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How AI is changing performance marketing

February 2024

In 2023, there was a seismic shift in the use of AI in marketing, with the advent of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and MidJourney. These innovations have not just sparked curiosity (and, in some cases, alarm), but revolutionised how we conceive and execute marketing strategies, especially performance marketing. As we stand at the dawn of an AI-dominated era, the big question for agencies is: Are we ready for the impact of AI on our industry?

“For anyone who is well-versed in data-driven technology, using AI in marketing comes naturally”

The superpower of performance marketers

In the glittering, AI-powered future, it is the experienced and proficient performance marketers – and the agencies that employ them – who will thrive.

Performance marketing has already seen a transformation in recent years, with the rise of machine learning, real-time data analysis and predictive analytics for personalization, automation and audience segmentation. 

Here at Elespacio, for example, since 2016 we’ve crafted data-driven campaigns for clients including Buitoni, Nina Ricci, Nespresso, Desigual, and Beefeater, powered by the Google Marketing Platform. Machine learning helped the ads perform better over time by “understanding” which version responded better to which user types in specific moments of their journey.

So for anyone who is already well-versed in these data-driven technologies, using AI in marketing comes naturally.

Embracing automation and optimization

With tools such as Performance Max, responsive search ads and Advantage+ on Meta, marketers can optimize their strategies to deliver remarkable results for clients.

That’s what we did in 2020, when we collaborated with Incubeta to implement a custom bidding script on DV360 for clients including Victorinox and Cricut. 

This script not only automated campaign optimization across multiple line items in various markets, but also freed up valuable time for our team to focus on innovation and testing.

The expanding toolbox of generative AI

“Thanks to AI technology, it’s an exciting time to be a marketer”

Looking ahead, generative AI promises to expand our toolbox even further. Smartly and the Source are two AI ad content production tools that can turbocharge engagement in display and paid social campaigns. Another, Brand Guardian, can streamline QA and compliance procedures for content review. 

Thanks to the ever-developing generative AI technology, it’s an exciting time to be a marketer. The future is full of potential for growth and innovation, as long as we fully embrace it.

Balancing human expertise with AI

“AI tools still need a human in the driving seat if they’re to work to their potential”

However, before we get carried away on the AI bandwagon, it's important to remember that these tools are not a panacea. They still need a human in the driving seat if they’re to work to their potential. 

Using AI for performance marketing, for instance, involves setting clear goals, with primary and secondary KPIs. While AI can help with hitting the primary KPIs (ROAS, revenue, CPA), only human specialists can make nuanced decisions based on secondary KPIs. And only humans can spot trends such as high CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) and use that insight to decide on how best to correct a downward ROAS.

Even tools like ChatGPT can’t write relevant copy without a human to guide it and review its output. The synergy between human creativity, strategy and AI-powered data-driven insights is where the true potential lies.

Practicality and selectivity

In the rapidly evolving AI landscape, it's also easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of new tools and technology. 

While it’s important to stay up-to-date with developments, it’s equally important to keep our critical faculties (and our sanity) by carefully selecting and using only the tools that will genuinely add value to our clients’ projects.  

The future of marketing is exciting. Agencies that invest in developing AI-related skills, that strike a balance between automation and human expertise and are selective in adopting new tools, are all set to thrive in this AI-powered era. 

The key to success, especially within performance marketing, lies in harnessing the potential of both AI and human capabilities, rather than replacing one with the other.