The truth about Performance Max: what we love & hate

Last updated: May 22, 2024

Konrad Frankowski

Konrad 'Kon' Frankowski is the Head of Paid Media at The Evergreen Agency specialising in strategic growth, performance marketing and commercial leadership.

Read Konrad's bio here

If you’re an ecommerce brand or any company running paid ads, you’ve likely encountered Google’s Performance Max campaigns. Billed as a way to automate and consolidate your advertising across Google’s entire inventory, Performance Max has quickly become an unavoidable part of the ad landscape.

But is it living up to the hype? Here at The Evergreen Agency, we’ve gone from initially disliking Performance Max to becoming cautious proponents and active users. Like many new ad platforms, it has its pros and cons that are important for marketers to understand.

Let’s start with what we love about Performance Max:

Simplicity

One of the biggest draws is the simplicity and time-savings. Instead of managing multiple campaigns for search, shopping, display, video, etc., you create just one Performance Max campaign that serves ads across everything in Google’s advertising portfolio. When set up properly, this streamlined approach reduces account complexities.

Audience Signals

Leveraging Google’s machine learning capabilities, audience signals are a powerful way to laser-focus your targeting using first-party data combined with Google’s data sets. You can package up various creative assets and product feeds tailored to specific audiences for hyper-relevant messaging.

Asset Variety

Speaking of assets, Performance Max provides great flexibility to incorporate a variety of images, ad copy, videos and even HTML5 assets into your campaigns. This versatility allows for more dynamic ad creative to capture attention.

Automation

While not true hands-off automation, Performance Max does leverage machine learning optimization in areas like audience targeting, bidding strategies and ad placements. If configured accurately, this can provide efficiencies over time.

Scalability

Scaling up or down for sales periods is simple. You can easily add or remove locations, products and assets from the centralized Performance Max campaign to adapt to changing priorities.

Those are some of the great benefits we’ve seen from using Performance Max intelligently for clients. However, we’ve also experienced some significant downsides that should give marketers pause:

Low Barrier to Entry

The main issue is that Performance Max has an extremely low barrier to entry. Pretty much anyone can set up a Performance Max campaign and start spending a budget easily, even without fully understanding the mechanics. This has led to rampant misuse that wastes ad spend.

Cost Increases

Increased competition and overall digital ad costs combined with Performance Max’s black box optimisation means cost-per-acquisition is often higher compared to other Google campaign types like Smart Shopping. Brands need to be prepared for potentially higher ad costs.

Lack of Control

While you can set parameters, once a Performance Max campaign is live, you largely lose visibility into what precise tactics Google’s machine is employing. Ad placements, audiences and other inputs become a black box unless you use advanced scripts and workarounds.

Expertise Required

Contrary to the hands-off perception, Performance Max demands more expertise and diligence than general Google campaigns. Feeding it the correct product/conversion data and consistently optimising assets and settings is critical. There is a huge learning curve.

Those are some of the big pros and cons we’ve experienced from over a year of running Performance Max campaigns for ecommerce clients. Like many Google Ads updates, it’s not a silver bullet – but it can be an effective piece of the paid media mix when leveraged correctly.

If you’re unsure about how to properly deploy Performance Max and maximise its capabilities while constraining its downsides, reach out to discuss our paid media management services. With our depth of hands-on expertise, we can help steer you in the right direction with this still-evolving campaign type.

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