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What It Is & How to Get Started



What It Is & How to Get Started

Media buying is an important process for almost any business, with paid online advertising, TV advertising, audio advertising, out-of-home advertising and more being crucial aspects of many multichannel marketing strategies. However, online and offline advertising are far from simple, and digital in particular is getting more challenging every year as a variety of platforms struggle to balance effective targeting with privacy considerations.

In this guide, we’ll explore how media buying works today, its importance, how to overcome challenges, and trends to watch out for.

What Is Media Buying?

Media buying refers to the act of procuring ad space or time. Digital media buying occurs when buyers purchase ad space via online ad networks, social media platforms, or directly from website or podcast owners. Offline media buying occurs when buyers purchase ad space or time with television networks, radio stations, or through out-of-home (OOH), including billboards and digital signage ads.

Media buyers will work to manage advertising budgets and optimize ad performance. They must consider factors such as where the target audience is likely to be, the cost of ads of various placements, and how often ads should run. Typically, media buyers are part of the overall marketing team and work closely with other marketing staff.

Media Buying vs. Media Planning

Media buying is different from media planning, although the same people may be involved in both. Discover a bit more about these two critical advertising tasks and how they go hand-in-hand below.

Media Planning

Media planning comes before media buying. The role of a media planner is to conduct research and lay out a strategic framework that the media buyer can bring to life. Some components of a strong media plan include:

  • Goals that align the media strategy with the business objectives
  • Definition of KPIs to help measure the performance of media campaigns
  • Information about the audience to help the media buyer better target ad campaigns
  • Budgets for campaigns to help the buyer keep things within scope
  • Information about what channel and partner mix is likely to best support strong campaign performance

It’s important to note that media planning is not a task that takes place in an advertising vacuum. Media planners may also plan other types of marketing, or work closely with teams that are handling social media, email, and content marketing. It’s critical that ad campaigns work seamlessly with these other channels to support overall marketing success.

Media Buying

Once a plan is created, media buyers use various tools to implement the plan. Media buyers are responsible for reviewing the insights provided and boundaries set by the media plan so they know what type of media mix to seek, what audiences the ads are meant to connect with, and how much marketing spend is allowed for each campaign. Much of the value they bring comes through their awareness of the media marketplace, access to unique opportunities, and their skilled negotiation, helping to stretch each advertising dollar for the greatest impact.

Once they understand the plan, media buyers use varied processes to execute it, including leveraging programmatic buys, direct buys, or both. Programmatic and direct buying are covered in greater detail in the section on different media buying methods below.

Why Is Media Buying Important?

The act of media buying is essential if you want to advertise, and advertising is critical for most businesses today. It can be difficult to drive enough organic traffic or engagement to sustain revenue without some advertising efforts. That’s even more true for startups and new product launches, because it can take months for organic efforts such as SEO to have a real impact on traffic and visibility.

Some key reasons to invest in a more strategic media buying effort include:

More informed negotiations

Experienced media buyers keep up with current trends in the industry and are accustomed to leveraging negotiation techniques to get the best deal possible. They will be able to get networks or publishers to agree to added value to enhance the ROI of ad spend, and execute first-to-market opportunities that truly help a brand stand out from the clutter.

Ability to optimize ad placements

Experienced media buyers have existing relationships and connections within the industry that can help them in securing strong ad placement, and in optimizing campaigns as they evolve. Having deep connections with network partners is critical in continuing to collaborate on what is working (or not) as brands look to hit their KPIs.

Options for cross-channel integrated campaigns

It’s important not to think of your media buys in a silo, instead focusing on the right mix to properly support and amplify each effort.

Example: Let’s assume your brand will be airing their first prime time commercial on Black Friday. You’ve put a lot of time, research and money into producing a TV commercial that captures your brand energy, and it will ideally serve as an introduction of your brand to a whole new audience. You’ve also focused on a new product line you’re launching in the ad, which will be appealing to new and existing customers. Simply put—you’ve put a lot into this commercial, and you want to be sure you get the most from your investment.

Now, imagine your total media buy for this holiday launch included only the commercial ad spot—an expensive one-and-done that you were hoping would be impactful enough to carry the whole campaign. That’s neither realistic nor the best use of your money.

In an integrated media buy, that same messaging would be seen before, during, and after the commercial airs. This might include pre-air social media promotion efforts, encouraging folks to tune into the commercial for an exciting brand announcement. It can also include additional linear and/or Streaming TV buys that run surrounding the airing to build familiarity amongst the audience. Whatever advertising channels you have available can be considered in the media buy from the outset to ensure you have proper supporting media planned and budgeted for.

“For tentpole events especially, it’s important to leverage supporting media on the platform itself, in addition to amplifying the message across all other marketing channels. Getting the message in front of the largest number of people possible is only part of the equation; repeating that same message across other platforms with the right reach and frequency helps make sure that big impression sticks.”

Stefanos Metaxas, EVP, Client Strategy & Analytics, Streaming+ at Tinuiti

Quality Creative Matters

Showing up in the right places at the right time for the right audiences is important, but it’s not everything. How you show up matters just as much.

