The modern era of online advertising has brought unimaginable changes to how consumers and businesses connect. The word automation has taken flight and machine learning has become the center of gravity for advertisers. It almost feels like fiction to think of advertising on the yellow pages or on a billboard in the middle of a highway and having to guess the estimated results. The traditional world of advertising is being challenged by a bunch of Generation Zs that skipped through the marketing textbooks and went straight into advertising on a large scale.
It’s strange to think of how much creative planning, branding, statistical testing, and brainstorming took place before one would dare to advertise. And now, it’s just a simple click where we just whip a couple of image ads or short videos and spend millions of dollars on it. The extreme changes in the way that we advertise also changed our habits and methods of advertising, making us focus more on aggressive reach and frequency and less about who we reach and the level of connection we make with them. The evolution of modern advertising has created a new breed of advertisers that I call, lazy advertisers.
When I say lazy advertisers I mean lazy. Advertisers that put minimal effort into areas that are more challenging but most valuable to their ad performance. And instead, put their time in places where they can earn “little wins” and small improvements without having to dig through the data and build an actual marketing strategy. Examples can include things like investing time in trying to beat advertising platforms like Google and Facebook by implementing strategies like manipulating efforts such as campaign duplications, audience segmentation, bidding manipulation, and anything else you see being recommended on Youtube channels. I call these methods tactical manipulation where you try to manipulate the advertising platform to generate better performance for your ads instead of trying to manipulate users into buying your products. An analogy that it’s like trying to beat the stock market by analyzing graphs and patterns, instead of understanding everything about the companies that you are investing in and where the stock market is going. Another thing that lazy advertisers share in common, is their complete trust in allowing advertising platforms to report back the performance and trust that data like it’s science. Instead of cross-checking or verifying the reported results against other sources, they use whatever reports they get back from advertising platforms as the main inputs when deciding how their marketing is doing and how much more spend they should allocate. Almost like asking your child to report back to you how many veggies he ate this week and giving him allowance based on his reported data.
The rise and dominance of online marketing platforms have shifted spending from traditional media that as a result changed the way marketers advertise. More and more resources are moved over to ad reach, ad distribution, and ad space, and less money goes towards the actual creative (what’s on the ad itself) and in my view, it should be a major concern for advertisers as it will create a strong dependency for online ad platforms, and will reduce the efficiency of their ads to a point where advertisers won’t be able to run a business with it. There should always be a healthy balance between how many ads you deliver, and what exactly you show in the ads. That’s why I am including the Do’s and Dont’s in online advertising to avoid being a lazy advertiser.
Advertising platforms are not your friends.
A lot of advertisers like to think like advertising platforms are almost like their partners. They are trustworthy and will help them achieve their goals and grow their business. I got news for you, they are not. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. Advertising platforms have one goal only, to get as much money from advertisers as humanly possible. That’s why you shouldn’t trust whatever they report to you. Their reports are designed to highlight whatever might look positive with your ads and minimize and hide whatever is not great. Never make decisions solely based on the data that they report to you. My recommendation is to take the time to cross-check and verify their reports with other analytical sources to see how that data is measured against it. The more the better. Find that balance between what metrics you believe are reasonably reported and create your own reporting metrics based on multiply sources. Their reports are designed to make you spend more money on their platforms, not make more profits.
Do you have a strategy?
Running ads alone (whether it’s working or not) is not a strategy. Regardless of how many sales your ads are generating and at what cost, you need a strategy. If your ads are driving sales and you don’t have a long-term strategy, then you are leaving money on the table as with a marketing strategy you probably would have generated a lot more. A strategy can be dynamic and doesn’t have to be specific, but you should have a road map on your goals and how you plan to improve each area over time to achieve these goals. That means a creative plan for the future, testing all elements and segmentations in your online business, and having a plan to produce as much revenue as possible from each ad impression.
Correlation of creatives and ad spend.
Don’t expect one ad creative to carry you to eternity. Spamming is not a good marketing strategy. There should be a correlation between how much money you are spending on ads and how many different ad creatives you are producing. Instead of spamming a user with the same ad over and over again and hoping that after the 5th time he will say “ ok I’m sold”, focus on diversifying and enriching his connection with your brand by showing him different creatives formats that highlight different areas of your product or business. Think of the journey and the connection between a potential customer and your business and what types of creatives you can use to enforce that and make it meaningful and remembered. Ads that worked well in the past are not likely to perform well forever. Make the content creation process an ongoing process that is correlated with the amount you spend on marketing. The more you spend, the more content and creatives you produce.
Identify high click-through rates opportunities –
It’s important to understand that advertising platforms might shift delivery and ad distribution based on where they are likely to credit or attribute as many results as possible. This means that in some areas of the ads, even if the ads might perform less on the ad level but end up bringing you more results on your website, they are likely to give those ads more credit.
It’s too technical to go into it in this post, but you must understand that you have two goals. The first goal is to get people to the website, the second goal is to get as many purchases or conversions on your website. This means that your first goal is to make sure that you are producing the maximum efficiency from all the ad impressions that you are delivering by having the highest click-through rate (number of users that click from all the ad impressions). Constantly evaluate and analyze which ads move the needle and get the most attention from users and create similar ads and shift more budgets towards these types of ads.
Identify high and low performing areas on your website –
Similar to click-through rate, conversion rate plays an equally important role. There are some areas on your website that are converting more effectively than others. It can be a landing page, it can be a product or a collection. Spend time and resources analyzing your analytics to identify areas that are top-performing and other areas that need to be improved and optimize them to get better performance. The difference between having a 1% conversion rate and a 2% conversion rate is extreme. With a 2% conversion rate, you will just need half the amount of a visitors before you generate a sale.
Don’t rely on templates and quick solutions
Platforms like Facebook and Google have invested millions into making the ad process creation as easy and fast as possible. Why you might ask? Not so much because they want to make it easy for you, but because they want to get you advertising faster. I hate templates. Your ad creatives shouldn’t be built around a template, they should be built and designed around your product. This is not where you should save on money and resources. You should put most of your time into making your creatives different and unique and not like anything else. Templates will kill your performance and they will make your creatives look like ads, and we all know that everyone hates ads.
Be disruptive and original –
Take a second to look at your newsfeed or any website on the internet, ads are everywhere and websites like Google and Facebook seem to just add more and more ad placements. The likelihood that your ad is remembered or noticed is extremely low. That’s why you lose 99% or more of your ad impressions without having users click on your ads. If you want to invest in advertising you have to market against the stream and be unconventional. Identify what’s different about your product or brand from your competitors and go beyond the extra mile. Showcase your products in ways that no one else will and offer your customers everything but an option to say no to your offer. Be disruptive.
A lot of advertisers ask me how long they have to keep up with this process and with these recommendations. The short answer is as long as their ads are live and they advertise. Just like you are willing to spend money for your marketing for as long as your business lives, the way that you manage your ads and optimize the marketing process never ends.
Machine learning and templated ads have given rise to a generation of lazy advertisers. Unlike lazy advertisers, successful advertisers don’t rely solely on the data that advertising platforms provide to them. They instead create their own reporting metrics based on a variety of sources. Successful advertisers have a long-term strategy and understand the importance of spending time and money on their ads to make their ads as unique and disruptive as possible. They identify high click-through opportunities and are constantly fine-tuning their landing page to optimize conversion rate. Lastly, successful advertisers consistently tweak and optimize their ad campaign rather than using a ‘set it and forget it’ approach.