2018 has been a busy year for digital with endless updates from Google, Facebook embroiled in scandal and Amazon set to become the third largest advertising platform. Here are some of our thought’son what’s coming in 2019 in paid media…

Optimisers shift to planning

As automation takes a greater hold over mundane tasks and basic optimisation, paid media managers will look to shift more towards planning. The number of platforms that a typical PPC or paid media manager deals with is greater than ever, and the successful manager will be the one who gets the right platform mix and leverages automation and attribution effectively across that mix.

Greater automation

As mentioned above, Google continues to improve its automated tools with advances in responsive search ads, dynamic campaigns and bid optimisation. All these machine learning tools will be fed more and more signals, so we can only expect faster-improving results from them.

Google

More data

With more data than ever, the march towards automation is increasingly needed as it becomes more and more difficult to optimise campaigns manually. As well as leading the charge for better auto-optimised campaigns, more data can give us increasingly better insights, so humans can make more informed planning decisions.

Audience

The audience has become almost as integral to search as the humble keyword, and we see no slowing down in this trend. The number of options to “prospect” users as well as “remarket” to them is continually increasing, and more of these audience signals are being made available to the machines for optimisation. Some are even saying the audience will become more important than the keyword. For us, the keyword is still the ultimate signal of intent but overlaid with the right audience, you have an extremely powerful combination for driving performance.

Audience

Google Shopping becoming more cluttered

For our retail clients, Google shopping is 70% more efficient for driving traffic and 30% more effective at driving conversions than traditional search ads. However, we are finding the space becoming more congested and expensive, with more retailers investing in shopping. With the high street set for a turbulent year, we expect brands to move more investment online, making Google Shopping even more competitive. Advertisers will need to be smarter with how they combine automation, audience and attribution if they are to maintain efficient results.

Is the long-tail dead for retailers?

With more retailers shifting budgets away from traditional search and into Google Shopping, this led us to ask the question: Is long-tail search dead for retail advertisers? The answer? Absolutely not. Using our in-house API tool, we’ve taken client feeds and used them to create thousands of long-tail campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords. For retail search results, Google typically prefers to show Google Shopping results due to the higher revenue opportunities, which made us a little sceptical as to how much volume our long-tail campaigns would drive. We needn’t have been concerned; the results were staggering. Exposure was huge as we saw thousands of impressions that we wouldn’t have otherwise received, and as we had low bid caps, efficiency was also very good. We are now in the process of testing automated bidding tools within the long-tail campaigns. Long-tail search, as well as dynamic campaigns, will provide us with a key opportunity to hedge our investment in 2019, so we are less reliant on Google Shopping.

The Amazon ad platform continues to grow

Another option for retailers is Amazon’s advertising platform, growth from which has been huge. Amazon is set to surpass Microsoft as the third largest advertising platform behind Google and Facebook. For those that have experienced Amazon’s platform, it is fairly basic, and we are expecting some good upgrades in 2019, as more advertisers invest.

Amazon

More user touchpoints = growth in cheaper media investment

User attention continues to ebb, and with more brands vying for those diminishing attention spans – and users having more choice than ever – it’s taking more touch points before consumers choose a brand and convert. This means that while traditional formats in search and paid social will still form a key part of the channel mix, we can expect an increase in the uptake for cheaper media options – for example, video and organic social. If advertisers don’t look at these more cost-effective options to engage with users, relying solely on more costly traffic through search and paid social could become prohibitively expensive.

Facebook usage continues to drop

After a tumultuous year for Facebook, and widely documented drops in usage – particularly for younger audiences – how do we think Facebook will respond? We’ve already seen an increase in video content being pushed out across the platform over the last few years, and we don’t see this slowing down as Facebook drives to increase engagement across a diminishing audience. Several new formats – including ‘playable’ ads, Facebook story ads, and augmented reality ads – have been released, as they look to extend the value of their shrinking user base. There are also more tools for advertisers to give greater context and more in-depth insights into Facebook ad activity, including Facebook Attribution and brand lift reports. It’s not all bad news for Facebook, though; 2018 saw its Instagram platform hit one billion users! We are seeing increasing engagement for retail brands with more users using Instagram as a place to shop. The platform is taking advantage of this with new shopping formats.

Facebook

More choice for advertisers

As Facebook usage drops, we are seeing a rise in the number of alternative self-service ad platforms. Reddit, Quora, Pinterest, Snapchat – while some have been around for a while, all (apart from) Snapchat, are still growing. More choice for advertisers means less time spent on implementation and analysis of results. Automation to save time, which allows for more insightful planning, will be key for advertisers in 2019.