We asked Stefanos Metaxas, EVP of Client Strategy & Analytics, Streaming+ at Tinuiti, to provide insight into what our creative process typically looks like…

“Our creative process varies depending on a few key factors. For example, the steps we take for a client who has signed on for our creative services will be different from those we’d take if a client was providing creative work their in-house team produced.

If a client provides us with ready creative, we review it for any straightforward optimization opportunities. We’ll often provide feedback to determine if small edits are possible—such as adding an end card, a logo, or a call to action.

If a client has in-process creative, one of our team members can provide a light review, taking a closer look at the storyboards to ensure everything is buttoned up. Occasionally, we might also submit the creative for approval or prior oversight from the networks themselves if the brand is promoting anything that might impact the networks’ internal review processes. This is rarely required, but a step we proactively take for select industries to ensure our campaigns launch without a hitch when the time comes.

If a brand is looking for a true creative partner to guide them through every step of the process, we’ve got you covered with our creative services arm.”

How Different Media Buying Methods Work

Media buying might sound like a pretty specific task, but it actually covers a wide range of methods. Some businesses concentrate on programmatic media buying, for example, while others focus more heavily on direct buying and offline media. At Tinuiti we employ a mix of all methods, giving us flexibility in aligning media plans with clients’ business goals.

Programmatic vs. Direct Buys

Programmatic buys are orchestrated with help from automated technical tools. Artificial intelligence is used to create programmatic advertising buying decisions that conduct real-time bidding at a pace and scale that is impossible to maintain manually.

Typically, these processes are run based on algorithms that match ad opportunities to campaign profiles set up by your media buyers. The better media teams are at dialing in these profiles and the more clarity provided on the KPIs, the better the outcome.

In contrast, direct buying refers to manually negotiated ad contracts with specific media partners or programs.

When you use something like Google Ads, you’re typically engaging in programmatic buying. If you negotiate ad space with a website owner directly or pay to sponsor an individual podcast, that would be direct buying.

Full-Service vs. Self-Service

When you’re working to set up media buying for your business, you’ll first decide between self-service and full-service buying. Full-service media buying—commonly referred to as managed-service—is offered by digital ad and performance marketing agencies like Tinuiti.

With self-service media buying options, you handle all the work to implement and execute your plan. That includes uploading the necessary information to ad networks and making needed adjustments to campaigns to optimize performance.

Full-service media buying

In a full-service arrangement, a dedicated media buying team negotiates directly with the publishers on your behalf, using their scale to get you better rates than you might going it alone. A good partner will work with you to create the media plan, shoot and edit the right creative, and align (and place buys for) a media plan with your specific goals in mind.

“If you want to go it alone, you can buy whatever network you want, but is it going to align with who you’re trying to reach, when you’re trying to reach them, and actually result in a conversion and/or an increase in brand lift? That should be determined by someone who is an expert in the field. It takes a lot of experience to do so, in addition to our proprietary tools that allow us to design media plans around clients’ goals.”

Stefanos Metaxas, EVP, Client Strategy & Analytics, Streaming+ at Tinuiti

You’ll also want to explore what your partner can offer regarding measurement and reporting. Not every agency offers measurement, and among those that do, some are using a third-party measurement tool that isn’t really built for this particular application.

At Tinuiti, our measurement capabilities—and the resultant reporting and insights they provide—play a pivotal role in the data-driven media buying strategies we execute for our clients.

Our teams provide robust measurement that helps you understand how the media you’re running impacts your business. This measurement helps inform future media buys, so we’re able to constantly refine your campaign for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

Offline Media Buying

Traditional media outlets are a valuable advertising option for many businesses, often working in tandem with online buys. These include television and radio advertising as well as out-of-home (OOH) media, such as billboards and signs at transit stations. To maximize ROI for these ad formats, media teams must be creative and well-informed about the needs and habits of their target audiences.


Our definition of TV is evolving as most people typically watch both linear TV and Streaming TV on the largest screen in the house—often, in the living room. If you’re working with the right partner, they will work with your budget to plan a media buy that will help you achieve your goals. Agencies like Tinuiti do have campaign minimums to ensure a clear read on results, but both linear TV advertising and Streaming TV advertising may be more affordable than you think—particularly for campaigns designed to test the performance waters.

Radio Networks

Radio advertising is an established advertising medium that enables you to reach wide and varied audiences while they work, commute, exercise, cook and clean, and more.

Radio advertising is broadly broken into two categories—terrestrial radio (traditional) ads and Streaming radio ads. While traditional radio advertising has its benefits, one of its biggest drawbacks is the difficulty in measuring its performance.

At Tinuiti, we typically recommend digital audio advertising as an alternative to terrestrial radio. For Streaming radio ads, we are able to track KPI outcomes, and use those learnings to continually improve our clients’ campaigns.

“Streaming audio is very measurable. Similarly to Streaming video, we use data to measure the impact of impressions across the audio landscape, including podcasts, without relying on HDYH surveys and promo codes.”

