Search engine giant Google is changing its AdWords online advertising engine by offering “enhanced campaigns” designed to seamlessly cross devices.

No More Tablet Only Campaigns

Quoting statistics from a recent study it conducted indicating 90 percent of multi-device consumers move sequentially between several screens to accomplish a task, Google stated in a blog post that the continuing proliferation and convergence of devices for accessing the Internet makes marketing more “complex and time-consuming.”

With enhanced campaigns, Google says businesses can offer different ads to different consumers based on context such as location, time of day and type of device from a single campaign, rather than having to use multiple campaigns, reports and ad extensions.

While Google stresses the convenience and simplicity of running a single enhanced campaign to cover all devices and even states in its post that “as devices converge, consumer behaviors on tablets and desktops are becoming very similar.” However, several industry observers are expressing concerns that by ending support for tablet-specific campaigns, Google is doing the advertising industry a disservice.

The Reaction

For example, an article in paidContent notes that some advertisers are complaining of “a loss of control” because enhanced campaigns do not allow the creation of search ads specifically designed for tablet users. This limitation goes against the philosophy of advertisers and publishers who consider the "tablet experience tablet a distinct, more immersive experience.”

Although paidContent acknowledges the simplified options “make sense, especially as advertisers right now confront the prospect of having to run hundreds of separate AdWords campaigns to account for all demographics and devices,” the article recommends that Google provide enhanced campaigns as a default but leave traditional granular campaigns as an opt-in feature.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google’s decision to combine tablet ads with more expensive desktop ads may not be strictly an altruistic effort to make the lives of advertisers easier. An article in the Journal states that Google may earn US$ 5 billion from tablet ads this year and the “shift will help Google increase its lead over Microsoft’s Bing search engine.” Tablet ad conversion rates are increasing rapidly and should eclipse desktop ad conversion rates by year’s end.

And a recent blog post in The Guardian gives a mixed review to enhanced campaigns. The Guardian says online advertising will become more relevant to consumers, who it identifies as winners in the readjustment of AdWords, but advertisers will lose flexibility.

Losers include smaller advertisers who may find themselves priced out of combined desktop-tablet campaigns and unable to purchase a tablet-only ad. Echoing the Journal’s opinion that this move is at least in part designed to boost Google’s already substantial AdWords revenues, The Guardian predicts Google “should see a recovery with the alignment of desktop and tablet search.”

Consumers Switch to Tablets

Recent Gartner research data supports Google’s decision to treat tablets as an equivalent of the desktop in terms of being a primary device for Web access. According to a Gartner report, PC shipments fell 5% during Q4 2012 while buyers increasingly shifted to tablets.

As reported by CMSWire, tablets are being used to consume media and that means many people might opt to buy their PCs for increased application power over other uses. That doesn't mean people will be buying both a tablet and a PC, however.

We hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet," Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, said in her report.

Enhanced campaigns will roll out to advertisers as an option over the next few weeks and Google plans to upgrade all campaigns in mid-2013.