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AdWords Updates, Agency News & Advertising Conspiracy Theories

October 7, 2017

DART Board Friday

Effective digital marketing can only be achieved by leveraging the power of data and the beauty of art, and the best way to foster improvement in these areas is to strike up conversations with our peers.

Each week, we’ll throw a couple of DARTs at the wall and hope you’ll join the conversation. This will include interesting things we find, are thinking about, or are actively using in our digital marketing campaigns. We hope that our short updates will spark some inspiration after a long week.

Here are your DARTs for the week:

Something We’re Proud Of:

AdVenture Media Group Recognized As Google Premier Partner Agency. Earlier this week, our team was rewarded with the highest level Google Partner status. While we have always been an official Google Partner Agency, this new accreditation is a nod to our efforts as an agency with an advanced knowledge of the various Google advertising products and delivery of exemplary results through our substantial client base.

It’s a big deal for us. You can check out the full press release here.

Digital Marketing Podcast We’re, Um, On: 

Search Talk Live. Earlier this week, I was a guest on the popular digital marketing podcast, Search Talk Live. I joined hosts Robert O’Haver and Caleb McElveen to discuss the wonderful topic of remarketing.

During the hour-long interview we covered a ton of ground including the behavioral psychology of web browsing, dynamic remarketing, advanced audiences in Google Analytics, RLSA, managed placements, and even an advertising conspiracy theory (more on that below).

You can access the podcast through their website, iTunes, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Google Shopping Strategy We’re Recommending:

RLSA in Google Shopping. Many advertisers overlook using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). We recommend not only adding remarketing audiences to your Search campaigns, but testing this in your Google Shopping campaigns as well.

Previous website visitors, and more importantly, past purchasers, are already familiar with your brand and possibly more likely to convert on your site. They might even have an account registered with you, dramatically simplifying the conversion process.

When these users are back in the market for your products, you may want to bid more aggressively on your ads to increase your audience click-through-rate.

Google Attribution Update We’re Thrilled About:

Dynamic Number Insertion. Since 2014, DNI has been a solution to track the effectiveness of AdWords in driving phone calls to a business. Here’s how it works: A customized JavaScript function would fire on your landing page whenever a user enters your site through AdWords ad. The code scans the page seeking your business’ phone number, and changes the phone number to a Google Forwarding Number. The Google Forwarding Number is unique to each visitor, so if that number is called (and then forwarded to your business line), Google would attribute that call as a conversion to your AdWords campaign.

It’s very effective, but until now it’s been a real pain in the butt to set up as there were three confusing code changes that a developer would have to implement on the site. The code would often get altered as clients updated their websites, and it was not possible to set this up through Google Tag Manager.

…Until now!

Google has updated the DNI implementation process. When creating your call conversion code in the AdWords dashboard, you can now just drop in the business phone number and it will generate a Javascript function that will do all the hard work for you.

You can now simply drop it on your pages via Google Tag Manager. The days of editing the opening <body> tags and creating custom CSS classes for DNI are behind us. Oh happy day!

Advertising Conspiracy Theory We’ve Bought Into:

Facebook and Instagram are listening to us. We’ve been keeping tabs on this for several months now, and I’m finally at a point where I can talk about it publicly without sounding like a crazy person, hopefully. Many of us are completely convinced that Instagram (owned by Facebook), is using their microphone feature to pick up on keywords in your offline conversations and tailor ads to you based on a matching algorithm.

Those of us in the industry have enough of an understanding of how this technology works to suggest that there is no explanation or coincidence for the fact that we’re seeing ads for brands and products we’re talking about offline. We also want to make it clear that we really have nothing to worry about, but more on that later.

Here’s one example. This past weekend, a friend of mine was telling me a story about getting sneezed on while riding the subway and having to find hand sanitzer in Penn Station. He mistakenly said the word purina when he meant to say the word purell, and we joked about the thought of him running around desperately seeking cat food to clean his hands.

An hour later I opened up Instagram to see an ad for Purina Cat Chow.

I don’t own a cat. I’m not in the market for a cat or cat food. I can confidently say that, up until that point, I’ve never been to Purina’s website, checked them out on social media, or had any other sort of internet browsing behavior that would justifiably classify me as part of an audience (or a similar audience) that Purina is targeting for their Instagram ads.

What happened instead, I’m sure, is that Facebook was accessing the microphone on my iPhone, picked up the keyword purina and THEN dumped me into one of those audience buckets.

Purina’s Privacy Policy describes how they collect information based on social media behavior and other internet browsing activity, but nothing would fall under the umbrella of offline conversations. 

It’s not Purina’s fault. They have no idea that this is happening. They just set up a Facebook Ads campaign targeting Instagram users that are possibly in the market for cat food, only they have no idea how Facebook is collecting that data and creating those audiences that they’re serving ads to.

This is just one of many examples of this happening. If you check out the aforementioned Search Talk Live podcast, we discuss this in depth around minute 40.

My colleagues and I are not the only ones with a strong hunch… You can also find dozens of news articles and reddit wormholes that support this theory as well.

See herehere, and here for more information.

Few things worth noting: Facebook has acknowledged that they have the capability to do this, but they’ve released statements saying that they do not. Also, listening isn’t really the best choice of words. There are no Facebook employees with headsets on shouting to one another, “He just said Purina! Send him a Purina ad!” It’s all algorithm based keyword targeting.

So this is not to say that we’re in danger, or that we really have anything to worry about. Our lives are going to become more and more entrenched in artificial intelligence, and we’re better off coming to terms with that fact (if you use Google Maps to get around or have ever used Spotify or Pandora, you’re secretly a huge fan of AI, even if you don’t realize it yet).

And to be honest, serving ads based on offline conversations might be a good thing. In the Gizmodo article linked to above, one person saw an exterminator ad after talking about a cockroach problem. Instagram made it very easy for them to find a solution to a major personal crisis. That’s kind of a good thing… right?

It’s just funny, really, that Facebook hasn’t admitted that they’re already doing this.

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