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Gianluca Binelli (Booster Box): “Performance marketing is broken”

07 October 2021

Gianluca Binelli is the founder of PPC Agency Booster Box. On November 16 and 17 he will speak at Friends of Search 2021. According to Gianluca, performance marketing is broken. What are we doing wrong? And what do we have to do to fix it and take back control?

Author: Martijn Beumer (Producthero)

How is life at Booster Box, in Tuscany Valley?

Booster Box is in the heart of Pietrasanta, Tuscany. Here in Silicon Tuscany, we are lucky to have the opportunity to give a small contribution to reshaping the local economy. We are doing our best to grow as much, and as fast as possible. It’s exciting to see the growth that is occurring within our company as well as within the local economy in Pietrasanta. Silicon Tuscany is being built right in front of our eyes and it is priceless.

Let’s not beat around the bush: Performance marketing is broken? Is there still hope? How can we fix this?

Yes, it is broken because we are all going after the wrong KPIs. But of course there is hope. We need to bring marketing closer to the metrics that actually matter. We need to focus on elements that are closer to the business, also from a financial perspective. This 360-view generates a clear and more accurate representation of the long term value that we are offering users and companies.

Do you think platforms like Google Ads & Facebook are showing us vanity metrics?

I’m not sure I would define them as vanity metrics, but I do think that Google and Facebook, along with other platforms, have the tendency to depict a picture that makes them look like it. I think it is important to build an agnostic point of view both in terms of attribution models, as well as in terms of KPIs that are crucial for the business. New customers are a key element to the ‘Land Grab’ phase start up, more than they are for a well-structured and established brand. We need to adapt to the users we have and really get to know them in order to find ways to optimize our marketing budget against the type of users we identify with and the value we recognize in them.

Google has made a lot of changes trying to simplify advertising in Ads. How do you feel about that?

Google is a complicated product that’s trying to become simpler. It was designed and is kept up by very smart people, but we must recognize that it is not easy. This may be deceiving, as it looks easy, but in reality it is not. For this reason, Google can sometimes be dangerous. Smart people sometimes – more often than not – forget that the rest of the world is not as educated or as intelligent as they are, or simply do not have time to analyze and understand all the details behind Google that other smart people instead dedicate to the product.

I praise and applaud Google (and Facebook) for portraying simplifying things as positive news. This gives enthusiasm to the audience about the use of their platform and makes it accessible to everybody. On the other hand, simplifications sometimes sacrifice visibility and transparency on the mechanisms. By simplifying the process, you skip many details that can harm more advanced advertisers. This puts the ‘beginners’ at advantage and advanced, smarter advertisers at a disadvantage.

Another important consideration is that we are living in a duopoly and there is not much we can do about this. Google and Facebook could pursue their strategic direction as they want, with their decision being out of user control. In fact, the platforms could follow strategies purely ignoring feedback from operators.

Does this simplification have a positive or a negative impact on the performance of Google Ads accounts?

In the long run, it will be positive. Consumers are shifting more towards online media by the day. Complex platforms sometimes leave out SMBs, as they are poorly timed, and are cash-strapped, and cannot leverage online platforms as much as they can leverage big players. Therefore, the fact that Google and Facebook will become really self-sufficient is a good incentive for many SMBs to leverage the power of the web.

What should PPC specialists do to take back control?

As PPC Specialists, we have three approaches towards moving forward. Firstly, we have to become more strategic. I don’t love buzz words but, for lack of a better term, we must “Look at the big picture”. This is crucial to help the client improve their overall business. Secondly, we must focus on creatives. Lastly, we must also focus on first-party data. In particular, we must analyze what we know about the users we interact with and that are interacting with our business, as well as the product. In fact, the product is our secret sauce, as we need to push that into the algorithms. We will go into more detail of products and algorithms during the webinar.

In his book ‘Join or Die’, Patrick Gilbert wrote that being an early adopter of Google’s smart campaigns can give you a competitive advantage. What do you think?

I agree with the general idea that there is not much room for debate, automation is already here; it is a part of our lives and we do not have much choice other than to adapt to it. Automation is just a new iteration, and is one additional change to the horizon. All this to say that it’s nothing new – we’ve already had a dozen in the last few years!

I am not always supportive of early adopters – not always does having a head start give you the competitive advantage. Generally speaking, products that are machine-learning-driven require a lot to learn. The first people to get their hands on them do not necessarily have an advantage. In fact, those who come after may sometimes have the advantage because the people before them may have already worked out the basic features and have done the hard work already. Smart bidding and smart campaigns solutions improve over time, and therefore are not applicable to the concept of first come first serve.

If we take a step back and look at the big picture with an abstract point of view, we can draw the conclusion that there is a correlation between early adopters and more successful agencies. This is not necessarily due to better performance of new solutions, but rather due to constant evolution. In fact, being an early adapter indicates that an agency is ‘on their toes’ and is constantly trying to improve.

What do you expect from Google’s new campaign type, Performance Max Campaigns?

We are in the process of testing Google’s new campaign type at the moment. Given the recency of the new advancement, I do not have enough empirical data to form an opinion.

Looking into the future, what will be the next big change within Google Ads?

What has happened on App campaigns with Universal App Campaign is a preview of what’s going to happen with the entire Google Ads experience.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search?

Mostly jokes. Nah, I am kidding.