The Waste in Advertising
Marketing teams face a challenge when it comes to placing messages and offers in front of target audiences. Marketers need to ensure their messages are present across a multitude of channels so that when a customer decides to act, the intended product is top of mind. However, casting too wide a net can result in wasted ad spend and over-saturation of messaging – while reaching an unintended and uninterested audience.
While this may have been more expected when marketing teams were largely reliant on offline media – such as television, print, and broadcast ads – the success of which are historically difficult to measure, the trend of wasted ad spend remains even as digital ads become the priority. Spend on digital ads surpassed that on traditional ads for the first time in 2019 – making advertising channels more cluttered and competitive than ever. As a result, marketing teams are often hard pressed to determine which of these ads are generating results and which should be paused.
What Are the Methods of Advertising?
To ensure advertising investments achieve the desired impact, marketing teams need to be discerning about the media mix they use to reach their customers. There are many types of advertising methods that marketing teams can choose from when building a paid media plan:
- Social ads
- TV ads
- Display ads
- PPC advertising
- Email advertising
- Influencer advertising
- Product placement
- Radio and podcast ads
- Out-of-Home (OOH) advertising (designed to reach consumers outside their homes i.e. billboards, street advertising)
Each of these advertising formats offer various benefits. Email ads may encourage immediate action (such as a sale), whereas out-of-home or TV ads can help solidify your brand values in the mind of consumers, encouraging them to talk about it and spread awareness. When building out an advertising plan, it is important to consider what your goals are. Identify a strategy and align the media channel you select with that overarching plan - whether that is to reach a new demographic, drive revenue, increase share of voice, etc.
The 5 Techniques to Minimize Waste in Advertising
Regardless of what your ultimate goal is, there are a few components that are essential to any campaign on any channel. Be sure to keep these techniques and tactics in mind as they can be instrumental in reducing advertising waste and increasing marketing ROI.
Technique 1: Focus on Branding
In a competitive marketplace, branding is what allows consumers to differentiate between similar products. As such, marketing teams must carefully curate their brand to speak to the needs of their core audience. Aligning brand values with those of your consumers is essential for brand recall and creating brand loyalty. Branding should not only consider the actual attributes of the product or service (e.g. it is less expensive, or faster), but should also think of how the brand makes consumers feel (productive, sustainable, luxurious, etc.) Finally, branding should be consistent so that it is instantly recognizable – this means using a common symbol, font, or color across communications.
Unique branding has been used for centuries to change public opinion and can be a powerful tool in any marketer’s arsenal - consider the following examples:
- King Fredrick the Great of Prussia wanted to convince the German people to eat potatoes, to reduce the risk of famine. Many Germans refused to (and some were even killed for refusing to grow it.) He decreed the potato a royal vegetable and only the royal household was allowed to eat it, resulting in a black market for potato-growing.
- Old Spice: Old Spice was founded in 1937, and historically marketed to older men in their 40s-60s. After a few stagnant years, Old Spice decided to chase a new demographic - young men between 12 and 34. To earn market share among this demographic, they moved away from their more serious tone, rebranding to use language more popular with the younger set, such as “swagger.” They also made use of celebrities and athletes to emphasize the success of those who used Old Spice products. Not only did they create messaging that appealed directly to these users – they also created ads that targeted women – who are often the ones who buy these products for significant others. The rebrand included print and TV ads as well as digital components such as SwaggerizeMe.com. It was wildly successful – sales skyrocketed and the brand has maintained its role as a leader in the space as well as a marketing power house ever since.
Creating a memorable brand helps establish loyalty between consumers and your organization. They will be more likely to purchase your product again, recommend your products to friends, and try new products lines under your label. This is essential because brand loyalty pays:
- 60% of consumers are more loyal to brands they trust.
- 43% of customers spend more money with brands they are loyal to
- 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers
Focusing on branding in campaigns can be immensely beneficial to marketing ROI. However, because the impact of branding is harder to measure than clicks or conversions, it can often be de-prioritized in favor of more easily measured tactics. This is a mistake that can lead to wasted ad spend – find out what your target audience values in a product and organization, and invest time and capital into ensuring your core values and messaging are aligned.
Technique 2: Find Your Audience
The most crucial component of minimizing wasted ad spend is to develop an in-depth understanding of who your customers are. Without this understanding, marketing teams will undoubtedly allocate a portion of their budget to a campaign that fails to move the needle in favor of their KPIs. Think back to the Old Spice example discussed above. The brand is selling a product for men, however, they incorporate ample messaging that targets women. Their research showed that women are often the ones buying deodorant and body wash to discourage boyfriends and husbands from using their own. In fact, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, which targeted women, resulted in the doubling of sales from the previous year – it is also considered one of the best campaigns of the 21st century. The ROI for this campaign demonstrates the value of looking beyond basic demographic information to get to the core of who your customer is.
The need to hone in on your niche market is essential, because the mass marketing techniques of the past are no longer effective. New York Times bestselling author, Seth Godin notes that:
“Mass marketing requires average ideas, because you're going to the masses, and plenty of ads. What we've done as spammers is tried to hypnotize everyone into buying our idea, hypnotize everyone into donating to our cause, hypnotize everyone into voting for our candidate. And, unfortunately, it doesn't work so well anymore.”
