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The loophole to Google Topics API? Creative testing.

Imprecise targeting affects mega brands and SMBs alike. Here’s why testing ad creative at scale is the fastest way around it.
Susan Wenograd

The disintegration of third-party cookies, iOS 14 ATT, GDPR, CCPA, the Surveillance Advertising Act, — the past year has been full of fundamental changes to audience targeting. And it’s only going to keep evolving in this direction, becoming more and more diluted and unreliable. This is great news for users, but bad news for marketers. 

Google Topics API is the latest in the tipping of the scales away from invasive tracking and toward personal privacy. This new method replaces their previous working iteration called FloC, and assigns websites high-level topics, like “Sports” or “Finance.” Google assigns websites a topical identifier of the websites you visit, rather than relying on the identity of the actual site or user. These topics are what will be available for targeting in the future  — much less specific, and grouped to preserve privacy. 

Gone are the days where you can pinpoint dads who watch Star Trek and like to ride bikes (if, you know, you had something that appealed to that demo). Google Topics API removes that level of specificity, dissolving audiences into larger general buckets — perhaps "Sci-Fi" and "Outdoor Activities."

The result? Marketers are now contending with much broader audiences. The adage “We’re all in the same boat,” holds true here. Global brands and SMBs alike are struggling to get their ads in front of the right people as privacy has gotten stricter. Many of them are desperate for a workaround to get conversion rates and growth back on track. 

What’s a marketer to do in this new age of targeting?

As marketers continue to lose control over audience targeting, they need to look to the thing they will always have control of: their ad creative. The less reliable the targeting, the more spot-on your creative must be. Here’s why:

  • You can no longer assume the best prospects are seeing your ad.
    With broader audiences comes a ton of people who simply don’t care about your brand or what it has to offer. Impressions become a nearly irrelevant metric because so many of them are potentially wasted.
  • Getting to your target fast is paramount.
    The longer it takes for your ads to cut through larger, generalized audiences to the subset you need to reach, the slower your ability to convert. When conversions lag, growth stagnates, heads roll.

The moral of the story? Cutting through broad audiences requires super-resonant ads. The key is finding the creative that calls to your demo as efficiently as possible with your spend. Perfectly tailoring your ad to the subset of people who will care and click is crucial.

How can you know for sure your creative will work? Test as many ads as you can as fast as you can.

Finding breakthrough creative with multivariate ad testing

Testing ad creative at scale as quickly as possible gets you to your most performant ad as quickly as possible. And there’s no better way to do that than with multivariate testing.

Multivariate testing measures the performance of every possible combination of creative variables — images, headlines, logo variations, calls to action, etc. Because you can measure how every variable works with every other variable, you are able to not only see which ads people love the most, but specifically which creative assets people love the most.

In short, serve your audience every possible option of ad creative and let them decide what resonates. Then use your data to inform new ads and keep finding winning creative. This quickly evolves your ad creative into its most powerful, conversion-driving form, which you can scale to reach the right prospects.

As targeting wanes, focus on creative over audience

Many brands obsess for weeks or months to craft the "perfect" message for the "perfect" audience. That was easier when you knew the audience. With a weakened level of that knowledge, your creative is really your only live feedback mechanism — your key lever as we enter a world with vastly less targeting than before.

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How to Run a Multivariate Test

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How to Run a Multivariate Test
The Beginner's Guide

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