Digital Advertising Automation

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Automation has become interwoven into everyday life, from scheduled bill payments to voice assistant devices. Workplace performance in particular hinges on our ability to automate processes and leverage artificial intelligence, especially in promoting our businesses to prospective customers.

Marketing automation can reduce time spent on repetitive tasks and improve campaign results, freeing your team to focus on high-level strategy. Accordingly, many start-ups have launched to offer full automation of services such as advertising. Giant tech companies such as Google have also led recent efforts to largely automate tasks like ad creation and placement. The question is, “are these options effective?”

Ad Automation Vendors

Many vendors have recently come to market, offering automated management of digital advertising with the potential to outperform human marketers. None however have seemed to leave a signature mark on the industry.

The advantages?

  • A capable AI could weigh performance data and make adjustments across multiple networks (e.g. search, display, and social) without requiring a human to interpret data and implement optimizations.
  • Vendors have simplified the processes of ad creation and campaign management so most businesses can run a basic ad campaign without much expert assistance.
  • These platforms are typically less expensive than traditional agencies’ ad management fees.

The potential downsides however have far outweighed the promoted benefits of these platforms in most cases.

  • In the systems we’ve encountered to date, advertisers’ results didn’t experience a significant uplift.
  • AI platforms can overlook key contextual factors that would be common sense to human marketers.
  • Many automated platforms lack the robust tools and targeting otherwise available in Google or Meta ads.
  • Most vendors’ reporting is basic and lacks the level of information available in Google or Meta ads. Without sufficient data, it may be difficult to determine the campaigns’ true results, precisely how ads appeared, and where ads were shown.

Automation in Digital Ad Platforms

Similarly, Google and Meta have incorporated their own ad automation tools, promising improved performance and simplified account setup.

Google’s Smart ad accounts offer “watered down” advertising solutions for users with minimal Google Ads experience. These accounts can be effective in obtaining basic traffic but lack the data and comprehensive targeting to ensure ads are reaching the right audiences, matching accurately to user intent, and generating quality leads.

Smart Bidding is a core element of most Google campaigns, optimizing ads via machine learning towards goals such as website clicks, conversion actions, or even a defined cost per acquisition. Initially, advertisers should properly set up their desired conversion actions and allow a “learning period” for ads to calibrate. This is a significant evolution from advertisers manually managing bid rates and generally produces improved results.

A caveat with Smart Bidding is that machine learning requires sufficient data to operate. Narrowly targeted campaigns or those with smaller budgets may not be well-suited for advanced bid strategies, potentially resulting in dramatically higher costs and inferior results. In the case of a local advertiser seeking leads within a small geographic area for a niche set of searches, the more basic “maximize clicks” bidding method actually resulted in better results than the otherwise intuitive “maximize conversions” method.

Dynamic ads have also become an interesting option for Google advertisers. For businesses with a well-developed website, dynamic ads can automatically generate ad components from content on your site. This can reduce time spent developing ads, keep ads fresh with current website messaging, and reach relevant searches that might otherwise slip through a strictly defined set of target keywords. However, dynamic ads are automatically generated. If utilized, advertisers should invest significant time initially defining the scope for ads to operate within and continually monitor dynamic ads’ appearance and matched search terms to reduce the opportunity for undesired results.

Automation Considerations

Ad automation can exponentially improve campaign results and dramatically reduce the time required to manage ads. However, these resources are not to be set up and then forgotten. Significant time should be spent upfront considering defined scopes for automation and exploring “what if” scenarios.

Manual review of performance data and user experiences is critical in the early stages of automation as well as during significant changes to your business goals, website, or other marketing elements. Ongoing analysis is then beneficial in guiding the results of automation and reducing opportunities for potential issues.

Checks can be implemented to monitor the results of automated advertising. In addition to the ad platform’s data, consider reviewing ad traffic via your website’s analytics to confirm the accuracy of reported clicks and to evaluate the quality of prospects arriving from ads. (One local advertiser’s previous marketer had targeted ads to major US cities, and the ad platform reported these as the matched locations; however, a review of their website data showed most of the traffic was actually from India, clearly indicating the need to refine the campaigns’ configuration.)

If you utilize a CRM, you can also filter new leads by source to analyze the quantity and quality of prospects from ad campaigns. Scheduled email reports can also help in reviewing ad performance on an ongoing basis.


Automation has the potential to save time, freeing your team to focus on strategy and your customers. However, “all that glitters is not gold” with marketing automation. While some ad automation tools have revolutionized the industry and improved results, others have faltered altogether or failed without proper setup and monitoring. Carefully research ad automation options and consult a specialist before investing significant resources. Then, perform due diligence by evaluating results and user experiences continually to reduce opportunities for potential issues.

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Taylor Brown

Taylor is the owner & digital strategist of Go-To Man Marketing. With a passion for digital marketing and analytics, he's helped clients to grow their businesses for more than a decade.

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