Stefanos Metaxas, EVP, Client Strategy & Analytics, Streaming+ at Tinuiti

Out-of-Home Advertising (OOH)

Out-of-home advertising options include an increasingly wide variety of methods and tactics, including traditional billboards and digital signs, transit advertising, experiential advertising, and guerilla marketing. When buying this type of media, it’s important to consider the optimal placement for your message and audience.

For example, if you can quickly convey a relevant message to professional commuters on their way to work via the freeway, a billboard might be ideal. However, if your message is more complex and takes a bit more time to digest, you might fare better with a digital sign at a bus stop or metro station.

How the Media Buying Process Works

Your media buying process must work with your business and marketing goals and integrate well with other processes, such as sales and customer service. But there are some steps in media planning and media buying that every organization should consider.

Set Goals & KPIs

Start by understanding your primary goals, and how you’ll measure performance. This includes considering:

  • Overall business goals. Ensure you have a strategic understanding of the business, including short- and long-term goals. Marketing and advertising must support these goals, and the paths you take with media buying may be quite different if you’re in a viral growth period than they would be if you’re trying to sustain existing revenue, for example.
  • Overall marketing and advertising goals. Next, take some time to understand big-picture marketing goals. Remember that ad campaigns don’t operate on their own; they must be planned and implemented to support the greater marketing strategy. Discuss the expectations for marketing and advertising overall, and what the business aims to accomplish. Common goals include increased brand awareness, generating revenue, or supporting the sales funnel.
  • Specific campaign goals. Now get into the nitty-gritty and set measurable goals for every campaign. If you haven’t determined which metrics to capture, you won’t be able to compare campaign efforts to goals or to past performance.

Define Your Target Audience

Every ad campaign should have a well-defined target audience that you’re trying to elicit some kind of response from, whether that’s making them aware of your brand or buying something. Insights into the desired audience help the media buyer optimize bidding strategies to support campaign performance.

Sometimes, your entire target audience is an appropriate audience for an ad campaign. It’s more likely, however, that a segment within the larger set is the best audience for a specific ad, offer, or product. For example, an online bookstore running an ad campaign centered on summer reading would want to target an audience composed of people including parents, grandparents, and teachers.

Research Media Channels

You could simply throw all your ad budget at a single network and call it a day. However, if hitting your goals was that simple, media planners and buyers wouldn’t exist! Instead, it’s important to research a wide variety of media channels to determine how they can align with the target audience and goals for a given ad campaign.

At Tinuiti, our strategic planning team uses tools to determine the optimal mix of channels to reach a specific audience, as well as the budget we should allocate to those channels.

Media channels can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Search, including Google and Bing
  • Email, which lets you advertise in emails sent through email marketing networks
  • Social media, including TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook
  • Television, including cable and broadcast networks as well as OTT services like Netflix and Hulu
  • Audio, including local radio as well as streaming services like Pandora, and podcasts
  • Print, including newspapers and magazines
  • Direct mail, such as ValPack

Determine Your Required Budget

It’s important to begin by defining your audience and determining where that audience consumes media before setting your budget; these two elements greatly impact how much you’ll need to spend to reach the right audiences in the right locations, and at the right frequency.

Send Requests for Proposals (RFPs) – Self-Service

If you choose to take the self-service route, your process should include sending RFPs to glean more information about ad opportunities. It’s important to be specific in your RFP and ask for the data you need to make the best possible decisions with your ad budget. When you ask for specific information consistently across all your RFPs, you also build a data bank of apples-to-apples info that can be used to make better media buying decisions.

Some information to ask for in an RFP includes:

  • Available ad inventory
  • Price, including net media costs
  • Ad specs

If you’re working with an experienced, full-service partner like Tinuiti, we would not recommend or require you RFP networks on your own. Our media buying team is already fully versed in the available offerings, and in some cases have pre-negotiated preferential pricing. This can stretch your campaign budget further than the rates you’d get independently might allow for.

Submit Insertion Orders (IO)

Only applicable to direct deals, this is the agreement between you and the publisher about your ad. At Tinuiti, we have a sophisticated interface that generates, sends, and maintains IOs. Because you need an IO for each ad deal, we recommend working from templates to make the IO process efficient and accurate if you’ll be going the self-service route.

Each IO must contain the terms and conditions of the agreement. Large publishers, vendors, and brands may want their terms used for the IO, but there is also often some room for negotiation. An experienced media buyer knows when negotiation is possible and can use tactics to get more favorable terms and conditions for the advertiser.

Launch Your Campaign

Once all your creative and paperwork is in order, you’re ready to launch your campaign. This can take mere minutes, as with small ad campaigns on social media, or days to weeks, as is common with out-of-home advertising.

Measure & Optimize Live Campaigns

Once campaigns go live, the media team’s job is not done. It’s important to regularly measure the performance of campaigns and optimize them when and where possible to keep up with changing conditions, or in response to insights.

Many digital ads can be changed quickly and easily, with updates taking effect within hours if not minutes. Historically, the insights necessary to make these in-flight optimizations haven’t been available for television advertising. Brands would launch a two-month ad campaign and have to wait until it was finished to have any real insights into its performance.

