PPC is being commoditized under the holding company model. This needs to change.
Running a successful PPC campaign requires a high level of specialism; it is completely discrete from other types of media, and needs to be respected as such rather than being bundled together with traditional advertising channels.
PPC is reactive
I get it. If you’re an international brand with a huge media budget, it’s just a lot easier to incorporate PPC into one big package. The problem is, PPC is not something you buy up-front. If you fix your PPC spend before measuring its performance, you’re not going to get the results you want. Either you’ll spend too little or too much.
Because AdWords is so measurable, it’s possible to adopt an outcome-driven approach through this channel. Once you start running a campaign, it may be that you need far less money than anticipated to achieve your objective; or it may be that you need far more. Setting a limit on this before you’ve had a chance to assess the market is madness.
There are no rebates in PPC
Unlike virtually every other advertising channel, a platform such as AdWords provides no opportunities for rebates, nor any of the non-transparent practices that are commonplace elsewhere in media buying. The only way to make profit on it, is to do it better than the rest – which is hard when it’s not your specialism.
I don’t want to drag on the transparency debate. It really comes down to different business models in the end. If you’re looking to get a good deal on a large quantity of premium media inventory, then you need buying power. If you’re looking to drive business growth through PPC, there are definitely better options.
If, as Gideon Spanier recently wrote, ‘things have got to change’, maybe this is a good starting point. Let’s cut PPC from the media plan, and put it in the hands of independent agencies that know how to do it best. Then we can start talking about programmatic display, TV and radio…
PPC is for specialists
Perhaps people underestimate the complexity of successful PPC. Take AdWords as an example. It’s a platform that changes every month: new ways of reporting, changes to its metrics, adaptations of its ad unit, new targeting options, new bidding options, gradual tweaks to its primary algorithms, and the ongoing shift in the way people search.
Just to cope with these changes requires considerable adaptability. But to outperform the millions of advertisers you are in competition with, that requires the concerted effort of an entire business. Building software to enhance capability, using automation to optimise every process within account management, processing the enormous supply of data any campaign acquires – these are challenges that require teams of experts.
Agencies can give advertisers the competitive edge, by supplying them with the additional expertise and technology needed to stand out from the crowd. Ultimately, this comes down to data and automation—being able to extract value from the enormous supply of data that digital advertising involves, and using automation to enhance capability.
This is why PPC should have long ago been cut from the media plan of advertisers. It never belonged there. It is not something you buy up-front, and it’s certainly not something you let run.
It requires a completely different skillset. Data analysis, the ability to operate and develop automation technology, coding, maths, science. It is just not suitable for traditional media companies.
So if PPC is on your media plan, I’m sorry to say that you must not be very good at it.