Test & Learn with the New AI Powered Features on Performance Max

PMax in Action with Sanlam

Google’s recent introduction of AI-powered features for Performance Max (PMax) presents a host of  exciting opportunities for advertisers. PMax represents the ultimate game-changer for advertisers to gain improved ROI and seamlessly integrate AI into their Google Ads strategy.

Julien Fievez

 Since its inception in November 2021, PMax campaigns have enabled advertisers to harness a growing spectrum of Google Ads channels – Search, YouTube, Display, Discover, Gmail, and Maps—all from a single, user-friendly campaign interface. Their recent AI integration allows us to effortlessly generate or enhance creative assets, saving both time and money. As a Paid Media Specialist and PMax advocate, it’s clear this would be a pivotal development for Google Ads.

For agencies and brands, considering AI is not an option but a necessity. Failing to leverage the potential of AI for innovation and campaign enhancement means our competitors are undoubtedly capitalizing on that opportunity. Remember, you’re not competing with AI, you’re competing with other marketers who are using AI to provide a better product or service, so be an early adopter. Local CMO’s and brands should embrace augmented AI as a foundational element for elevating media strategies, complemented by human regulation and control. While the initial stages of Machine Learning (ML) and AI adoption may have yielded mixed results, we‘ve learned that providing sufficient input yields positive results from AI-assisted campaigns, with the foundation of solid AI performance being client-consented data. PMax, at its core, relies on the quality of human input. In order to unlock the full potential of AI tools, we must provide the optimal environment to generate the best possible outcomes.

Recently, at the Google Partner Summit held in Dublin this October, one of the key takeaways was that ‘Leveraging AI with human intervention can lead to performance and efficiency gains, which should in turn lead to increased paid advertising impact, rather than be seen as a cost-saving mechanism.’ We need to embrace what humans are good at and what machines are good at to get the best results from our campaigns and organizational goals. 

Brands can start incorporating AI into their media campaigns by embracing the new AI powered features added to Pmax. These include:

  1. Generate text assets –  We should all somewhat be familiar with the text generating tool as Google has already been able to make suggestions to some of your ad content. This new text feature involves taking the inputs that Pmax has access to (assets you’ve uploaded or your webpage for example) to suggest optimum ad copy for your campaigns. 
  2. Generate or enhance existing image assets – This exciting AI feature offers image asset generation or enhancement, providing a significant time and cost advantage for advertisers. Unlike the traditional approach of designing or shooting multiple images in multiple locations or variations, this tool allows you to upload a single source image. The AI tool then effortlessly cuts out elements from the source image, enabling placement in different environments or backgrounds. This enhanced process is able to generate numerous variations needed for campaigns, reducing the workload with just a few clicks. Furthermore, for businesses with limited resources, this tool can also be utilized to create new image assets from scratch using the text-to-image generative AI model.
  3. Product Studio in Merchant Centre – Product imagery that’s available in the Merchant Centre can also be edited using the new AI tool. For example, retailers who have product feeds are able to edit their existing feeds to create multiple variations with ease. 

These added features enable advertisers with lean budgets to elevate their operations while also allowing brands with substantial budgets to optimize their media spend – ultimately helping marketers scale and build high-quality assets that drive performance. While cost efficiency is a win, the mistake brands often make is not reinvesting those savings to broaden their reach and amplify their media. 

However, a word of caution – AI isn’t ready to take the reins entirely. Despite notable advancements, we’re probably still a decade or more away from AI doing our jobs entirely if at all. Human intervention is key to achieve optimal outcomes when leveraging AI features. While we champion experimentation, it’s equally vital to approach it with clear objectives and caution. Safeguarding data and intellectual property should be a priority, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding how free to use tools are utilizing our data. Exercise caution when sharing sensitive information and strike a balance between exploration and safeguarding your data.

Local Barriers to AI Adoption

Despite the advantages and opportunities of AI adoption mentioned earlier, local adoption is trailing behind. Many brands are still employing tools like ChatGPT in rudimentary ways, missing out on the broader efficiencies more developed tools can offer. It’s crucial for brands to recognize that AI is not just a future concept; it should be an integral part of our everyday lives. 

The theme of doing more with less has echoed throughout the year not only in South Africa but globally as well. Locally, the reluctance to swiftly change advertising tactics or embrace new approaches is influenced by several factors. Firstly, the size of our economically active online population is smaller compared to other markets. Secondly, amidst the clutter, sophisticated and data-driven ads often go unnoticed, as many local advertisers opt for louder, price-focused campaigns. This approach has its successes, but it may overlook more creative and tech-savvy deployments. 

For brands aiming to optimize their campaigns, a few key steps can make a significant impact.

  1. Appoint an AI custodian – identify key individuals or councils dedicated to AI adoption. This ensures a focused effort on organizational goals and explores how AI can improve efficiencies and present growth opportunities.
  2. Test & Learn –  embrace a test-and-learn approach and allocate a budget specifically for experimentation, allowing the discovery of strategies closely aligned with your organizational goals.
  3. Make sure your tracking is set up correctly – this includes setting up GA4, Google Ads Tracking, and optimizing your feed. The accuracy and currency of the information you rely on are crucial for effective decision-making and campaign optimization. The effectiveness of PMax relies on the quality of the data it receives. The ultimate goal is navigating the cookieless future, and both PMax and GA4 are geared for this shift and shouldn’t be ignored.
  4. Keep creative assets fresh – Google recommends updating these assets every two months, cycling out underperformers in favor of your top-performing text and creative assets. This proactive approach ensures your campaigns yield the best possible results.
  5. Allow for a learning phase – PMax and its new AI features aren’t instant solutions. Allow a learning phase for the platform to understand your brand and audience better as you continuously feed it more data. Develop a testing framework and stick to it, embracing a dynamic and agile mindset.

Taking these practical steps positions your brand to harness the full potential of AI adoption, enhancing efficiency, and uncovering growth opportunities in this ever-evolving landscape. Check out Google’s recent AI handbook to get started.


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