At Tinuiti, our robust measurement capabilities unlock and enable in-flight optimizations that can be quickly implemented, even in traditionally inflexible channels like linear TV.

Review & Analyze the Campaign’s Final Spend

Once the campaign is over, conduct a debriefing. Analyze how much you spent and what results were driven by that spend. Ask the team whether something could have been done differently and better and what lessons were learned from the campaign. If something worked really well, note it for future efforts.

Overcoming Media Buying Challenges

Media buying is a complex process that can come with any number of challenges. If the media plan isn’t well-thought-out, for example, it can leave the buyer spinning their wheels. Or if the audience isn’t clearly defined, the buyer’s efforts are not likely to lead to great success. Here are a few other common media buying challenges.


As previously mentioned — more than once, because it’s that important — you must be able to accurately measure the performance of your ad campaigns. Without the right metrics, you can’t determine what is working and what isn’t. That means you can’t make data-backed decisions to improve ad performance in the future or justify your ad spend. Note that we are defining “performance” as the ability of a campaign to impact KPIs that are important to a brand, whether that is brand awareness or conversions for example. Even in a pure brand campaign, you need to maintain some bottom-of-funnel guardrails to keep the business on track, so measurement is important no matter what your ultimate goal is.

Data-driven attribution that ties conversions and revenue to specific ad campaigns has historically been a challenge in the clickless TV space in particular. As a performance-oriented marketing agency, overcoming that challenge was crucial to our continued success. At Tinuiti, there is no reporting black box. Our robust measurement and reporting helps fuel campaign efficiency and performance while providing our clients with the detailed insights they need.

Ongoing Optimization

The ability to adjust live campaigns in real-time gives you increased potential power over performance; that’s especially true when you have consistent, accurate measurement.

Thanks to our team’s detailed and actionable campaign insights, we are able to regularly optimize campaigns based on up-to-date information. There is no endless loop of “waiting for a campaign to end” to see how it performed, and “waiting for next time” to try something different; we are always measuring and appropriately optimizing.

Ad Fraud

Client hijacking is a form of ad fraud that involves a cybercriminal redirecting clicks on your ad to a different ad. In essence, the scammer steals the click, but you still pay for it.

As a media buyer, it’s important to be aware of this and other issues, and understand the signs that it might be happening to your ads. If you’re eating through your budget, for example, but you don’t see the traffic that the clicks seem to indicate, your ad might have been targeted. You can contact the ad network to report the issue.

Brand Safety

Programmatic advertising presents a challenge for brand safety. If your ads are associated with the wrong words or context by ad algorithms, you might end up with a brand reputation issue. For example, a children’s toy brand doesn’t want its ads showing up next to violent content.

Media buyers can reduce some of these issues with custom keyword lists and negative keywords. You do need to take care with these tactics, though, because if you’re too cautious, you can unnecessarily limit your advertising opportunities.

Examples of Media Buying Platforms

There are many media buying platforms to choose from, and when you’re buying ads to support various campaigns, you may need to work with more than one. We encourage you to put some time into researching which options work best for your particular business, with some summaries for popular platforms below to get you started…

Proprietary Tools

Tinuiti’s product offering includes tools with which our teams can plan, execute, and monitor media buys across a variety of landscapes such as linear TV, OTT, and digital audio. This synthesizes what can be an enormous amount of individual campaigns into a single platform for consistency and ease of use by our buyers, and for viewing performance.

We transact in this platform whether we are issuing IOs directly to partners, or buying these channels programmatically. We have also built and continue to iterate on our internal tools to “talk” to other platforms in the digital marketplace, like a demand side platform (DSP) for programmatic buying.

Google Display & Video 360

Google Display and Video 360 provides end-to-end management for display and video ads on the Google network. As the arguable king of digital advertising networks, Google has a lot to offer, including collaborative workflows and a truly amazing amount of data.

You can customize dashboards to keep an eye on your media efforts and involve your entire media team — from creative to analytics. You can also streamline the audience management process, because your audience insights are accessible in a single location and support all types of ads.

Finally, Google tools are backed by a high level of automation options powered by Google technology, making for easy-to-scale ad efforts.

The Trade Desk

The Trade Desk is a media buying platform that helps you advertise to the right audiences, whether they’re local or on the other side of the globe.

You can use this platform to plan future campaigns, implement and optimize current campaigns, and measure your success. Media buyers who use this platform get access to more than their own data. Premium partners can make use of data from around 2 million segments from other partners, which can help you optimize ads even if your business or product line is very new.

The Trade Desk also has in-house data scientists and engineers that can help develop custom solutions and approaches to advertising.

Amazon DSP

Amazon DSP is a demand-side platform that provides access to ad opportunities on Amazon as well as other locations online. This platform provides exclusive access to Amazon ad opportunities, which can be critical for those with an Amazon Store or products on the platform.

However, you don’t have to sell products on Amazon to use this platform. Amazon DSP also comes in self-service and managed-service options, so you can get the right level of service for your business needs.

Amazon also offers a lot of education and training, providing a path for almost anyone to gain success with this DSP. Agencies and other professionals may want to take one of Amazon’s DSP certification courses to demonstrate their knowledge.


