campaign styles, they often end up being black boxes. They take some targeting control out of the hands of advertisers and let Google’s impressive data operations take the wheel.

We want to incorporate new, high-performing campaign tools without sacrificing the ability to pinpoint causality. When we learn what makes these automated campaigns so effective, we can often apply those concepts to other areas of the client’s Google Ads account, or even to their other marketing channels like social and programmatic.

Since Google (understandably) isn’t going to share what’s going on under the hood, it often takes diligence and creativity to glean those insights. Recent work that ADM did on behalf of one client demonstrates how we were able to do that with Performance Max campaigns. This work was the subject of our shortlisted entry for the 2023 U.S. Search Awards in the Best Use of Search – Fashion category.

The ADM team

Working Around the Performance Max “Black Box”

Our client, johnnie-O, sells high-quality, premium menswear. In late 2022, their goal was to increase revenue by at least 10% year over year, relying primarily on new customers to do so.

Performance Max campaigns can deliver ads in multiple formats across all channels in the Google advertising ecosystem—search, YouTube, display, Discovery, Maps, and Gmail. Google’s machine learning delivers to audiences predicted likely to convert, with limited advertiser input.

Performance Max campaigns had already shown incredible efficacy for countless eCommerce brands since their launch a year prior—and our quick mastery of them even earned us a shoutout on a 2023 Google Earnings call. To exceed johnnie-O’s revenue goals, however, we wanted to get even more out of them.

Our work to get better insights from Performance Max campaigns revolved around duplication and third-party scripts. We worked to replicate each campaign in a way that isolated specific types of Audience Signals to evaluate their impact, with all other elements in the original campaign remaining the same. This allowed us to estimate the influence each signal had on campaign performance.

We also used a third-party script to get a granular view of how much johnnie-O’s PMax campaigns were spending on each different ad format. That way, we could see which content types and styles delivered the best results so we could split them out into their own campaigns to avoid having them cannibalize budget.

In just the first few months, revenue from PMax rose by 84%. Account-wide, non-Search return on ad spend (ROAS) grew by 64% year-over-year. The full case study is available to read on our website.

Maximizing New Tools Requires Innovation

The rise of machine learning-based digital marketing tools heightens competition in digital marketing. In one sense, they level the playing field by building campaigns with the detail and accuracy that previously could only be achieved by the most expert marketers. Once they reach full saturation, however, the advantages will likely diminish somewhat: Price-pers will go up, outcomes will trend down.

To ensure that our clients continue to outpace their goals and competition, ADM will continue to approach these new tools not as cheat codes, but as challenges. The more we can learn from them, the better we can prepare our clients to keep improving their results even as the latest tech becomes standard practice.

To that end, our shortlisting for the U.S. Search Awards is both an honor and vindication for our approach.

“One of our firm’s core values is innovation,” our founder and CEO, Tellef Lundevall, said of this honor. “Making the U.S. Search Awards shortlist is a direct credit to our team’s ability to embrace challenges and innovate in the face of an ever-changing industry.”

ADM is proud to be in the company of the other agencies on the shortlist, and we’re excited to find out who wins later this year. Visit our case studies page to view more of the impressive work our team has done on behalf of our diverse client portfolio.

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