If you are targeting the masses, you will ultimately have unsuccessful campaigns because they will fail to break through the constant barrage of messaging consumers encounter daily. Even if your product is meant to span a large demographic, it is the job of the marketer to understand how the product appeals to each specific segment of the population. What makes this segment unique? What are their interests?
Once aware of each segment that falls within your broader audience, and what resonates with them, you then need to map the customer journey. This allows marketing teams to see which messaging is most effective at each stage of the sales funnel and develop appropriate messaging and media buys to target these buyers at every state.
Technique 3: Optimize Messages as the Campaign Runs
Another common mistake that leads to waste in advertising is waiting until a campaign is completely over to evaluate its performance and adjust. If campaigns are unsuccessful, budgets should be reallocated toward more successful media outlets. Say you are running a Twitter campaign and paid ads on Google for one month. At the end of the month you see that the Twitter campaign received very minimal engagement. That money is already spent and had with minimal returns. Had the marketing team evaluated the performance metrics on a weekly basis, they could have reallocated funds to the Google Ads campaign, which was more successfully reaching the target audience.
One factor that keeps marketing teams from optimizing campaigns in flight is a lack of visibility into metrics, which can lead to targeting bias. This is when teams assume that the advertisement they can most easily measure is the one that delivered the results. However, this is not always the case. Marketing teams need in-depth marketing analytics that allows them to drill down into what is really behind success and conversions, so that they can devote more resources to these campaigns.
In short, if you can’t see what is performing well on a regular basis, how do you ensure that money is being spent wisely across channels?
Technique 4: The Right Message at the Right Time
One challenge that many brands face that contributes to waste in advertising is reaching their audience with the right message at the right time. Even if you research your audiences’ preferred channels, they may not see or engage with your ad. Several factors can be at play here:
- If you book a radio ad, when is your ad played within the commercial break? People often tune out during the middle of an ad break or change the station altogether.
- If you book a slot on TV, are people watching your program live or are they forwarding through the commercials?
- Are there certain times of day that your audience is more receptive to commercials or messaging (early morning or later in the evening)?
Marketers need to set aside budget to test what their audience responds to and when to best reach them. The goal is to be present when a customer is receptive to brand messaging and has a specific intent in the moment – whether to learn more or make a purchase. If the messaging and media is right, marketers will be met with successful campaigns.
Technique 5: Accurately Measure Your Results & Adjust Accordingly
To ensure marketing dollars are being put to good use, accurate reporting is essential. This means moving beyond vanity metrics to leverage complex attribution models that can provide real insights. The most common measurement mistakes that lead to wasted ad spend occur when low quality data or outdated attribution models are used.
Strong data quality is essential to getting accurate reports on campaign success. Data quality must account for dimensions such as representativeness, completeness, timeliness, accuracy, consistency, integrity, and more.
Sorting and cleansing data on the scale organizations today collect information can be highly resource intensive. Many organizations do not have the processes in place to handle the large amounts of data they receive from campaigns and ensure it meets data quality criteria. The result is reliance on inaccurate insights that can lead to poor campaign optimizations.
Outdated Attribution Models
Many organizations rely on attribution models that make it difficult to combine offline and online data. In order to get the input needed to make informed campaign updates, marketing teams need to be collecting timely data using models that evaluate campaigns from multiple angles. The trouble is that no single attribution model can provide all of the context a marketing team needs to make informed decisions. For example, teams often use media mix modeling or multi-touch attribution to guide their efforts, however, both come with limitations.
- Media Mix Modeling (MMM): While this offers insight into historical factors that can impact campaign success, this model does not offer granular insight into brand engagements at the person level. It also requires ample amounts of historical data – making it bad for in-campaign optimizations.
- Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA): Multi-touch attribution allows for faster insights that enable in-campaign optimizations, as well as granular data down to the individual level. However, it can be hard to determine which touchpoints should be weighted more heavily in driving a prospect down the sales funnel. Additionally, while MTA works well to measure digital campaigns, it struggles to provide visibility into the performance of offline campaigns.
To overcome the challenges brought on by only using one attribution model, marketing teams should leverage Unified Marketing Measurement (UMM). This is a cutting-edge attribution model that combines the historical context offered by MMM with the granular input provided by MTA. With UMM, marketing teams get a holistic view of how each consumer interacts with their campaigns, while also getting broader context into external factors that can influence conversion rates (such as economic conditions). Organizations have seen a 30% improvement in budget efficiency when utilizing UMM.
Unfortunately, wasted advertising spend has become the norm at many marketing organizations. Not only does this impact ROI and marketing budgets, but spending money on ads that do not provide value to your customers can actually leave them with a negative perception of your brand. When implementing new campaigns, keep these tips in mind to ensure maximum ROI for your budget and your customers attention.
Additional Tips and Resources
- What is Data Quality?
- What is Media Planning?
- The Key Applications of Media Mix Optimization
- 3 Examples of Brands who Changed Their Media Plan for Success
- How to Best Optimize Your Media Plan Across Your Brand
- The Waste in Advertising