Criteo specializes in connecting advertisers with retailers and publishers. Specifically, it works with businesses such as Shopify and Best Buy, and it helps get your ads in front of retail customers who are primed to make purchases.

A particular strength of this platform is that it relies primarily on first-party data to support automated ad decisions. This helps reduce the impact of the crackdown on third-party data on digital advertising.

Adobe Advertising Cloud

Adobe Advertising is an Adobe product that integrates seamlessly with other offerings from the software giant. This might be a good platform to use if you already use Adobe for ad creative or project management, as you can easily add media buying processes to your workflow.

The AI power of Adobe Sensei helps you forecast ad budgets and automatically optimize ads, and you can get real-time actionable insights that help you drive current ad performance and make better media buying plans and decisions in the future.

Watch These Trends in Media Buying

Digital landscapes evolve rapidly, so it’s important to keep an eye on trends. Some of the most important and stickiest trends to consider in media buying today include:

  • Streaming. Nearly 80% of households in the United States use a streaming service (or multiple services) regularly. Only around 40% say they subscribe to cable television. The takeaway here is clear: the future of television is streaming, and the future of television advertising is also streaming. However, don’t count out linear! If you have the budget, it can still play a pivotal role in helping you reach the widest audience in conjunction with your OTT ad buys.
  • Social media and video. Close to 50% of social media users aged 16 to 64 say they turn to social media as a primary method for learning about new products or brands. Video is increasingly the most engaged-with media format on social platforms — and platforms like TikTok require it. Media plans should include a strong overall focus on video, with media buyers needing to seriously consider the role social media plays in their efforts.
  • First-party data. As privacy concerns mount and third-party data is removed or seriously limited, first-party data becomes increasingly important. Media teams need to consider their own data as well as other first-party data they can leverage to make the best possible choices about ad buying.

Apply What You’ve Learned to Your Next Ad Campaign

Take the time to create strong media plans and support your media buying teams. Find out more about optimizing non-click-based media by visiting Tinuiti’s Streaming+ page.

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How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]



How to Schedule Ad Customizers for Google RSAs [2024]

It’s no wonder that responsive search ads have steadily grown in popularity in recent years. Through Google’s machine learning capabilities, RSAs provide a powerful way to automate the testing of multiple headlines and descriptions to ensure a closer match to user intent. The benefits are clear: RSAs mean broader reach, better engagement, and improved performance metrics.

However, all these benefits come at a significant (but reasonable) cost – they can be extremely difficult to manage, especially when it comes to updating ad copy to promote limited time offers.

I know this firsthand – I work with several ecommerce clients with promotions that constantly change. Not too long ago, I found myself going through the consistently tedious process of updating a client’s RSA headlines and copy. As I was making the changes, I thought to myself: “There must be a better way to update this ad copy. I shouldn’t have to use find and replace so many times while pausing and enabling my ad campaigns.”

After expressing this to my colleague, Jordan Stambaugh, the two of us agreed there must be a better way. But we’d have to make it happen. A few weeks later, we put that idea into action and created a more efficient process for updating RSA ad copy on a scheduled basis. If you want to try this process for yourself, just keep reading.

Responsive Search Ad Customizers 101: Basic Options & Execution

Before diving into the process of scheduling automatic updates for your RSA customizers, it’s essential to understand some key Responsive Search Ad fundamentals.

First, you can customize three main options within RSAs: the Attribute Name, the Data Type, and the Account Value. Each of these plays a vital role in personalizing your ads:

  • Attribute Name: This is essentially the identifier for the customizer. It is how you’ll reference the specific piece of information you’re customizing within the ad. For instance, if you’re running a promotion, you might name an attribute “Promotion.”
  • Data Type: This indicates the kind of data the attribute represents and it determines how the information can be formatted and used within the ad. Common data types include Text (for plain, non-numeric text), Percent (to represent percentage discounts), Price (to denote monetary values), and Number (for any numerical value).
  • Account Value: This is the default value for the attribute that you set at the account level. It acts as a fallback if more specific values aren’t provided at the campaign or ad group level.

For example, if you wanted to promote a 10% off discount using RSAs, you’d use the “Discount” attribute, a data type of “Percent,” and an account value of “10% off.” Then, when someone is searching for products, Google would test automatically inserting a copy regarding a 10% off promotion into your ad.

Once you’ve set up the right customization options, you can start to format your RSAs with customizers.

Here’s how:

  • Start by typing in {
  • Click on Ad Customizer then select your attribute
  • Google will populate your attributes that are already uploaded
  • For a simple offer, use the “Default text” attribute as a catch-all. This will ensure your ads run smoothly if Google can’t pull the right messaging from your RSA feed



How to Schedule Your Ad Customizers with a Feed

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s cover how to schedule your ad customizers.

Just follow this three step process:

1. Create the feed

Start by creating two sheets: The Parent sheet, and the Child sheet. The “Parent” sheet will act as the primary data source, while the child sheet will pull data from the parent sheet.

