Source: Outshine

Furthering its ever-increasing bid for automation and ease, Google unveiled a new advertising beta last spring, that, in essence, combines all previous automated betas into one. The new campaign type is called Performance Max, and has elements of its predecessors, Smart Campaigns and Discovery, but is the first of its kind to also include Google’s marquee function—Search.

Seizing the opportunity to test a newly-unveiled Google product, Outshine started rolling out pilot campaigns to several clients — with modest budgets and select markets — to see how the shiny new object fared against other acquisition channels. Despite the good (i.e. algorithmic automation) and the bad (opaque reporting), this new beta *can* live up to its name.

  • PRO: The automated delivery of this ad format is a benefit, in that the engine is able to optimize more effectively than other ad formats since there are more channels to choose from (Search, Display, YouTube, Gmail, or Discovery). And what we’re learning time and time again in the ever-changing world of digital marketing, is that despite one’s desire to cling to control and segmentation, more often than not, when the reins are loosened and more control is passed onto the machine, we see stronger results. When it comes to digital campaigns, it’s more apparent now than ever that our work exists in algorithm management, rather than individual ad management. The challenge for marketers is to understand and feed the machine the best information possible, to yield the best results.

Source: Google Dashboard

  • CON: Despite its ability to drive results, however, a major downside to this ad format is that the reporting dashboard is opaque. Advertisers cannot see where ads are shown (i.e. how many were served to Search versus Gmail, etc.) or where display ads appeared (sites, placements, etc.). Performance Max also has a very limited view into conversion and reporting data in general — with only one dashboard catch-all view that provides surface-level insights.

Despite its opacity and ultra-automated engine, Performance Max has benefits and is worth testing with a modest investment to gauge down-funnel impact.

With one client, this ad format was piloted for an entire month (in one market only, with five percent of the month’s total Demand Gen budget allocated to it), and it yielded very strong results.

This format generated three Sales Accepted Leads (SALs), and a 100% SAL-to-opportunity conversion rate – versus Generic Search’s 50% SAL-to-opportunity conversion rate, and Brand Search’s 33% SAL-to-opportunity conversion rate.

In addition to this strong, er—max—performance, the deal value brought in by those three opportunities was nearly exactly what Generic Search brought in, meaning the companies coming through these ads were just as high-value as those coming from Generic Search.

So —should you use it?

That depends. If you need to know where your ads are showing, this is not the channel for you.

If automated (but efficient and high-intent) performance (with few levers of control) sits well with you, it’s certainly something worthy of investment. As with any beta or alpha product, Google still has a few bugs to work out with this new format, but early indicators of strong success are definitely there.

Check out my session at HeroConf London to learn more on how to best implement this channel into your client’s media mix, and what to be wary of when you do.