Marketing Brand Strategy Artificial Intelligence

Preparing for the AI holidays: Meta, Google, and The Trade Desk’s newest offerings

By Jason Hartley | Head of search, shopping & social



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November 17, 2023 | 6 min read

Cookie-based targeting for the Christmas rush might be over – but there’s a new hero in town, says PMG’s Jason Hartley: AI-based solutions from big tech and media providers alike.

A droopy Christmas tree, with a bauble dangling from its tip

Christmas 2023: the first truly AI-enabled holiday season for marketers? / Scott Webb via Unsplash

In recent years, the digital marketing landscape has become increasingly competitive, making growth harder. The shift toward privacy-focused practices has, in tandem, rendered previously effective tactics (like third-party cookies) less viable. In response, marketers are shifting their focus from channel-centric approaches to objectives-driven strategies, seeking opportunities wherever they arise.

This transformation is driven by AI-powered solutions that rapidly adapt to the ever-changing market demands, rather than having marketers trying to predict every scenario in advance. But this adaptability may come at the cost of control, as marketers strive to ensure their ads maximize efficiency and appear in brand-safe environments.

How generative AI bolsters the marketing toolkit

With the emergence of generative AI, the marketing toolkit now includes a broad array of new tools, necessitating a comprehensive strategy for the upcoming holiday season.

Meta’s Advantage+ Shopping Campaigns (ASC+) and Google’s Performance Max (PMax) represent mature, feed-based, AI-driven solutions designed to optimize shared objectives across their respective ecosystems. ASC+ operates across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and the Meta Audience Network, while PMax spans search, YouTube, display, Gmail, and Maps. These products complement channel-specific strategies by identifying performance opportunities that are challenging to pinpoint without AI’s adaptability.

However, the flexibility of AI-driven campaigns has raised concerns among marketers regarding control and transparency. To address these concerns, ASC+ offers features like geo-exclusions and bid modifiers, empowering brands to strike a balance between AI-driven campaigns and tailored business objectives. Google has introduced controls such as negative keywords, placement exclusions, brand restrictions and exclusions, and audience targeting, enabling marketers to actively manage PMax campaigns.

Measuring the impact of AI

Advertisers can employ various methods to gauge the impact of these products more accurately. For instance, if ASC+ prioritizes return on ad spend (ROAS) over incrementality, marketers can create split structures to accommodate both objectives.

When URL expansion complicates performance analysis, using Google Analytics landing page reports can provide insights into landing pages and their impact. While extensive testing is likely too risky during the holidays, blended-measurement tests using sources like Adobe Analytics and first-party data can help quantify the incremental lift of these platforms beyond the click value.

For success in 2024, create your long-term testing roadmap now, including media mix modeling (MMM) to gain more insight into the value of AI-powered campaigns.

Beyond search and social, The Trade Desk’s Kokai represents another noteworthy development. Building upon its existing AI solution, Koa, Kokai enhances decision-making for optimal bid pricing, enabling advertisers to maintain competitiveness while optimizing CPM efficiency through predictive clearing decisions. Additionally, a partnership with AI performance company Cognitiv leverages deep learning algorithms to harness advertiser foot traffic data, creating customized bidding models and audiences to drive in-store traffic.

The power of generative AI in marketing

Generative AI introduces exciting new products and approaches; rigorous testing is essential before widespread adoption. AI tools are also making strides in social platforms, with Snap’s MyAI, Meta’s AI Sandbox, and TikTok’s AI Avatars on the horizon.

Visual tools, while useful for general ideas, require human intervention for precision. PMG has created generative AI tools for our proprietary tech platform, Alli, which are being used for managing PMax assets, generating insights into creative performance, and conducting data analysis using natural language instead of SQL code. Currently, these tools are relatively limited, as we do not introduce data into the public models to adhere to our strict privacy and security policies.

AI is already a significant part of a marketer's toolkit, but even in more mature products, human intervention remains crucial for strategic decisions, daily campaign management, creative generation, and measurement strategies. And for newer generative AI tools that are less understood, it’s vital to have a rigorous approach to governance and data protection. A comprehensive approach – including educating teams on available products' efficacy and pitfalls – will enhance confidence when venturing into this exciting new frontier in marketing.

AI is poised to play a pivotal role as we approach the holiday season. With the emergence of new generative AI tools, its significance will grow even further in the following holiday seasons.

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PMG is a global independent digital company that seeks to inspire people and brands that anything is possible. Driven by shared success, PMG uses strategy, creative, media, and insights, as well as its proprietary marketing intelligence platform Alli, to deliver Digital Made for Humans™. Our team is made up of over 500 employees globally, and our work for brands like Apple, Athleta, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Kohler, McDonald’s, Nike, Old Navy, Sephora and Shake Shack runs across 85+ countries and has received top industry recognition from Cannes Lions to Adweek Media Plan of the Year.Ranked by Deloitte, Inc., Entrepreneur, and Adweek as one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation, PMG has grown because of its commitment to continuous improvement, business integrity, cultivating dynamic relationships, and putting people first. Named 8X Ad Age's Best Places to Work, 4X Best Places for Working Parents, Fortune's Best Workplaces for Women and Fast Company's Best Workplaces for Innovators, PMG has also been named Adweek's Breakthrough Media Agency of the Year and 2X MediaPost's Independent Agency of the Year.

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