We’ll start by building the parent sheet. After opening the sheet, start by renaming the active tab to “Promotions.” Don’t skip this step, it’s crucial for referencing this range in formulas later on.

In your “Promotions” tab, head to the top row and label columns A, B, and C with the headers of your ad customizer attributes. For example, you might have “BrandSaleHeadline” as your attribute in column A, “text” as the Data Type in column B, and “Shop the Collection” as the Account Value in column C.

Once your headers are in place, move to cell C2. Here, you’ll input the expression =lookup(today(),F:G,E:E). This formula will play a key role in dynamically updating your RSA customizer based on the current date.

Next, go to columns E, F, and G, which will be used to manage your scheduling. In these columns, you’ll list out the different values your chosen attribute might take, alongside their corresponding start and end dates. For example, under the “BrandSaleHeadline” attribute, you might schedule various promotional headlines to appear during different sale periods throughout the year.

Here’s how your sheet might look:

Now look back at the first 3 columns on your sheet. They should look like this:

Now create a second sheet. We’ll call this sheet the Child sheet. It’s going to automatically pull in data from the parent sheet you just created, and will be the one you link to Google Ads later on.

Columns A, B and C will be almost identical to the child sheet, but we will be using a special formula later so we can automatically populate this. So, start by labeling Row 1 Column A “Attribute,” then the next column as “Data type,” then column C as “Account value.” 

Then go to C2 and use this expression to populate the right account value from the parent document: =importrange(“[PARENT DOCUMENT URL HERE]”,”Promotions!C2″)

Your sheet should now look like this:

We recommend adding a date range with default text for any days you’re  not running a promotion. In the example above, we have “Shop Our Collection” appearing as default text.

2. Input attributes

Once you have your feed created, the next step involves inputting your attributes into the Google Ads platform. This can be done either manually or through a bulk upload.

For the manual approach, navigate to “Tools & Settings” in your Google Ads interface, then go to ‘Setup’ followed by “Business Data.” Here, you’ll find an option for “Ad Customizer Attributes.” Click the plus sign to add your attributes. It’s crucial to use the same attribute names that you’ve established in your Parent Google Sheet template to ensure consistency and proper data synchronization.



Alternatively, if you prefer the bulk upload method, again head to “Tools & Settings.” This time, select “Bulk Actions” and then “Uploads.” For this process, you only need to upload columns A to C from your template. 

Be aware that it might take some time for your uploaded attributes to be reflected in the business data section of Google Ads.

3. Set up an automatic schedule

At this point, you’ve almost finished scheduling your ad customizers. Navigate to Tools & Settings, then Bulk Actions, then Uploads, then click the Schedules tab at the top. Select your Child Google Sheet as the data source, and share your Google Sheet with the appropriate email.



And there you have it – Google will automatically pull in the data you populated in the sheets into your RSAs.

Common Challenges When Scheduling RSA Ad Customizers

When we test these sheets with our clients in the wild, we’ve uncovered five common challenges. Be on the lookout for these issues – solving them before they happen can save you a lot of trouble down the line.

Not scheduling your upload when the site changes 

The first and most significant hurdle is the mismatch between the scheduled data upload and website content updates. For instance, if the Google Sheet is set to upload at 11 am, but the website changes occur at 3 pm, there’s going to be a discrepancy where the wrong message could be displayed for several hours, or new messaging could appear prematurely. Conversely, if the website updates happen before the scheduled sheet upload, outdated promotions might linger until the new data is imported. Synchronizing these schedules is crucial; it’s best to align them so updates occur simultaneously.

Skipping QA during a message change

Another pitfall is neglecting quality assurance (QA) during message updates. It’s vital to regularly check the business data section to verify that the correct values are in place post-update.

Issues with the IMPORTRANGE function

Then there’s the technical aspect of setting up the IMPORTRANGE function correctly in the Google Sheets template. The ‘child’ template must reliably pull data from the ‘parent’ sheet. If this function isn’t configured correctly, data won’t be imported as needed.

Not sharing access of the Google template for automatic uploads

Pay attention to your access permissions for the Google Sheets template. Google will prompt you with the email address that needs permission to access the ‘child’ sheet for automatic uploads. Overlooking the sharing of your sheet with this address will prevent the system from working.

Having date range gaps in your parent sheet

Lastly, a common oversight is leaving date range gaps in the ‘parent’ sheet. Every single date must be accounted for without overlaps. A practical tip is to have an ‘evergreen’ backup message ready, scheduled to run continuously, ideally through the end of the year, to cover any potential gaps.


Leveraging Google Sheets in conjunction with Google Ads to schedule RSA ad customizers is a game-changer for managing dynamic promotional content. This process not only streamlines your workflows but also ensures that your ads remain relevant and up-to-date, reflecting current promotions without the need for constant manual intervention. 

By adopting this method, you’ll save significant time and effort, allowing you to focus more on strategy and less on the minutiae of ad copy updates. Give it a try and experience a more efficient way to manage your RSAs, keeping your campaigns fresh and engaging with minimal hassle.

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10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies



10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies

In 2023, there are a total of 4.89 billion social media users worldwide. One of the many reasons you should build your brand’s presence on social media is to capture a slice of this pie.

