What a year 2022 has been! The pressures produced by the pandemic, geopolitical influences, and economic uncertainty have meant that many brands' adaptability and agility have been a necessity in navigating their marketing approach.
The digital marketing landscape saw several changes but the 4 key updates mentioned below have had a large impact on the industry with a knock-on effect on strategic planning and continual optimisation.
1. Google's Introduction of Performance Max Campaigns
The first, and arguably one of the largest updates of the year comes from Google, and the introduction of Performance Max campaigns to replace Smart Shopping. Performance Max is a goal-based campaign type that collates all Google media inventory into one centralised campaign. The new introduction utilises AI-based Smart Bidding to achieve specified goals across search, display, discover, maps, Gmail and YouTube.
But what does this mean for advertisers and brands? It means we rely ever so slightly more on Google’s artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, supplying a mix of creative assets to engage your shoppers and giving Google higher levels of autonomy to decide which platform, or a mix of placements is going to achieve results more effectively in line with your set objectives.
This update comes with considerable scepticism - of course. There is less visibility on channel-specific data, and some argue that this is a Google ploy to sell “less desirable” advertising space. As an agency we have seen some impressive results using the new hybrid campaign type, however, not without careful consideration as to the asset group creation, targeting and creative elements.
2. Meta Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns How can you solve this communication breakdown?
Aside from getting used to the new Meta name, Facebook Ads saw an update that follows the trend of increased AI and machine learning. This recent update (October) saw the launch of Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns, with the objective of “improving campaign performance”.
The simplification comes in the ad creation process, removing the need for manual development of audience targeting and ad creatives. The only manual requirements are the budgets, campaign dates and providing the creative asset(s). Meta will do the rest.
The update can create up to 150 creative variations in a single shopping campaign, the AI programme will then understand the best creative combinations and targeting criteria via automated testing. Whilst this would be entirely possible to conduct manually, efficiency is the buzzword linked to this 2022 update.
The merits of the update are yet to be fully understood due to its recent deployment, however, from an early stage, it seems this development may help to test variables at a much larger volume and explore audience targeting derived from machine learning. Interestingly, Meta explains that this update comes to help advertisers navigate recent restrictions imposed as part of Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates. This leads us to our third topic of note.
3. Apple's iOS14 Update Continues to Limit Detailed Targeting Options
Apple’s iOS14.5 update is something we are all somewhat familiar with since its introduction in 2021. iOS14 caused ripples throughout the digital marketing landscape initially by giving users the opportunity to opt-out of tracking, posing a new dilemma of data and performance transparency. However, a more recent update saw the removal of detailed ad targeting options deemed ‘sensitive’.
Modern digital marketing has become centralised around personalisation and relevance for both advertisers and consumers. This is successfully achieved via targeting, in which the opportunities are slowly becoming more limited, first by GDPR laws which hugely restricted the kind of information advertisers were able to access. Meta’s announcement this year to remove further detailed targeting includes the options surrounding the following:
“Options referencing causes, organisations, or public figures that relate to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation”. (Meta, 2022)
Our conclusion is that this update will have the biggest influence on organisations for good and progressive change; for instance, charities and those concerned with positive societal change. However, it is a completely understandable update to targeting, and interesting to see Meta clamping down on ad controls, ensuring the industry is a safe environment for all, which includes the way that an ad can be targeted to protect potentially vulnerable individuals and groups.
This is a good caveat to think about our last topic, Advantage+ Shopping campaigns which will help to conduct audience testing at a much higher frequency that will aid the development of audience targeting through machine learning. It will be very interesting to see how this new technology will help advertisers to effectively reach hyper-targeted audiences in an environment that is seemingly continuing to limit these options.
4. GA4 Takes the Spotlight
Google Analytics or Universal Analytics (GA3) has long been the platform in which we view and digest digital data about our brand or company. But that is all to change with the introduction of GA4 which will replace our current solution on July 1st, 2023, a date to consider if you haven’t already.
The update is in response to continued updates to customer privacy policies, the mainstreaming of apps and machine learning technology. It is fair to say that our current Google Analytics was not built for the sophisticated technological environment that exists now. GA4 was built to enable analytical tracking across both websites and applications whilst helping a deeper understanding of multi-touchpoint attribution modelling. An array of new metrics including goal and event tracking that includes examples such as scrolling behaviour is certainly one of the biggest updates to talk about this year. We will see new depths of data with improved reporting capabilities. Are we seeing Google help the digital advertiser’s never-ending quest for successful attribution modelling?
Our recommendation, if you haven’t already, is to make the transition sooner rather than later and to read the recent GA4 article we published that gives you more of a technical insight into the main platform changes and what this means for your brand moving forward. There are also some fantastic tips to follow so that we are all prepared when the time comes.
The reoccurring themes within our 2022 digital marketing wrap-up focus on the rising adoption of artificial intelligence and further limits to detailed audience targeting. We see the rise of other AI-based programmes that are becoming much more mainstream with the upside of efficiency. Interestingly both Google and Facebook adopt machine learning and artificial intelligence throughout their digital marketing processes with the objective of helping to improve ad relevance and performance.
Interested to hear what our 2023 marketing predictions will be? Keep an eye out for our next 2023 prediction piece and get in touch to speak to our team directly.