Future Outlook

When I search “is there a future for paid media specialists?” most of the results highlight one big trend on everyone’s mind right now, automation.

Money being pumped into Digital is at an all time high: Digital Advertising Soared 35% to $189 Billion in 2021 According to the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report the highest increase since 2006. Driven in part by changing consumer behaviours, and an increased adoption of technology.

So there’s no shortage of paid media budget to spend. However, visit or follow any of the well known digital marketing/paid media industry channels and you might notice a certain level of angst.

Constantly Evolving

If there’s one thing consistent in digital marketing it’s the ever evolving nature of the landscape. Driven in part by the leading architect Google, the search behemoth is the industry leader in terms of digital ad revenue year after year.

Their proactive approach to creating new and innovative advertising technologies has kept them ahead of the competition, and continues to drive consistent revenue growth for advertisers. Even coming out from the iOS 14 updates relatively unscatched, as highlighted by the significant spike in 2021 revenue shown above.

Google’s Automation

Despite the relative success of Google’s products for advertisers it has become apparent that the name of the game is automation. Combine this with it’s increased adoption of a black box approach to reporting, and you get an increasingly frustrated paid media industry. The biggest shifts we have seen so far include replacing Extended Text Ads with RSAs, encouraging Smart Bidding, increased adoption of broad match keywords, and upgrading Smart Shopping and local campaigns to Performance Max.

Performance Max in particular has a lot of digital marketers up in arms due to its lack of visibility into reporting, and total lack of control over where placements are made. Automated Display/YouTube campaigns whether or not brands have adequate creative assets, is just one of the many problematic examples. Essentially automating the video creation process with existing ad copy and assets from Google Merchant Center.

One of Google’s reasons for automation is that automating these functions allows you to focus on the things that truly matter. “Get more value with less effort”. But from the way we often see these automations perform without proper supervision, Google is the biggest to benefit from the additional value created by ad spend.

That’s not to say that there aren’t benefits to be had from embracing this technology with a measured approach, as an agency we have achieved strong performance from phasing in larger changes to ensure a smooth transition. For a clearer breakdown of our processes feel free to search our blog for specific examples. Our Complete Guide to Performance Max Campaigns is an excellent guide for those new to the campaign type.

There is no doubt that Google has an incredible amount of data and advanced algorithms it is working with, we just know from experience that what they typically recommend isn’t always what is best for everyone. We joke that Google often acts like a drunk person, there are certain subtleties and context that the machine misses, context that is easier to recognize by the human eye.

So there is hope after all

My inspiration to write this came from a post on r/PPC. This topic was already on our mind at Take Some Risk. But the comments on r/PPC were really interesting to read through, and you know what, they were a lot more positive than I had expected. The most valuable points I picked out were the following:

  • Research PPC Job titles replaced by Paid Search/Paid Media: Demonstrating the existing evolution of the industry, and the popular belief that these roles will just continue to evolve and become something different
  • You’d be surprised by the lack of technical understanding of general marketers: Another reason why those nerdy digital marketers aren’t going anywhere soon. Technical skills are always important to have, and specialization is valuable to companies.
  • Learning adjacent skill sets in addition to Paid Search/Media: Become a more well rounded marketer, this sounds slightly contrary to the previous point about specialization, but if the area you specialize in becomes obsolete you’re in trouble, so plan accordingly.

A few people also seemed to think that setup and reporting will be the bulk of future work, which would leave more time to focus on other areas of the business depending on the scale of setup and reporting.

Guiding the machines

Much like anything that’s going to happen in the future the likelihood of our current predictions actually coming true is slim, noone has a crystal ball, and if they did we’d all have won the lottery by now. However there are many highly educated people worth listening to, I recently read Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens which I found illuminating, and sometimes terrifying, but we don’t need get that deep right now.

Our Founder & Head of Strategy Duane Brown shot me the following comment about the future of digital marketing:

Our future is guiding the machines and doing more strategy work.

This is a sentiment to get on board with, in effect we will become caretakers for the technology, and it will enable us to do even more than we can today. Given the rate of change that we see happening it’s safe to say that the jobs we are doing now might look a lot different in even 3-5 years time.

But who’s to say Google will continue to dominate the industry in terms of revenue, and how do we know that the way we currently consume media will even be the same?

There is power in starting to think and make calculated decisions based on what we think might happen. Those most worried about change are the ones who aren’t thinking about the bigger picture, and what value they bring to clients beyond the levers they pull on an ad platform.