How emerging tech is transforming digital ads

Will machine learning and augmented reality transform how advertisers engage with users in the digital world?
12 July 2018

Digital ads are getting more creative and engaging. Source: Flickr / Maurizio Pesce

Advertising is only relevant if it engages your prospects and entices them to buy from you.

In the digital world, getting people’s attention is getting harder by the day. But it’s also critical, because people make purchasing decisions on the fly, with the help of their smartphones and tablet devices.

If you’re a crockery distributor in Manhattan, New York, there’s probably no point in advertising to someone looking for your wares if they live and work in Long Island, New York. Unless you’ve got ‘exactly’ what they want.

And, if you’re advertising on the internet, there’s no guarantee that what you find most interesting about your product is also what will resonate the most with your audience. Or engage them in the best possible way.

Emerging technologies could help digital advertisers a great deal, especially now that Google and Facebook, two of the biggest and most innovative ad-platforms are investing in adding capabilities for their customers.

Google is working on rolling out responsive search ads that combine advertisers’ creativity with the power of machine learning to help deliver relevant, valuable ads to customers.

Advertisers can post up to 15 headlines and four description lines, and Google’s ad-platform will test the different combinations to learn which ad creative performs best for any search query.

“So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context. We know this kind of optimization works: On average, advertisers who use Google’s machine learning to test multiple creative see up to 15 percent more clicks,” said the company’s Product Management Vice President Jerry Dischler.

But it’s not just about ads on search. Search is for necessities. Instead, people buy things that they fancy when you show them what you’re offering, something new, novel, or exciting.

One way to cater to such an audience is to show them video ads at the right time, in order to capture their imagination. Google’s research suggests that nearly 1 in 2 car buyers turn to YouTube for information before their purchase, and nearly 1 in 2 millennials look at videos for food preparation tips before deciding what ingredients to buy.

To help advertisers, Google will launch a new feature later this year. Dubbed ‘maximize lift’, it will help advertisers reach people who are most likely to consider their brand after seeing a video ad.

“This new Smart Bidding strategy is also powered by machine learning. It automatically adjusts bids at auction time to maximize the impact your video ads have on brand perception throughout the consumer journey,” explained Dischler.

However, when it comes to capturing audiences via Video, Facebook seems to be making the most effort. In preparation for the holiday season in October, the company has launched new ‘video’ tools for advertisers.

The social media giant introduced augmented reality (AR) ads on the Facebook News Feed this week, allowing people to experiment with their brand’s AR camera effects with just one click from the ad.

“By incorporating calls-to-action within the camera experience, people can seamlessly go from engaging with your product—such as trying on a lipstick shade or exploring a new game—to making a purchase or installing an app,” said the company’s announcement.

Michael Kors was the first brand to test AR ads in News Feed, enabling people to try on a pair of sunglasses and make a purchase based on their experience.

Later this summer, Facebook will begin testing AR ads with advertisers such as Sephora and others in fashion accessories, cosmetics, furniture, gaming and entertainment, and announced that it planned to roll out AR ads more broadly to other industries over the course of the year.

However, Google also realizes the importance of video. They too have unveiled a new feature for brands with awareness or reach goals. Dubbed TrueView for reach, it brings Google’s primary in-stream format together with the simplicity of CPM buying.

In an initial TrueView for reach test, used car retailer DriveTime drove 2,400 dealership visits at a CPM 40 percent below what they were paying for local TV, enabling them to reach 66 percent more people at the same budget.

For those looking to use video to drive action, Google is launching TrueView for action, which will allow users to drive any action on their website that’s important to their business goals, like booking a trip, scheduling a test drive, or requesting more information.

Later this year, Google plans to introduce a new flavor of TrueView for action designed to help advertisers generate high quality leads directly from video ads.

This new form feature enables people to submit their email address or phone number directly from video ad, making it even easier for them to sign up for services or learn more about the advertiser’s business.

The truth is, advertisers need new tools to transform the way they work, and leading platforms like Facebook and Google are making it happen.