So, if you’re a marketer wanting to crush it online — this is your time to take action. The social presence of billions of users shows great potential to connect, engage, and build lasting relationships with your target audience.

The real power lies not just in being active on social media networks but in planning social media goals in advance and crafting engaging social media content strategies that make a meaningful impact.

And creating one isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires a thoughtful approach that goes beyond the basics.

To help you accomplish your social media goals, we’ll cover ten advanced tips that you can use to craft an engaging social media content strategy.

1. Conduct A/B Testing

A/B testing allows you to optimize your social media marketing strategy based on insights and social media metrics.

Experiment with different content formats, headlines, captions, and visuals to see which format performs better.

You can also try different content styles and focus on visual content, which is 40x more likely to be shared on social media.

Example: Test two different headlines for a product announcement social post and use the one that users engaged with and shared more. You’ll need to track social metrics like reactions, shares, and new followers during your test.

2. Personalize your content

Before creating a social media marketing plan or content calendar, segment your audience based on demographics, behaviors, and interests.

Craft tailored messages for each segment and find social media content ideas for that target audience.

And to encourage them to engage with you, publish funny content. 80% of marketers say that funny content is the most effective form of social media posts.

Example: Tap into Instagram retargeting ads to promote personalized product recommendations to customers based on their past purchase history.

3. Embrace User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content is a powerful way to build trust, gather a sense of community, and increase engagement rates.

Encourage users to share their experiences and stories about your brand.

Plan a posting schedule using social media tools, highlight, and feature UGC in your content, and give credit to the creators to showcase the authenticity.

Then, create a dedicated UGC marketing campaign.

Example: Invite customers to share photos of themselves using your product with a branded hashtag. Comment on and share these photos on your company’s social media (with permission, of course), thanking the participants for joining in on the fun.

4. Incorporate influencer collaboration

Partner with influencers in your industry who have high engagement rates. 67% of marketers agree they prefer working with micro-influencers with 10k-100k followers or subscribers.

Collaborating with influencers allows you to tap into their social networks and leverage their credibility to boost engagement.

Use social media management tools to co-create content, host giveaways, or collaborate on campaigns aligning with your brand and the influencers’ style to extend your reach and gain engagement.

If your target audience is Gen Z, you can prefer Instagram Reels for influencer marketing.

For context, look at the stats below:

1701077164 213 10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies

Example: Partner with a fitness influencer to promote your health supplements through workout videos.

5. Use interactive elements

To accomplish your social media marketing goals, you can engage people to interact with your brand via polls, quizzes, and surveys. Encourage them to participate and share the results.

Incorporating interactive elements into your social media marketing strategy will spark active participation between your social media team and audience, making them more likely to engage and share opinions.

Example: Host a poll on X (formerly Twitter) to let your audience choose the next product feature you’ll develop or the types of content they’d like to see.

6. Leverage user reviews and testimonials

Showcase user reviews and testimonials as part of your content strategy. Highlight positive feedback and make improvements by taking accountability for negative feedback.

Incorporate these testimonials into your social media strategies to create dedicated reviews or testimonial videos. Sharing this social proof helps build trust and credibility with your audience.

Example: Feature video social proof of a satisfied customer explaining how your software improved their business.

7. Create long-form content

While social media platforms are mostly known for short-form content, they’re switching gears to focus on long-form content.

It’s great, especially if your business receives great engagement on X (formerly Twitter).

“Long-form posts on the microblogging platform are now at 3 billion views per day and rising.”, said Elon Musk, the owner of X.

“This is roughly on par with all newspaper articles views on Earth,” he continued.

1701077165 831 10 Advanced Tips for Crafting Engaging Social Content Strategies

Educational content and case studies tend to work great on LinkedIn. Additionally, blog posts can also help you establish your brand as an authority in your industry.

Publishing compelling content is a great way to increase engagement and shares. You can also repurpose educational content on multiple sites and tailor it to each platform for the best results.

Example: Publish content about challenges and opportunities your company faced and how it helped you increase return on investment.

8. Collaborate with other brands

Collaborate with complementary brands or businesses for promotional content.

As part of your digital marketing strategy, come up with mutually beneficial collaboration ideas that can help you both increase reach and tap into ideal customers.

Joint campaigns, cross-promotions, or co-sponsored events are great ways to use the power of collaboration.

Example: Team up with a travel agency to promote your hotel and their vacation packages through a joint social media campaign.

9. Emphasize customer service

Social channels aren’t just a source for publishing content but also for providing excellent customer service.

Marketers these days actively invest in building social media communities to better connect and interact with potential customers.

Respond promptly to inquiries, comments, and feedback from your audience. Show them you genuinely care about them by addressing their concerns and providing helpful solutions.

This level of engagement can build customer loyalty and community building.

Example: Respond to customers’ support requests on social accounts and resolve their issues within a few hours.

10. Monitor trends and stay updated

Stay updated with social media trends, algorithm changes, and content formats. Track performances, content audits, and social media KPIs.

Experiment with new features or types of content introduced by social media channels.

