11 Nov 2017 | 02.20 pm
Interview: Alan Coleman, Wolfgang Digital
‘AdWords is the world’s most effective advertising platform’
11 Nov 2017 | 02.20 pm
Alan Coleman is CEO of Wolfgang Digital, which increased its headcount from 24 to 37 people in 2016 and won Irish, UK and European search marketing awards.
Why do you believe AdWords is ‘the most effective advertising platform in the world’?
Wolfgang Digital has actually evolved from being a pure-play Google AdWords agency to a performance digital marketing agency. As a performance agency, we are very focused on driving results via search and social. However, in my heart and soul I’m still an AdWords marketer. For me, AdWords is still the world’s most effective advertising platform and the primary reason why, ‘intent’, has been enhanced.
Google has moved from capturing intent i.e. it’s where a person goes when they want to buy something, to influencing intent. ‘Googling’ has become an integral and influential part of our decision-making process.
Let me expand. In 2017, Google is much more than an advertising medium. In making the world’s information immediately accessible to everyone, it has become a critical part of people’s research and decision-making process. Studies have shown that people’s brain activity changes as their internet usage increases. We are now using our brain in ways we never have before i.e. skimming.
We are also ‘outsourcing brain functions like memory and giving huge influence on other brain functions, such as decision-making, to technological entities like Google. So when you are communicating with people via Google you are not communicating with them via an external media, rather an internal thought process.
When you consider the impact of being online has on our lives from the perspectives of communications, relationships, transport and transactions, you could argue that as a species, humans are fast becoming cyborgs. Part-person and part-machine. Yes, physically we are autonomous, but mentally the machine now guides us expertly through our optimised lives.
How does AdWords work?
Google AdWords allows advertisers to place ads in front of people searching for relevant terms in Google Search. It also allows advertisers place ads alongside relevant content, or in front of relevant people, on publisher websites across the web.
Google AdWords has really pushed the ad industry forward from a number of perspectives. The advertising pricing model has evolved from paying based on ad-views to paying based on ad-interactions. Real-time bidding means an auction sets the price for an ad-click for each individual advertiser every time a search is performed. A new era of analytics means marketing measurement has moved from data deficit (I know half my advertising budget is wasted) to data deluge.
The exciting thing about this deluge of data is that in measuring everything we have been laying the foundations for the next great societal change, the artificial intelligence revolution. Data is oxygen for artificial intelligence. Some tech commentators are saying that the information age we have been living through of late is just a precursor to the artificial intelligence age, of which 2016 was year zero.
AdWords looks easy to use. What are the pitfalls the novice AdWords buyer falls into?
The most flamboyant fib Google ever told is ‘Google AdWords is easy, all you need is 15 minutes and a credit card’. Google AdWords is the most sophisticated advertising medium the world has ever seen and it grows in functionality and complexity by the week. This means to compete effectively in the AdWords marketplace, you really need to have an AdWords specialist.
The mistake a lot of businesses make is underestimating the specialist knowledge required to execute an effective digital marketing presence. They hire digital marketing generalists who can give them a presence in multiple channels but prominence in none. The majority of our most successful campaigns are where there are digital marketing managers, on the brand side, tapping into our specialist teams in AdWords, SEO, social, content and creative depending on campaign requirements.
This means when a client tells us they are hiring digital marketing folks, we don’t feel threatened. We know performance is going to improve and more resources will move towards digital.
How has the cost of AdWords advertising changed over the years?
Google’s cost per click has actually been decreasing, for two reasons. Firstly, searches are growing at least as fast as advertisers. Secondly, mobile clicks are cheaper than desktop clicks, so as mobile’s share of traffic increases, the overall cost per click has been decreasing.Smart advertisers can reduce their cost per click and increase their traffic by improving their quality score. Quality Score is Google’s way of rewarding good advertising. This month we took over a campaign from a prominent UK agency, applied our Wolfgang Tech and cut the campaigns cost per acquisition by 64% in the first month.
Outside of AdWords, what’s new in digital advertising?
Google Shopping launched in Ireland at the end of 2016. When a person searches for a product on Google, Google Shopping shows them an image of that product alongside other information, such as price, in the prime real estate position at the top of the results. It’s been a powerful performer. Our retailers who did adopt Google Shopping grew revenue 100% faster than those who didn’t in Q4 2016. Google Shopping is the most important digital marketing innovation for Irish retailers in the ten years I’ve been a digital marketer.
Also new are Facebook Dynamic Product Ads. This is Facebook’s version of Google Shopping. Essentially, if people visit your website and look at a product but don’t buy, you can place ads with images of those specific products in their Facebook newsfeed. In 2016, DPAs were our best Facebook campaigns for revenue generation.
Facebook very recently added a brilliant feature where advertisers can literally steal customers from their competitors. If a person browses products that you stock on a competitor’s website, you can now target them with the product they looked at with ads for your website in their Facebook newsfeed. Amazing.
In terms of how to advertise best on Facebook, I think the mistake most marketers make with Facebook is they think it’s a great media for generating brand awareness. Facebook’s advertising USP is the share. So for me, brand advocacy is the larger Facebook opportunity. If you can encourage your customers to upload content coherent with your brand and tag your brand (user generated content) then you have an army of marketing assets recommending you to all their families and friends. That’s about the most trustworthy marketing you can do.
Facebook advertising is thundering along and in 2017 it looks like they are the fastest innovating digital marketing platform right now. Until 2015, Wolfgang Digital’s war-cry was, ‘When you win on Google you win online’, but that’s changed. Now we believe if you can dominate on both Google and Facebook, making those channels sing together as one, then you are in digital marketing Valhalla.
Is effective digital marketing an art or a science?
Compared with digital marketing, traditional marketing is simple. You have very rigid advertising formats so ads are quite formulaic, and limited targeting ability means planning veers to the cookie-cutter variety. You have vague measurability, so optimisation can’t be done to any great detail. You don’t have to commit too much time to keep up with advertising innovation. What’s really changed in TV, radio, press and outdoor advertising since you were a child?
So the traditional marketer has only two points of differentiation, budget and creative. You either have the big brand budget or you don’t, meaning creative is the point of differentiation for the traditional marketer.
Digital flips this. Creative goes from being the major point of differentiation to ‘the last mile’ of digital marketing. Yes, it’s very important and it needs to be carefully considered but it’s one part of a multi-faceted process. Campaign design, implementation and ongoing optimisation are all equally important parts of a digital marketing campaign and each carries the scientific method at its core.
Add to this, the incredible performance improvements offered by adtech and it’s clear that the unscientific digital marketer is about as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.