When an ad campaign fails to meet its objectives, it is considered a waste. And it’s nothing new. More than a century ago, marketing pioneer John Wanamaker famously declared, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Today, the stakes are much higher. The growth of digital advertising spending and the rapidly evolving path to purchase have compounded the waste problem exponentially. In the past decade alone, traditional media spending decreased while digital ad spending skyrocketed, surpassing TV ad spending (see Figure below). Despite the implications of COVID-19, these trends remain largely unchanged this year. Although traditional media spending saw an uptick during quarantine. Instead of boosting ROI, this increased digital spending cluttered the marketing space, resulting in prolific waste. At the same time, the complex new online and offline path to purchase posed significant challenges in ad performance measurement. In a nutshell, traditional marketing measurement models became far less effective, leading to further inefficiencies.
Brands can’t afford ad waste in their marketing campaigns, and they know it. The first step to solving the problem is to understand what leads to ad waste beyond a simple lack of planning or resources because even the best-planned campaigns backed by healthy budgets lead to waste. Here’s a quick rundown of why it happens.
- Targeting or relevancy mistakes — Who is your customer, really? Where are they shopping and what exactly do they want? Incorrect assumptions about targeting, relevance and media can translate into
ad dollars down the drain. Casting a wide net—one message to a broad audience—is never a good idea. If the message is going to the wrong target audience and/or the wrong location or medium, the ad will be ignored or worse yet, blocked. As consumer behaviors continue to shift post-COVID, this is a major concern for marketers who are left with grave uncertainty and largely irrelevant historical data.
- Poor-quality content — Even if the targeting is right, knowing what message resonates with your audience is crucial. Savvy advertisers need to focus on defining creative rotations for different advertisements in specific channels. Unappealing copy or an offer that feels inauthentic results in ad waste.
- Placement errors — In-store candy signage will likely be ineffective if placed near a poster promoting diabetes screenings. Whether it’s a billboard, magazine or trade journal, poor placement can cost you.
- Wrong medium — Defining the right media mix is an essential component of an efficient, effective marketing campaign. Killer copy won’t deliver ROI if you’re advertising men’s suits in a young adult adventure magazine.
- Scheduling/timing issues — When it comes to waste, timing can make all the difference. Running a holiday TV ad well before or well after said holiday is a common way that improper timing can lead to wasted ad dollars.
- Oversaturation — Even if everything else is in place, too much advertising frequency not only annoys your target audience, it diminishes ROI and brand loyalty.
- Focusing on the wrong KPIs — With consumer attitudes in constant flux and geographic areas handling the crisis differently, it’s difficult to determine when the volatility will settle and sales will begin to flourish again. Consequently, marketers should consider sales-based KPIs in combination with the brand and awareness-based indicators instead. Failure to do so can become a costly mistake.
- Monitor the adfraud: Ad fraud is also a major contributor to ad waste. This happens when a service provider fraudulently represents impressions, clicks, conversion or data events in order to generate revenue and does so without human intervention. In other words, ads are not shown to humans. There are tools like Integral Ad Science VS Moat to help the rbands monitor thier adfraud.
- Viewability: As per the study, 56% of ad impressions are never seen by consumers, it is a very critical metric to look at while optiizng the campaigns.
Gaining a single view of marketing effectiveness down to the person the level is no easy task, but it CAN solve many of these ad waste drivers. The amount of marketing dollars wasted by ad fraud is a topic of debate, but industry experts universally agree that fraud—particularly ad bots that contribute to click fraud, viruses, and fake ad impressions—waste significant marketing dollars.
In a 2015 study conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in conjunction with online ad fraud detection company White Ops, “The annual financial impact of bot fraud ranged between $250,000 and $42 million for the 49 participating advertisers and averaged about $10 million per participant.” While ad fraud is a serious problem requiring industry-wide collaboration, other more controllable factors that cause ad waste can be effectively addressed by using better marketing measurement models.