A paid media strategy is like any recipe. You have the freedom to customize different ingredients to your liking, but forget one key ingredient and the whole outcome is impacted…
In this post, I’m going to cover the six essential ingredients you need in your paid media strategy this year if you want to avoid failure. They include:
If 2020 was the beginning of what seems like an eternity of “unprecedented times” and 2021 was the year of big shakeups, there’s no telling what’s in store for 2022. But based on the marketing trends so far, here are the six ingredients we know you’ll need.
It’s a best practice to review benchmarks and set goals on a regular basis, sure. But it’s time to look beyond the recurring analysis that we frequently do to monitor campaign performance and do it at a macro level.
As I mentioned above, 2020 was the beginning of what seems like unending “unprecedented times” in the sense that most things are still not quite back to normal. Most of us have found a “new normal,” to use another cliché, and advertisers have trudged forward, but many businesses’ purchaser trends have changed over the past few years.
With new variants on the rise, we could see another totally unique year or we might see trends that resemble prior years, whether that be 2021 or pre-COVID times. The reality is that most of us do not yet know what to expect, so we make use of the data that we have and we revisit it frequently.
This year, advertisers need to seek out firmer, more established trends. This will be a year of revisiting what we thought we knew vs. what we saw in 2020 and 2021, while adding external annotations, to try to project what to expect on a go-forward basis.
The goal to eradicate third-party cookies across all browsers is clear, so big tracking and targeting changes are on the horizon. Because of this, there’s no doubt there is a high premium on first-party data.
To collect more first-party data from your audience, follow these tips:
For similar reasons, it’s also imperative that you increase your investment in tracking technology—technology that gives you access to the data you need to propel you ad strategies and report on their effectiveness, but that also maintains the privacy of the prospects being targeted.
Facebook announced that it would be investing in a multi-year initiative focused on privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) in collaboration with other organizations including the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA). One such technology is private lift measurement, which it has been testing and plans to roll it out to advertisers this year.
Facebook is calling on the industry to work together, collaboratively, noting that it will only work if there is a shared set of standards. It has open-sourced its framework for private computation to allow any developer to create privacy-centric measurement products.
I tend to agree with Facebook that it would likely benefit most parties to have a shared set of standards versus a sea of different tracking mechanisms and standards between different devices, browsers, and ad platforms. The crossover with those three areas gets messy quickly—not to mention the different legislation by geography.
Facebook is not the only large company doing its due diligence, of course. We are seeing it with Google’s Topics API and Microsoft’s Parakeet, as well.
And I anticipate other companies to have their own testing in motion. It will be really interesting to see what lies in store for us on this front.
Unless you’re a Facebook or Google Developer, there’s not a whole lot to do here except stay informed on what’s being built. However, you can start adopting tools that have already been made available to us.
Events of 2020 and 2021 created instances where certain platforms either underperformed or exceedingly overperformed most benchmarks. When those opportunities or issues arise, the advertisers that are prepared to take control of their circumstances are those that have already been proactively testing multiple channels.
Single-platform advertisers, on the other hand, or advertisers that have the majority of their eggs in one bucket, struggle to be agile. In instances where that platform does not perform as well as it used to, it is hard to heavily reinvest elsewhere until you have had a chance to test and gather data.
Likewise, if another platform is suddenly performing really well, it is hard for advertisers to fully capitalize on it without knowing exactly which targeting options will perform well.
For example, with many advertisers scaling back budgets in the wake of COVID in 2020 while social usage was increasing at the same time, CPMs dropped significantly for advertisers that stayed the course (how to combat rising CPMs here). It was tough for advertisers that had not previously had a social presence to determine whether they should transition budget or stay in their current channels, because they did not have a benchmark.
Having a diverse media mix makes advertisers more nimble and tougher to disrupt, even in the wake of big changes.
Here’s how to create a strong cross-channel marketing strategy.
Not unlike tracking changes, there has been a clear and concerted effort to move advertisers into more automation. This is evidenced with the rollout of Performance Max, an ongoing push to automated bidding, and a push toward auto-applied account changes from both Google and Bing, where the platforms will automatically make updates—unless advertisers opt out.
Not to mention changes to Google Partner standards requiring premier partners to achieve a minimum of a 70% optimization score, which is a well-intentioned-but-mostly-meaningless score that truly only measures whether or not you mindlessly implement Google’s (often self-serving) suggestions. This change was scheduled to roll out in 2020 but was pushed back in the midst of COVID, and is now officially set to roll out in 2022.
Becoming a steward of automation still takes less time than full manual implementation and can lead to better outcomes in many cases. It is not man (or woman) versus machine, but rather man and machine!
Last but not least, the Google Ads portion of your paid media strategy needs to include RSAs. Though advertisers can continue to use existing expanded text ads (ETAs), including pausing and reactivating existing ETAs, new ETAs cannot be created after June 2022.
Many advertisers noticed Google giving precedence to RSAs over ETAs at auction time in 2021, so it did not come as a surprise to most when Google announced RSAs would become the only option for new ads in the future.
This also ties closely to the trend toward more automation (especially by Google) in 2021. Some advertisers have noted they do not find as great of performance with RSAs and so, it is no surprise that some have held off on fully jumping into RSAs. At this point, though, the transition is inevitable so it benefits advertisers to place a heavy focus on creating and improving RSAs to ensure that they are putting their best foot forward.
Start creating RSAs, of course! Use our responsive search ad guide and follow these tips:
You can find more ways to prepare for the end of ETAs here.
If you’ve been following along over the past year or two, these paid media trends shouldn’t come as a surprise. Then again, surprises seem to also be a trend in and of itself, so stay on your toes!
Let’s finish off with a recap of the six essential ingredients of a successful paid media strategy:
Amy is a digital marketing consultant and the founding owner of PPC agency Cultivative Marketing. She has built and implemented multichannel digital strategies for a variety of companies—from start-ups and small businesses to Fortune 500 and global organizations—and spanning several industry verticals. Her expertise includes ecommerce, lead generation, and localized site-to-store strategies. When not working, you can find her speaking at industry events across the US and Europe and talking shop on Twitter @hoffman8.
See other posts by Amy Bishop
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