Google’s Enhanced Campaigns: Pros and Cons


EDITOR’S NOTE: This article, originally published on March 14, 2013, placed at No. 19 in our 20 most popular articles of the year.

ADOTAS — The rapid adoption of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) and their use alongside desktop and in-home electronics (PCs, TVs) is significantly changing the way all of us spend time online. According to Google, 90 percent of people use multiple screens sequentially. Even more interesting is the fact that increasingly consumers (especially those with smartphones and tablets) are using more than one screen at a time. Some of the latest figures from Nielsen show that 40 percent of smartphone and tablet users are using their mobile devices while watching TV. Nielsen also discovered that 57 percent of consumers were watching TV and surfing the Internet simultaneously.

While this technology increases the number of opportunities to reach and engage consumers by increasing the number of screens on which advertisers can generate exposure, it also intensifies the complexity of media planning, execution, and attribution.

Last month, in an attempt to streamline the management of multi-screen campaigns, Google announced an upgrade to AdWords called Enhanced Campaigns that will allow advertisers to target consumers more efficiently with ads based on context like location, device type, and time of the day, in a single campaign. Enhanced campaigns will roll out to advertisers as an option over the next few weeks, and with upgrades to all campaigns in mid-2013. Just this week, Google announced that its Product Listing Ads are now eligible to appear on smartphones worldwide.

Enhanced Campaigns means advertisers and agencies alike will have to change how we think about campaign planning and architecture as well as the day-to-day operational tasks of managing AdWords programs. In addition to the new features, this is significant for two reasons. First is the fact that this is the first substantial change to Google’s AdWords user interface for over ten years. Second, although Google has been described as “anti-agency,” with this change the company gave agency partners some advanced notice. Kenshoo, the preferred campaign management provider for my company Geary LSF, proactively reached out to us to assure us that they are working closely with Google on integrating the new interface. This could indicate that the search engine is beginning to understand the importance of agency partnerships.

Enhanced Campaigns have three main features:

  • Campaign and budget management: Advertisers will be able to adjust bids based on the user’s location and device. Currently, advertisers structure separate campaigns targeted to specific device types (searching on a smartphone vs. searching on a desktop) and manage bids at the keyword level.
  • Ads Based on Context: Google’s algorithm will select the best ad based on user device and location. Mobile-preferred creative will be a type of ad selection in AdWords. Advertisers will be able to offer this type of ad if a user’s query is from a mobile device.
  • New Conversion Types: Google’s conversion tracking will account for a wider variety of interactions including call tracking, application downloads, document downloads, and allow customization. The reporting suite is enhanced to display performance data by device, location, day part, and other interactions.

What These Changes Mean to You

Today’s digital advertising world has become a far more complex arena. It’s changed from a linear, predictable funnel to a complex engagement path on which consumers interact with brands via multiple touch points. Not only do consumers travel from website to blog to video to newsletter to display ad back to website, they are also using multiple devices to do so. According to Google, “consumers take a multi-device path to purchase.”

Context like location, time of day, and the capabilities of the device people are using have become increasingly important in showing them the right ad. These signals create great opportunities for brands, but also make advertising much more complex. Here are the pros and cons of how Enhanced Campaigns might affect you.

  • Pro: These new features will have a positive impact on advertisers’ ability to schedule ads, give better insight through updated conversion data and reporting, and provide greater granularity of data in general.
  • Con: On the down side, Enhanced Campaigns remove some of the customization functionality that has proven successful for many advertisers. Currently, advertisers who want to target users by device are able to structure separate campaigns. After the change, the ability to target tablets separately will no longer be available. Neither will the ability to target mobile devices separately from desktop PCs. Google is also ending the ability to target by carrier or to separate smartphones from other types of phones. This will pose a challenge for advertisers who want to track only these users.
  • Pro: Enhanced Campaigns are designed to streamline the management of individual elements. These changes are likely to benefit smaller businesses that don’t deploy highly segmented campaigns or those that lack the resources or knowledge to pursue more sophisticated strategies. Advertisers that currently target more broadly will gain the ability to understand how users’ devices, geographies, or time of search benefit or hinder overall campaign performance.
  • Con: However, for campaigns that are currently structured to address individual audience segments, the new functionality removes some of the ability to control that customized experience.

To be successful, advertisers must understand and analyze the journey their audiences travel, and be able to deliver a consistent message throughout that journey, telling their customers a “story” along that engagement path. Consumers want results that are more relevant across multiple screens and appropriate to the their location and time of day. Advertisers should be allowed to opt into or out of Google’s Enhanced Campaigns based on their specific goals and objectives. How will Enhanced Campaigns influence your approach?


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