Data is power. The difference in consumers using a $16 Netflix account for unlimited TV and advertisers using “free” AI for their multi-million-dollar ad account is probably more similar than you would like to admit. Consumers and advertisers alike have been conditioned to happily give up their data for new platform updates that offer ease and efficiency. Yes, that comparison may be a bit of a stretch, but I would wager to say it’s not too far off from the truth. More and more we’re seeing ad platforms take back control of media execution and analytics by creating automated ad formats that are best practice. While these AI driven technologies can help with performance and reduce human touch that takes time, the control shifts back to the ad platform and what lives inside behaves a lot like a black box. Oddly enough, as advertisers see efficiency and ease of management, they don’t seem to mind. Last month, advertisers lost another degree of control when Google abruptly announced that it will be introducing free product listings on the Google Shopping Tab and Shopping property ( Shopping.Google.com). Kudos to Google for being a great corporate citizen and removing a barrier to entry for smaller shops during such a hard time. While there may or may not be bigger and longer term business positioning as the reason for the change, advertisers were left on their toes to quickly adapt to a new way of strategizing, investing, and ultimately tracking performance across all Google channels. As advertisers, we’ve seen this change and changes like it impact how we are able to digest data and ultimately optimize campaigns. So how do we take back control and simultaneously take advantage of features that offer efficiency and scale?
  1. Be creative with tracking. While at first glance a platform might have taken away your ability to track performance, do the leg work of how you can use less automated techniques to measure your success. In the most recent change with Google, changing the way we tracked products through the feed inadvertently gave us the performance data we needed on our new organic Shopping campaigns.
  2. Lean into test and learn strategies early. When big changes happen, implement test and learn strategies immediately and in small chunks. As you apply strategies to a few key products, you learn and can slowly layer on to categories, entire product lines, and eventually an entire feed.
  3. Prioritize your feed health. For automation (and the future of advertising in general), data feeds control everything. Use every part of your feed as an opportunity to control what seems uncontrollable at first glance. The sky really is the limit to what you can do with a feed to make your ad campaigns exactly as you want them.
By all means keep adopting Google & Facebooks latest and greatest automated features! The updates will likely improve your results while making your life easier. Just don’t blindly adopt them. Do your due diligence to learn the nuances of the system, identify pain points, and develop your own solutions to better harness the new feature – there’s almost always a way to use the new system to benefit you if you dig deep enough.  Ultimately, it’s all about taking back control of your data.

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