Plan your social media content calendar based on engagement metrics. Keep an eye on what your competitors are doing and identify strategies that work well in your industry.

Out of all content types, short-form videos are taking the spotlight. Research states that 64% of shoppers ended up making a purchase after seeing branded video content on social platforms.

Example: If video content is becoming popular on social platforms, create your social media content strategy around it.

You might also consider incorporating data storytelling into your strategy. Why? More brands are moving towards storytelling in their social media posts.

This helps reach larger audiences and accomplish business goals. If you haven’t thought about it, give it a thought. The early bird catches the worm.

Final Words

And there you have it — ten advanced tips to level up your social media marketing strategy.

Test the waters with new features on social channels and plan your content marketing strategy accordingly.

With consistency and some creativity, you can increase your brand awareness and establish a strong foothold in the vast sea of social media.

Are you ready to boost your social media presence and accomplish all your business goals? Here’s to your success!

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3 Questions About AI in Content: What? So What? Now What?



3 Questions About AI in Content: What? So What? Now What?

In the United States, Thanksgiving will give us the needed break to take a collective breath.

I don’t know about you, but getting my bearings around the disruptions of generative AI presents an extreme challenge. Innovations come so quickly that once we think we have our arms around it, something new appears.

Almost one year into seeing what generative AI can do for content creation and marketing strategies, OpenAI has introduced custom GPTs for those who pay for access.

You can build custom ChatGPT applications to use the tool’s newest capabilities to do things specifically valuable to you. For example, your company could upload 10 years of blog articles and instruct the custom GPT to use the knowledge gained from the content to formulate answers to questions on the blogs’ topics. In theory, you get the depth and breadth of ChatGPT’s large language learning model focused on your knowledge base and able to take specific actions, such as sending an email or automating a task.

Impressive. But sheesh. What does that do to your plans to integrate tools into your marketing workflow? It seems like one of a hundred things that you’re supposed to pay attention to right now.

Time to reflect

If your time frees up this week either because of the holiday or because the Americans are on holiday, take a moment and reflect on these disruptions to your current marketing and content efforts.

A little more than 20 years ago, a nursing professor at Swansea University published a helpful framework for self-reflection and communication. His exercise has helped me in times of disruption, and perhaps it can be for you as well.

Answer a few questions that fall into three stages – what, so what, and now what?

  • What? Describe what has happened simply and objectively – without judgment or interpretation. Some helpful prompts: What happened? What did you observe? What events occurred? What is the current situation?
  • So what? Answer questions about what you know now that you didn’t know. You can introduce emotions. Some helpful prompts: What did you learn? What difference have the events made? Answer as yourself or within the context of your team or company.

    If it’s just you, potential questions could be: Did what happened clarify an interest? Did you hear or feel anything that surprised you? How is your experience different than what you expected? What do these events mean to you?

    If you answer on behalf of a team or group, you can ask the self-questions along with these prompts: What do these events suggest to you about this group? How might the group work better or worse with these events? How were decisions made or not made based on these events?

  • Now what? Reflect on your future actions based on the first two steps. These broader implications react to what happened. Questions center on defining and looking at the root cause: What would contribute to a successful response? What would be in the way of successfully navigating through this? What learning has now occurred, and how can I/we apply this learning?    

Ask your team to do this same exercise. When you meet back up, create a workshop or team gathering where you discuss the answers and determine where opportunities may exist.

Real reflections aren’t hot takes

If you find yourself thinking that process is basic, well, you’re right. These three questions – and the provocations that come from them – mirror a progression you’ve all tried to work through a problem. However, you don’t often do it for big disruptions in the moment. It’s just too easy to jump to the third step, “now what,” and confuse it with “what’s next.” You get overwhelmed by all the actions you can take.

You can see this challenge happening with the disruption of generative AI.

Check out this article that reflects on the disruption of generative AI in the video game industry. To make the case, it leverages Bain & Company research that “more than half of video game development process will be supported by generative AI within the next five to 10 years.” It uses “what happened” to make a case for “what’s next.” The author didn’t even bother to ask “so what” to reach the conclusion: “Microsoft wants AI to solve problems that game makers say they won’t actually have.”

If you reflect on what the Bain research actually said, you can see it’s almost the opposite of the Microsoft conclusion. The research plainly says few executives believe AI will reduce development costs. They say AI will not significantly impact talent and “do not believe it will replace the creative spark necessary for game development.”

By misinterpreting what happened and not asking, “So what,” the author jumped to predicting what’s next, which is almost useless to make any productive change to address what’s really happening.    

This is why working through this process is helpful.

Now, to be clear, hot takes are fun. I’m not suggesting you do away with predictions or the occasional response. Hot takes are a great way to start the conversation, not to finish them.

Take the time – and the process – to work it out. It’s not perfect. It’s also not meant to be a fail-safe way to predict the future. The three-question stages are meant to help you balance facts and feelings to make more productive and satisfying responses to the disruptions you face.

The process is meant to change your future, not by helping you see it more clearly but by helping you clearly see how you change it.

It’s your story. Have a wonderful, reflective Thanksgiving, and tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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