Intro: The more you know, the more you realise you don’t know

As someone fairly new to PPC, it was amazing to experience my first PPC conference. With so many fantastic speakers from various agencies and brands on display, I quickly came to realise something: boy, there’s a lot that I don’t know yet. The Dunning-Kruger Effect comes to mind; I’m sitting somewhere in the valley of despair.

But that’s okay! Hero Conf is for people like me who want to learn and make bold steps towards that slope of enlightenment, and the opening keynote really kicked off that journey.

An inspiring Keynote

The proceedings were opened by Rory Sutherland which was fascinating for me; I had watched him give talks on YouTube in the past and to see him own the stage in person was amazing. He enthralled the audience with a talk about solving problems with marketing techniques that give more human, contextual solutions, rather than solutions based on models – “the value of the marketing mindset lies in taking the human perspective, not the spreadsheet perspective.”

It brings everything back to a basic premise of marketing: ultimately, humans are the consumers of our marketing, not machines, so keep them at the forefront of everything you do. Sometimes, solutions which may seem obvious, are actually incredibly impractical once you drill right down to the contextual factors.

Some of the key takeaways from Rory’s lecture were:

·      Invest in discovery – bees do it when looking for nectar; 80% of bees in the nest will fly out to tried and tested nectar gathering spots, but 20% will go out exploring new patches for nectary jackpots. It’s a trait they’ve evolved over millions of years and it’s the secret to how they’ve been able to survive in an ever-changing climate for so long. If bees can do it, then so can you.

·      The human desire to conform is powerful – humans are natural herd animals, we tend to follow the crowd (which Rory illustrated with an incredibly interesting but nsfw example), advertisers should take advantage of this innate trait.

·      Manage expectations – when it comes to making decisions in life, we struggle to empathise with the emotions we will feel in the future compared to the emotions we are feeling in the present. This is called the ‘empathy gap’ and it’s a powerful force. Rory argues that when it comes to brands, low variance and high consistency is a very effective way to encourage people to keep coming back to you because it reduces the empathy gap – consumers know what they’re going to get. Your messaging should reflect this so that every time your customer experiences your brand, they get a consistent experience.

Although not nitty-gritty PPC takeaways, the points that Rory made were excellently illustrated and should be kept in mind by all marketers.

PPC takeaways anyone will find useful

 PPC for luxury brands

One of the first talks I went to was Emma Searle’s about PPC for luxury brands, exploring how to change your PPC approach. One of the basics of luxury brands is that they are consumed by people who are using the part of their disposable income that they don’t necessarily need to spend, but are willing to, for something special. For that reason, it’s important not to overlook indirect competitors; just because you’re not in the same sector doesn’t mean you aren’t competing.

Another key point for luxury brands, is it’s important to invest in consumer research outside of the digital bubble, particularly as data is harder to come by because sales occur less frequently. Therefore, it’s important to trust your own judgement and instincts as well as the data.

Attribution models and ‘is the marketing funnel still a thing?’

 The marketing funnel and use of attribution models was an ever recurring theme in many of the talks I sat in at Hero Conf, although none of them were expressly on this topic, it’s definitely worth noting the importance of understanding the value of your PPC activities and where they fit into your overall strategy.

To answer the question, yes, the marketing funnel is still a thing, but not in the same way as it once was. The ‘funnel’ shouldn’t be thought of as a linear thing, but as more of a cycle which can be modelled with customer journey pathways. As somebody who works in PPC, it’s your job to understand where your paid advertising comes into your customer journey and how much value you place in your PPC activities. For the more luxury brands (as mentioned by Emma in her talk), PPC enters the funnel at a much higher point than a non-luxury brand, but that doesn’t mean that PPC isn’t valuable – selecting the right attribution model is therefore incredibly important to gauge how effective your PPC campaigns are in your overall marketing mix.

The halo effect

Attribution ties in well with another theme which was constantly mentioned – the halo effect. Sarah Barker, in her closing keynote on day 1, mentioned the importance and influence the halo effect can have on your customers; PPC and SEO teams should work closely together to complement each other and generate even better returns by indirectly influencing each other.

The power of the halo effect was further demonstrated by Lara Lowery in her talk about balancing B2B and B2C PPC. She demonstrated a vast improvement in ad performance without making any changes to campaigns and introducing Amazon DSP campaigns to run alongside regular search campaigns.

Search campaign performance


Conversion rate


Pre Amazon DSP month




Post Amazon DSP month




Getting your reports right

One of the best talks I saw at the conference was presented by Jill Quick about how to report on your PPC activities. I must say, never before have I felt so out of my depth, Jill’s knowledge of Google Analytics is astonishing and yet her dissection of attribution models, ways to display data and when to use different metrics was legible even to someone as new to all of this as me.

Fred Vallaeys – are we doing PPC 80% wrong?

Frederick Vallaeys grabbed everyone’s attention for the closing keynote with a very clickbait talk title – but he did not disappoint. His talk placed emphasis on the need to utilise automation as much as possible for the simple, easy, tasks with clever AI tools. However, it’s important not to rely on machines; robots are really bad at processing contextual cues and that’s where humans need to be proactive.

The take-home message was, to maximise your productivity, don’t waste time manually doing things that can be automated. Use your amazing human mind to recognise context and be creative, and all the while, supervise the machines to pick up on the contextual errors and external factors they don’t pick up on.

To watch Becky's talk and download her slides click here


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