Mar 29 2024
Basis Technologies

Innovations in Search and Social Advertising


March 2024

What’s new in the realms of paid search and social media? This month, Jess Kaswiner, Director of Social Media Investment, and Nick Tuttle, Director of Search Media Investment, compiled all the latest news, trends, and resources that advertising pros need to know.

Google Ads Introduces Customizable Automation With “Solutions” [:04]

THE NEWS: Google recently launched Solutions, a free tool within Google Ads that automates and simplifies campaign management in an accessible and user-friendly way. It comes with several pre-built automation templates for the campaign management process, including Performance Reporting, Anomaly Detection, URL Validation, Budget Optimization, and Negative Keyword Management—all of which can be customized to meet different advertising needs.

THE CONTEXT: As part of this launch, Google announced it will sunset its manual solutions library. This focus on automation comes on the heels of Google’s new AI-powered approach to displaying responsive search ads and its application of Gemini for text and image generation within Performance Max (which has not been hiccup-free). Overall, the company continues to push advertisers towards automated processes across the campaign life cycle, from creative development, to ad placement, to campaign management.

EXPERT POV: Google continues to create new tools to help free up time for paid search managers to analyze data and make strategic decisions. By starting to use the Solutions tools now, search managers can get ahead on campaign management simplification, allowing them to spend more time on optimizations and recommendations that grow paid search accounts and drive business goals. – Nick Tuttle | Director, Search Media Investment

Microsoft Advertising launches Performance Max campaigns globally [:03]

THE NEWS: Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are now available globally through Microsoft Advertising. PMax is an automated campaign type that uses artificial intelligence to create ad assets and automate ad optimization across different Microsoft Advertising formats and channels. The company will soon add more automated features, including brand exclusions (for less inflated performance metrics), search insights reports (for greater visibility into user queries), and video assets (for broader creative distribution) to its PMax campaigns.

THE CONTEXT: This global release follows a closed beta launch in May 2023 that Microsoft deemed successful. Time- and resource-strapped marketers who rely on manual efforts may appreciate PMax campaigns’ automated optimizations, even as some position the campaign type, similarly available through Google, as relinquishing control and decision-making power to artificial intelligence.

EXPERT POV: Rolling out PMax campaigns globally is another instance of Microsoft competing with Google, particularly by relying on AI and algorithms that identify when and where someone is most likely to convert. When it comes to the landscape of search advertising, Google is still far and away the most dominant search engine, but Microsoft integrating ChatGPT into Bing helped increase its market share from 6.35% to 8.07% over the past year. When determining whether PMax may be a valuable, additional layer in your search investment, consider your ideal demographic (as older generations are more likely to use Bing) and your vertical (as certain industries, like healthcare and financial services, attract larger shares of older users). – Nick Tuttle | Director, Search Media Investment

Reddit launches free tools to help businesses grow their presence on the site ahead of IPO [:02]

THE NEWS: Reddit is launching a suite of tools, called Reddit Pro, for businesses looking to grow their organic presence on the community-driven platform. Currently in its beta testing phase, Reddit Pro uses AI to help brands identify trending topics and conversations, even allowing them to see when their brand has been mentioned in a subreddit. The suite of features also includes content drafting, scheduling, and reporting tools, as well as the ability to easily turn organic posts into paid advertisements. This is Reddit’s first set of free tools meant to inform businesses’ social media strategies, and the company plans to launch additional features within it later this year.

THE CONTEXT: The Reddit Pro launch came as the company prepared its initial public offering (IPO) at a stock price that valued the company at nearly $6.5 billion. Reddit is likely leveraging this new suite of free tools to entice brands to the platform and turn them into paying advertisers.

EXPERT POV: All eyes are on Reddit as the platform continues to make headlines with news of its successful IPO. Brands looking to connect with a wider audience may want to explore adding this channel to their organic and paid social portfolio. These new Reddit Pro tools—only available to brands that are active on Reddit—grant deeper insight into what Redditors are saying about brands, what aspects of products or businesses are resonating with customers, and which industry topics are trending. For brands not yet using the platform with a u/ (Reddit-speak for “username”) of their own, these new tools may incentivize them to create Reddit profiles and start an “OP” (“original post”) of their own. Pro Tip: Get to know the Reddit lingo! LSHMSFOAIDMT – Jess Kaswiner | Director, Social Media Investment

TikTok users bombard Congress with phone calls to save their favorite app [:03]

THE NEWS: TikTok has been under the US political microscope for some time, but now it’s ramping up its own political activity: TikTok users were shown a pop-up message earlier this month, urging them to call members of Congress to voice their opposition to a bill that aims to ban the app in the United States if its parent company, the China-based ByteDance, doesn’t sell it. Congress was quickly flooded with phone calls from TikTok users of all ages; the majority of calls, however, were from children. Since then, anonymous sources say some of the calls have turned threatening and concerning.

