To help you find more conversion opportunities, you’ll no longer be able to...

Google has famously predicted the trends and then forced advertisers into that trend before it was viable. A decade ago this was with mobile advertising. Google had mobile inventory and saw it as the future. Unfortunately, at that time mobile did not perform well for advertisers so most advertisers were segmenting it out. Google changed the rules and the interface making it much harder to segment out non-performing mobile traffic. Ironically, years later when mobile became a good performer they re-introduced the ability to easily segment it out.

Now it’s the same story with AI. Of course automation and predictive modeling is the future, but if it was working now nobody would have to be forced to adopt it. 

The trouble is it’s not working now for everyone but Google sees potential so it’s forcing adoption by taking away options for contextual targeting for our own good

Placement targeting in YouTube is one of the rare levers a small business has to compete. An advertiser can find videos that directly align with user intent and funnel their ads to those placements that show their product in the context a customer would be open to learning more. This benefits the advertisers and the creators. 

Which do you think are better placements for an advertiser of lacrosse balls trying to build a brand?

  1. Hand pick videos of relatively unknown but rising lacrosse athletes.
  2. Let the AI find people that are likely to show interest in lacrosse balls and show the ads on whatever that person happens to be watching. Be it cooking, weather reports, or music videos.

In this scenario the hand picked videos will show the product in context. The customer is already watching a video about the relevant topic and much more open to discovery. Contextual targeting will have a much better chance of reaching a mind that’s open to receiving the information in the ad.

It also supports creators that support the sport. Creators that need every bit of help they can get. Sure it’s possible to support them directly, but it’s not always feasible for a small brand that’s counting on getting the absolute most out of every media dollar spent. 

In the AI scenario that ad is mostly out of context. It may reach the right people, but most people’s minds reject out of context information. Information where you don’t want it is noise.  

The ad now has to work much harder to make itself relevant. It’s tough to be noise and break through.

The move to take away placement targeting is a strong arm move to increase AI adoption at the expense of advertisers. It’s designed to help Google’s revenue but will certainly harm CPA/ROAS for retailer campaigns. Policy and full quote: 

Note: To help you find more conversion opportunities, you’ll no longer be able to add content targeting to new and existing conversion campaigns in the coming months. From early 2023, all existing content targeting settings will be automatically removed from video campaigns that drive conversions. To manually remove content targeting from existing conversion campaigns, go to your ad group settings.

I hope this backfires on Google. YouTube is already a very challenging performance advertising channel. Removing keyword, topic, and now placement targeting on YouTube will force advertisers that buy on a CPA basis to pull ad dollars. 

Instead of buying ads for specific creators this pushes brands to make direct relationships with the creators themselves. Sponsorships and direct affiliate relationships will put those dollars to better use.

With enough scale, AI usually wins, but it’s a dogfight to get to that scale. Hey Google, if it worked for everyone you wouldn’t have to force it.