Google Enhanced Campaigns Force The Mobile Ad Issue
Consumer mobility is rewriting the rules to digital advertising. In what is no longer a purely desktop-dominated landscape, advertisers have to connect with a consumer constituency that moves fluidly from desktop/laptop to tablet to smartphone to television screen. This connectivity continuum transcends time and space restrictions, making marketing communications a 24/7, all-device battlefield.
Recognizing this burgeoning paradigm shift, Google last week launched Enhanced Campaigns for AdWords in an attempt to accelerate the adoption of mobile search advertising. Throughout its announcement, Google refers to this as a “first step” for enhanced multi-device campaign management. Let’s hope so. These changes will have a significant impact on AdWords advertising, and I can’t escape the belief that advertisers at polar opposites of the sophistication spectrum are being brought closer together as a result.
Enhanced Campaigns specifics
There have been dozens of articles written on this topic in the past week, but none are more complete than Alistair Dent’s “Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns: The Good, Bad & Uncool.” I won’t attempt to unpack the many layers to the announcement here; go read Dent’s piece for that detail. It is important to understand the broadest strokes, though:
- Desktop and tablet are now treated as synonymous devices. Advertisers will have less granular control, and desktop-only campaigns will now be displayed across tablet devices. Tablet-specific optimization is being eliminated, likely resulting in auction inefficiencies and increased competition.
- Mobile (phone) campaigns are now grouped with desktop/tablet. Separate bidding for mobile devices will still be possible via a mobile “multiplier” at the campaign level. This will allow for desktop versus mobile bidding strategies -- but not keyword-level bid optimization. Though many leading thinkers in paid search believe that “bid optimization” is less important than “Quality Score optimization,” the auction inefficiencies that will likely result are sure to inflate average CPC amounts.
- No mobile-only campaigns. The real impact of grouping mobile and desktop campaigns together will be felt by advertisers that currently have mobile-optimized programs targeting one- or two-term “head” keyword phrases. Now, in order to maintain that visibility across mobile devices, advertisers will have to develop an equivalent desktop presence. Generally speaking, head terms are often costly and yield lower conversion throughput.
The advertiser’s perspective
For the everyday, low-volume, unsophisticated advertiser, Enhanced Campaigns are a good thing. Mobile advertising will be made simpler to navigate – both in campaign setup and analytics-enabled insight. Many of the legitimate enhancements being made are welcome additions, and I think the long tail of AdWords advertisers (which comprise Google’s largest advertising segment) will see value in these tools.
But the biggest gripes will come from large(r), sophisticated AdWords advertisers. Melissa Mackey, a leading voice in search marketing and author of the Beyond The Paid search blog, shared her top concerns:
1. Lack of control and fear of rising costs. “Google’s positioned this as a big win for advertisers, but the PPC community is frustrated with the lack of control, and fears that CPCs will go up across the board as a result.”
2. Managing allocated budgets. “A big implication for larger advertisers and those heavily invested in a mobile strategy is that there will no longer be separate budgets for mobile campaigns. Without the ability to set budgets for mobile-only campaigns, account managers will need to go through several hoops in order to be sure they are spending the right amount.”
3. Bid management technologies keeping pace. “Advertisers using bid management platforms have the added worry not only on the timing of the platforms in supporting Enhanced Campaigns, but in making sure they function the way they want them to.”
These “enhancements” come at a price for advertisers like Mackey. The inherent inefficiencies in these simplifications are likely to hurt performance, at least until the new features are better understood.
A strategic long-view
Optimism over what this could signal remains high, though. Richard Zwicky, CEO and Chairman of BlueGlass Interactive, believes the changes make strategic sense for Google, though acknowledges this is an aggressive first step. “If you take a long-term perspective, Google’s Enhanced Campaigns launch may indicate their belief that the decline in desktop search – first seen in October 2012 – is going to become an even stronger trend. If this is the case, its move to do away with differentiation between mobile and desktop AdWords is quite logical and a well-thought-out, strategic move toward tomorrow,” he says.
“[M]ake no mistake, AdWords had to change. Google either had to move ahead of the [mobile advertising] market, or watch another company appear and force the issue. They chose the more aggressive route.”
Here’s hoping that more aggressive route will pave the way to a richer mobile advertising environment for us all.