THE CONTEXT: Less than a week later, the US House of Representatives passed the bill, 352 to 65 in favor of a nationwide TikTok ban if the app isn’t sold, driven by concerns over the data security of US TikTok users. The bill’s future in the Senate is unclear, but President Biden has said he would sign the bill if Congress passes it.

EXPERT POV: While a ban on TikTok in US markets could have significant implications for brands already active on the platform—especially those leveraging it for influencer marketing and e-commerce sales—daily active usage is not showing any signs of slowing. The recent developments around TikTok highlight a continuing concern with and focus on data privacy in the digital advertising space. Taking a step back from TikTok specifically, this situation underscores the importance of diversification in media planning. In the short term, however, Committee and House votes are the beginning, not the end, of a long process. – Jess Kaswiner | Director, Social Media Investment

February 2024

In Pinterest’s latest campaign, the P is for Performance [:03]

THE NEWS: Pinterest’s recent campaign, “The P is for Performance,” touts the platform’s full-funnel approach to advertising, including lower-funnel case studies that show as much as a 28% increase in conversions and up to a 96% increase in traffic for its advertisers. Pinterest’s performance products include mobile deep links and direct links, making it easier for users to convert, plus shopping ads for greater inspiration and Pinterest API for Conversions for higher reporting visibility.

THE CONTEXT: In years past, Pinterest’s ethos of being a place for discovery has appealed to advertisers seeking upper-funnel awareness for their brands. With this campaign, Pinterest seeks to broaden its draw for advertisers who may only think of it as an upper-funnel platform. The campaign launched shortly after Pinterest released its Q4 2023 earnings, highlighting 12% revenue growth compared to the same period in 2022 and its 11% increase in global monthly active users.

EXPERT POV: Pinterest has thrived as one of the first social platforms to sit in a space that blends paid search and social channels. It’s no surprise that as a historically well-established traffic driver, Pinterest has now set its sights on also fiercely competing in lower-funnel effectiveness. Recent product releases have proven to be fairly low-lift activations for advertisers, particularly in the retail, e-commerce, travel, and professional services industries. Brands can significantly cut down the path to conversion by leveraging Pinterest to display product information, prices, and descriptions directly to their audiences’ feeds via shopping ads and simplify the consumer journey by tapping into direct links. – Jenny Lewis | Director, Social Media Investment

Cyber Week Lessons CMOs Can Apply To Their Digital Marketing Strategy [:05]

THE NEWS: Online sales for Cyber Week 2023 were up 7.8% year-over-year, with e-commerce sales totaling $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday. Paid digital marketing was a big driver of that growth, and advertisers are relying more on automated platforms to enhance efficiencies and expedite the scaling of campaigns. On the other hand, with advancements in automation and AI, invalid traffic has become more and more sophisticated over the past three years. One advertiser explained that tackling invalid traffic led to “more stable and predictable growth across our most important paid media channels.”

THE CONTEXT: 22% of ad spend in 2023 (or $84 billion out of a total $382 billion) was lost due to ad fraud. However, $23 billion of that amount would be recoverable with fraud mitigation platforms in place. Given that political advertising for the US presidential election will drive up ad costs at the start of the holiday season, driving efficiencies by leveraging the right technologies will be especially key for advertisers this year.

EXPERT POV: Ad networks aren’t incentivized to crack down on the increased bot traffic we’re seeing due to AI advances and the corresponding ease with which bad actors can create bots. So, the onus is on the marketer to stay alert for signs of high levels of bot traffic. These include high bounce rates and traffic spikes without corresponding conversion increases. Consider ways to block or limit these, like captchas, using conversion-based goals with machine learning bidding, and optimizing landing page content to be very specific to the intended conversion. — Jesse Foley | VP, Search Media Investment

Nearly 8 in 10 Consumers Would Rather Receive More Ads Than Pay for Digital Content and Services, According to IAB Research [:03]

THE NEWS: The IAB’s new comprehensive consumer privacy study found that nearly 80% of consumers would prefer to get more ads in exchange for not having to pay for websites and apps, and that 90% prefer personalized ads, but that nearly half feel websites and apps aren’t clear enough about how their data is used.

THE CONTEXT: With Google planning to fully deprecate third-party cookies in its Chrome browser by the end of this year, and signal loss across the industry as a result of data privacy concerns, figuring out how to use consumer data in ethical, transparent ways to serve personalized ads to consumers is a must for digital advertisers.

