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Adobe's mobile bid adjustments (MBAs) versus Google's

In February, Google unveiled its Enhanced Campaigns for Adwords so that advertisers could better manage coordinated campaigns across different types of devices. But a new study from Adobe, released this week, points out that Enhanced Campaigns’ grouping of desktops and tablets into one category, separate from smartphones, is “fundamentally changing the world of search advertising,” and it recommends some different ad planning. 

As advertisers migrate toward Enhanced Campaigns, the report notes that the migration is already having the effect of contributing to the overall rise in cost-per-click (CPC) rates, in ways that a data analyst might best appreciate. As Sid Shah, Director of Business Analytics for Advertising Solutions at Adobe, told CMSWire, “This transition will become an algorithm arms race.”

Mobile Bid Adjustments

It’s the increasing CPCs that Adobe identifies as a key concern for digital marketers. In particular, CPCs on tablets are driving the rate for tablets/desktops, since the ROI on tablets has been significantly higher than for desktops. Over the next six months, Adobe sees overall CPCs rising for the first time in nearly two years. In a Google Enhanced Campaign, spending on smartphones is set as a percentage of desktop/tablet bids, called Mobile Bid Adjustments (MBAs), and it’s the MBA factor that Adobe says is critical to maximizing returns.

Google suggests that advertisers set their MBAs based on the bidding behaviors of “similar advertisers.” But Adobe says it has found that “similar advertiser” numbers “do not reflect the performance of individual campaigns and ad groups.” Over 90 percent of Google’s recommended MBAs, the Adobe report said, were either -20 percent or 0 percent, which leaves out a lot of other scenarios.

Madison Avenue, Meet NASA

Adobe says that, instead of Google’s MBAs, the MBAs should account for ROIs across desktops, tablets and mobile devices, for specific verticals. In short, the report said that Google’s MBAs “tend to be too high” and too broad, and mobile bids should be lowered and more precisely determined.

On its own advertising platform, Adobe Media Optimizer, Adobe says its algorithm has been tweaked to reflect what it considers a better way to ensure maximum ROI across devices, based on “actual conversion and engagement data specific to each campaign.” In the “algorithm arms race,” in other words, Adobe is contending that it has an automated tool to keep your side from losing.

Regardless of whether one uses the Optimizer platform, it’s hard to disagree with Adobe that it’s “becoming increasingly difficult to use a manual approach” for conducting a digital campaign. Even going back to the days of Mad Men, advertising has been based on numbers, but now, with the tracking and targeting capabilities of digital media, online ads are closer to NASA than to the old Madison Avenue.