The Rise of AI Campaigns: Part 1

rise of ai campaigns detail

Alex Lawrence, Sr. Director, Professional Services

Published 12/19/2023

In the last year and a half, most marketers will have noticed platforms moving rapidly to a world where decision-making is automated and driven by black-box algorithms. In fact, if you tuned in to either of our recent webinars on Google Performance Max Campaigns (PMAX) or Meta’s Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns (ASC), I’m sure you’ve caught our panels using the term “easy button, AI-type campaigns” to describe these campaigns. 

What are “AI” campaigns, and where did they come from?

So what are they? Essentially, an AI campaign “automates” the spending process on platforms and removes the manual steps of creative, audience targeting, and campaign execution by allowing the platforms to decide when to spend, who to target, how often to target, and what the end user sees. In this way, the campaign “optimizes conversions”.

PMAX was the initial evolution here, with Meta’s ASC being the most recent major one. Of course, many other platforms are also starting to offer similar campaigns, and it seems likely that we are headed toward a more “automated” world.

Based on what we have seen here at Measured since January 2022, these AI campaigns are being heavily adopted (ASC and PMAX are shown as the ‘boldest’ markers here).

Number of Measured Brands Adopting AI Campaigns

measured brands adopting ai campaigns

Incremental Performance: AI Campaigns vs Regular Campaigns

At first glance, it may seem that this is the next step in campaign evolution. Less manual work, better results, right? As you may have guessed from the number of quotes used above, we disagree. 

The purpose of these campaigns is to optimize for conversion rate. However, you may notice consumer signals and activities in-platform that indicate a higher conversion rate, such as visiting your website, purchases in the past, or even adding something to their cart - all of these also indicate lower incrementality. As a result, the default position for these campaigns will be to deliver less incremental conversions. 

The Benefits and Challenges of AI Campaigns 

These types of campaigns have a few main features that could work to your advantage or disadvantage, depending on your situation. 

Automated campaign setup and execution

As we mentioned earlier, these campaigns are designed to deliver the most optimal in-platform performance possible. 

Here’s where it shines: If you have a relatively small number of products/product categories or have a smaller or less sophisticated team, this feature requires less bandwidth. It can remove the heavy lifting of managing complex campaigns for a relatively simple business.

Where it falls short: If your business spans many different products/product categories, particularly with revenue targets by category, and you have a sophisticated media team or agency, you are probably better off allowing that team to manage campaigns manually in order to control spend and manage revenue across these different products. 

Leverage signals you may otherwise overlook

These campaigns can help you identify people you would not normally think to target.

How to benefit from it: This is a fantastic feature if it’s used properly - that is, if it’s being leveraged to find the “needle in the haystack” within all of the platform’s available data to deliver unique reach.

The downside: Without close monitoring and control, the campaigns will be biased to target people with underlying intent (i.e., site visitors, past customers, etc.), and this may result in audience overlap with other campaigns you’re running manually.

Less control over campaign execution

Of course, these campaigns offer less visibility into where your ad dollars are being spent. While this sounds like an obvious disadvantage, it isn’t always.

Where it could be a good thing: if you are a relatively simple business, just like with automated campaign setup, this ease and efficiency can be a benefit.

The challenge: The lack of control becomes difficult when you need to manage a certain spend/revenue targets by product/category or if you want to ensure you dedicate a specific portion of your spend to upper funnel/brand awareness campaigns.

Conclusion

This post should have provided a decent understanding of what AI campaigns are. Now that you can weigh the pros and cons of using these in your own media mix, keep an eye out for the second part of this series, where we answer two major questions on marketers’ minds:

  • What should I be doing to ensure I’m getting the most incremental performance?
  • Does it make sense for our brand to be including these in our media mix?

Interested in understanding if AI campaigns are right for your media mix? Reach out and speak to someone today.