How Would Thomas Hobbes PPC?

Thomas Hobbes (whose dark world view argued for the brutality of the world around us and the necessity of civilization) would have been quite a PPC manager running a Google Ads account. I would hire him. Plato’s too-perfect-in-theory campaigns would probably collapse under the weight of reality, Wittgenstein would probably spend all his time trying to understand how the platform works. But Thomas Hobbes is someone whose world view would map to an awesomely successful account.

First, let’s discuss the background in case you forgot all the philosophy you needed to memorize in elementary school, since your elementary school was as crazy as mine was, right? So, Hobbes in a nutshell. Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” and to deal with that, we need to create civilization. And the core of civilization is a “social contract”: while we try to achieve and preserve our own life and success, we’re willing to give some of it up, to give some portion of our liberty to someone else who helps protect us, take care of us, and organize everyone to help solve problems. That “someone else” we could call a “government” or a “leader”. In other words, because life is difficult in the jungle, we need to come together and give ourselves limits and engage in collective action, to ease some of that pain. And that’s the raison d’etre of governments. I can’t defend myself from a band of raiders; but if my whole town gets together, we probably could.

Now let’s see how this maps to running a Google Ads campaign:

First, guess what? He hit it the nail on the head: most campaigns are, indeed “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”! Solitary and poor because most campaigns have tiny budgets and you run them alone in a vacuum (excluding your annoying client being too controlling despite knowing nothing).

More interestingly, most campaigns are also nasty because the previous PPC before you had no friggin’ idea what he was doing. An experience I’ve had many times, and I’m sure you all can relate, is inheriting an account from another PPC manager, logging in, and thinking “What. The. F—-.” The previous PPC, who was making an absurd monthly, just used Smart campaigns? Hadn’t updated his keywords or ads in 9 months? Had Search and Display ads in the SAME campaign? What? Over 50% of the accounts I’ve inherited have been like this.

Most campaigns are “brutish” as well. They’re nasty because of what the PPC does (not you, since I’m sure you’re awesome! But the one before you!), but brutish because of what the competition does. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Paying people to click on your ads and other forms of click fraud? Taking out cruel ads on your name? The dirtiness with which people play is the sort of thing of anecdotes that I can’t share in writing publicly like this, just over alcohol when our phones are not in the same building.

And, of course, “short.” Few clients are big and serious enough to be there and growing for years. They come and go. Especially when you’re constantly testing out new products and candidates to see which will be a hit.

The solution to these problems is the social contract: we’ll band together to learn and support each other as a team. And the social contract is a great reason why it makes sense for clients to hire agencies rather than an individual PPC. Indeed, Hobbes is the ultimate defender of the agency model.

The advantages of hiring an agency to do your Adwords campaign, PPC or digital marketing work is the same advantage you get living in a society as opposed to going at it alone. When you go at it alone, it’s just you (your company). One PPC trying to figure it out. A guy or girl who makes some ads. A few others in the department helping out.

But at the agency, you get a team focused on the explicit mission and how to do it best. They’ve fought very similar battles before. They’ve experienced bombs and they know how to deal with it. They have resources to do creative things like video ads, that you  probably didn’t even know you could do.

The real-world trade-off is the agency and it will never be as focused on you as it is on the agency itself. You’re just one of many clients for them, while you’re everything for yourself.

But this trade-off is exactly the heart of Hobbes’ point: to truly have upside (and to truly protect your downside), you need to trade-off some of your liberty that you’d otherwise want in the ideal world. That’s why the reasoning behind the Social Contract is a great inspiration for the reasoning behind implicit SEM Contract between the Client and the Agency.

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