good… and fuzzy

good… and fuzzy

Strongly criticized for its lack of transparency, the advertising solution launched a year ago can provide interesting results.

After more than a year of using Performance Max, the automated campaign activation solution on all of Google’s advertising networks (search, gmail, shopping, YouTube, Maps and display), French brands and agencies seem to be there. see more clearly: if the results are there for performance-based conquest campaigns in particular, there are still many shortcomings. To really take advantage of Performance Max, which remains marginal to date in the investments of the agencies we consulted, the advertiser will have to learn how to circumvent the limits imposed by Google.

“In lead generation campaigns, on the other hand, the contacts provided do not convert well”

“For brands looking for performance, the interest of Performance Max is to allow them to be present throughout the customer journey, from consideration to performance, with a very simple set-up. The negative point is that is the black box side of the tool that you have to know how to manage”, explains Eric Le Page, director of the search department at 79. The tool is so simple that it seems magical, especially since, to boost sales and reservations, especially with new customers, generally it works. “For customers who don’t ask themselves too many questions and who want to sell more, it works, but without us knowing beforehand or where or how the campaign is broadcast and without being able to compare its performance with other levers. Moreover, if it performs well today, it is because it is a new lever. One can wonder if these performances will be maintained over the long term”, asks Mathieu Chapon, founder and director of innovation at Peak Ace (Heroiks group), a consulting agency in digital performance marketing. “In lead generation campaigns, on the other hand, the results are rather disappointing because the contacts provided do not convert well,” adds Guillaume Loiseau, media director at ESV, a digital marketing agency.

Concretely, the advertiser informs on Performance Max his objectives in terms of sales or leads, chooses an amount to invest for his campaign, indicates the maximum acquisition cost per click (CAC), informs the audience segments that he wishes to touch and injects, if it can, its own proprietary CRM type data and product feeds. Then he just has to upload his creations (text, image, video) and press the button: Google takes care of everything. “One could imagine that it is the ideal product for all those who are not accompanied by experts or agencies such as VSEs. Except that to work well, the tool requires a few weeks of investment, the time that its algorithms train and begin to provide results”, tempers Mathieu Chapon.

Farewell to brand safety

The main concern of Performance Max is still elsewhere: in the absence of transparency on the levers used by Google. “We navigate in the fog, not having control over the setting of the campaign, and in particular on the sites where it is broadcast, which poses serious problems, starting with brand safety. You have to trust Google … which many of our customers do not want. Some have even had problems with unwanted displays to their customers on Gmail for example”, says Mathieu Chapon. At Peak Ace, only 20% of customers wanted to test Performance Max and the majority have since only made tactical and occasional use of it.

Without the advertiser knowing either how or to what extent, his creations will theoretically circulate on a selection among the millions of websites in Google’s display network. At the end, he will be able to access the most summary reports, with a history of up to 28 days, containing the number of conversions obtained, the cost per action (sale, lead, click, etc.) and the conversion rate. globally. But he will not know to what extent his campaign has been broadcast on the different levers and will not know either the precise amounts invested on each lever or the returns obtained on the latter. “If the advertiser does nothing and settles for a low CPA, they can be sure that their ad will not be displayed on the first results of the search engine. To optimize as much as possible, Google will seek to serve the campaign on cheaper levers than search, which he wants to make work, for example on the display network and on YouTube”, warns Mathieu Chapon.

“We navigate in the fog, not having control over the setting of the campaign, and in particular on the sites where it is broadcast”

And even when the search is activated, the advertiser does not learn from his campaign since he is not informed about all the keywords used and which worked. “However, this information is fundamental for many advertisers, if only to enable them to understand changes in their market and adapt their product catalog,” says Raphaël Paillet, director of the customer division at ESV. Without this data, the advertiser cannot defend its defensive or offensive positions on the search either, since it is Google and not him who chooses the keywords to preempt.

“Google is judge and jury: it distributes the performance and it decides who, among you or your competitors, will win the bid on the search. Moreover, the challenge for Google is to sell his unsold inventories, at YouTube and Discovery, which he will drown in the lot”, confirms Guillaume Loiseau. At ESV, between 10% and 30% of budgets are invested in the tool, but mainly for the purpose of conquest and only outside the scope already controlled by the agency. “The notion of mastery is key: if for example the advertiser wants to be present on YouTube, it has much more interest in working on a creative adapted to this format and these audiences rather than using Performance Max”, insists Raphaël Paillet. “Performance Max is volume and automation but without control or quality, which can be very detrimental to the brand image”, concludes Guillaume Loiseau.