EXPERT POV: The fact that most consumers would rather receive more ads to retain their free access to websites and apps means that advertisers’ digital media investments are well-positioned to reach consumers who find them valuable. Advertisers should take a “test and learn” approach to understand which channels work best given their KPIs and to remain flexible and fluid with budget allocations based on results. —Laura Kubiesa | VP, Social Media Investment

Google Releases New Features for Responsive Search Ads [:02]

THE NEWS: Google’s responsive search ads rely on artificial intelligence to combine headlines and descriptions based on consumer behavior and predicted outcomes. New AI-powered features allow Google to decide when an ad should display only one headline versus two, with the second headline appearing at the beginning of the ad’s description section. Google can now also supplement or override an advertiser’s manual assets—like images, sitelinks, callouts, and structured snippets—with its own AI-generated assets if it feels doing so will help an ad’s performance.

THE CONTEXT: AI’s influence on ad placement and creative continues to grow. Search Engine Land weighed the pros and cons of Google’s update, noting that while it may serve to drive engagement and performance, it also means that advertisers are surrendering more control to Google. At the same time, artificial intelligence tools often don’t perform with 100% accuracy—and as this is a newer feature, advertisers have no benchmark for how much accuracy these specific features can provide.

EXPERT POV: With the increased focus and adoption of AI capabilities in digital media, it’s no surprise Google continues to roll out these features within their campaign types and ad formats. As the industry continues to trend in this direction, getting left behind means being unable to capitalize on the reported improved performance of these AI-powered features. However, many advertisers need to maintain control over the images and copy that run within their ads, so turning off the auto-assets feature within Google Ads may be the better option. Advertisers who aren’t comfortable giving up control can still take advantage of some of the latest updates by testing the new campaign-level headlines and descriptions and scheduling them to run during certain time frames, which can help manage time-sensitive promotional copy. — Alyssa Theo | VP, Search Media Solutions

Meta spotlights how AI investments are paying off for advertisers [:06]

THE NEWS: AI and automation within Meta's ad products, such as its Advantage suite, helped fuel 24% year-over-year growth for Meta's ad business in Q4 2023. The social giant also shared advertiser success stories that included increased revenue and improved performance metrics for brands’ campaigns when they employed Meta’s AI ad tools. Meta plans to expand its generative AI features, including text and image variations, to further enhance advertising capabilities.

THE CONTEXT: Meta, along with every other social platform, is placing a high level of priority on building out further automation and AI solutions that work in tandem with their advertising algorithms to drive strong results for customers while making the lives of marketers easier.

EXPERT POV: In the face of ongoing question marks with Meta’s advertising platform (e.g. third-party cookie deprecation, ATT impacts, and data privacy regulations), capitalizing on AI and automation solutions integrated into the platform is an effective way to manage media campaigns efficiently, expand existing audience targeting to reach engaged new users, and create a high volume of ad iterations for easier creative testing. — Erik Chellberg | VP, Social Media Investment

Pinterest announces major ad partnership with Google [:02]

THE NEWS: Pinterest has begun rolling out an integration that allows ads to show on Pinterest via Google’s Ad Manager. The integration will make it so that when Pinterest users come across a Google ad, they’ll be sent to the advertiser’s website to finalize their transaction. This partnership will not only broaden the reach of advertisers using Google Ads but will allow them to engage an active, high-value consumer base.

THE CONTEXT: Pinterest’s stock dipped almost 28% in early February, but bounced back after this Google deal was announced.

EXPERT POV: For those advertisers looking to generate discovery, this new inventory source could be very beneficial. Google is rolling out this new option over the next several quarters, and it will be available within Google’s Ad Manager. As of now, Basis Technologies is waiting to see how this inventory performs to inform future recommendations. — Robert Kurtz | Group VP, Search Media Solutions

ICYMI: The power of TikTok pulse: How content adjacency drives impact [:05]

THE NEWS: TikTok's Marketing Science team partnered with IPG's MAGNA Media Trials to conduct a study of digital video through the lens of TikTok’s impact on its advertisers. Contents of the report include TikTok’s positive effect on brand sentiment and consumer experience, higher engagement with skippable vs. non-skippable video ads, how contextual content adjacency increases ad view time, and the details of TikTok Pulse, a feature that guarantees ad placement next to top-performing organic content.

THE CONTEXT: TikTok has faced several hurdles in the past few years, not the least of which being several countries and US states implementing full or partial bans of the platform. And although TikTok’s growth is slowing, it still led 2023’s list of app downloads and consumer spending.

EXPERT POV: Advertisers are right to prioritize TikTok, given the time users spend on the app per day, averaging 53.8 minutes, and the platform’s abundance of out-of-the-box and accessible ad products, betas, incentives, and platform support. — Alana Putterman, Group VP, Social Media Investment

Want all the best digital marketing articles, POVs, and reports delivered straight to your inbox every month? Sign up for the Basis Scout newsletter.

Get Basis Scout