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Performance Max: Does it work?

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We talk a lot about the slide towards black-box marketing. A digital landscape dominated by ad platforms and supplementary digital marketing tools that strip away the levels of intervention until we hit the end point: advertising on/off.

Our position on this trend to date is probably best described as skeptical. Not out of any high-minded resistance to automation but because all of us here have come from an agency background; we’ve experienced automation platforms and found a great many of them ineffective and divorced from the real needs of a digital marketer. So while at Morphio, so far, we’ve stayed away from automation, we remain heavily invested in ongoing developments and those products that do more to close the gap.

Automation platforms …[are] divorced from the real needs of a digital marketer

So when Google released Performance Max, we were cautious but intrigued. Our position outside of the automation arms race affords us a certain objectivity. So we’ve taken a look, and here’s what we think.

First off some basics, Performance Max is a dedicated performance marketing function. That is to say, a prerequisite is a campaign objective with some kind of conversion action: sales, leads, store visits. It requires minimal set up. Basic settings for demo and bids/budgets, and an “Asset Group” that extends the responsive ad “building block” format of multiple headlines, descriptions, images, videos, that will be algorithmically combined and delivered across any of Google’s six main ad channels: Search, Display, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, and Discover.

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s pretty damn good. The budget/lead volumes from our own testing don’t really make for compelling, statistically significant proof. But a look across agencies and brands who have tried it are all reporting similar results. Google published a case study with MoneyMe that told a similar story. Increased conversion volume, decreased cost per acquisition.

Let’s cut to the chase. It’s pretty damn good.

The thing that has been interesting about Performance Max is how it’s being positioned and who is using it. The steps towards automation have often been labeled as an effort to simplify the platform. Enough that any business owner would be able to use it without the need of an intermediary expert. But a look around at some of the reviews tell a similar story: helps save time, helps explore new markets, those who understand the industry (read: collect and can leverage first party data, those with reliable tracking profiles, those who can closely monitor budgets and results) will get the most from it. I don’t know about you, but based on that, my conclusion is this: the people who will get the most from Performance Max are agency-based digital marketers.

Performance Max hasn’t solved all the issues that automation typically brings, but it does reduce time spent on campaign admin and seemingly results in improved performance. There will be plenty of developments from here, but so far our take on the question “does it work?” is this: Yes; it is well worth a try.

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