Why Your Advertiser Campaigns Aren’t Working & How to Fix Them (Part 1)
In my 25 years in digital media, I’ve worked with hundreds of publishers and thousands of advertisers in B2B, consumer, and regional markets. I’ve had access to analytics from innumerable ad campaigns and discussions with advertisers in a wide variety of industries.
If an ad campaign doesn’t meet their expectations, they (or their agency) will most likely blame you, the publisher. They often pull their campaign and their agencies counsel them to divert money to Google, Facebook, or other programmatic ads.
So how do we fix this?
First, we must recognize that we certainly influence campaign effectiveness. Is our web or email design clean or cluttered? Are we placing ads in the best locations to be successful or just trying to get as many ad impressions as possible? How many ads compete for attention on the same web page or email newsletter?
Second, we can teach our advertisers how to create more effective branding and direct response ad creative and landing pages. Yes, this should be the job of the advertiser’s marketing department or ad agency, but we cannot afford to just trust they know best practices.
Today, however, I want to focus on how you can address the biggest problem of all… campaign alignment and expectations.
Align Advertiser Objective, Creative, And Metrics
Advertiser campaigns often lack alignment between the objective of the campaign, the creatives the advertiser delivers, and the metrics they ultimately use to analyze the success or failure of the campaign.
To help with this, let’s break ad campaigns into two basic types:
Direct Response Campaigns elicit an action from a person. They focus on objectives like clicks to website, lead generation, or online purchases. Direct response campaigns are evaluated by the cost per action (click, lead, purchase). The effectiveness of a direct response campaigns is more easily quantified versus a branding campaign.
Branding Campaigns influence a person’s attitude. They focus on objectives like awareness, favorability, or purchase intent. Branding is measured by reach (how many people) and frequency (how often they are impacted) with the goal of achieving “lift”… a positive change in the person’s attitude toward the advertiser brand or product.
The effectiveness of a branding campaign is more difficult to measure than direct response. Marketing departments and agencies gravitate toward the immediate gratification and perceived concrete nature of direct response metrics.
The problem occurs when advertisers run branding campaigns, but then evaluate the success of the campaign based on direct responses metrics (clicks or leads). They’re unhappy with the results and blame the publisher. They default to using direct response criteria because it’s easier to quantify, but those metrics don’t truly measure brand impact.
A similar problem occurs when an advertiser wants to run a direct response campaign, but then uses branding-oriented creative with no strong incentive or call-to-action. They’re disappointed when the campaign doesn’t deliver the clicks or leads they wanted.
Talk With Your Advertisers
Good sales reps talk about campaign alignment with their advertiser before, during, and after the campaign.
Even as you are making the sale, you should ask what the goal of the campaign is and how the advertiser or agency will measure the success of it. Once everyone is clear on this, ask that they deliver creative that aligns with that goal and that uses direct response or branding best practices as appropriate for the campaign.
Don’t be afraid to point out that a disconnect between campaign objective and creative may not be as effective as desired. The advertiser and agency will actually respect you for doing this.
When the advertiser or agency delivers creative for the campaign, the ad rep should actually look at it, not just the ad ops person. Does the creative align with the goal and measurement criteria that you discussed with the advertiser and agency? If not, then you as the ad rep should get in touch with them immediately and clarify the campaign objective, creative, and metrics.
Immediately after the campaign, talk again with the advertiser and agency. Show the metrics and tie it back to the objective and creative of the campaign. Many reps avoid this if they don’t think the numbers look good enough. That’s a HUGE mistake. Always have the conversation… good, bad or ugly. This is one reason why advertisers like Facebook and Google… they ALWAYS see the metrics.
By the way, I’ve seen advertisers who recognize the disconnect between the campaign objective and the creative that they actually send over. I’ve even seen them decide to proceed anyway because they don’t have time to change the creative. But you’ve set the expectations and the advertiser clearly understands their part in the success of the campaign.
If you’ve done a good job of aligning the goal, creative, and metrics with your advertiser throughout the entire process, they won’t be surprised or disappointed in the results and will actually start looking at you as a consultant to help them be more successful.
As I mentioned, there are three major reasons why our advertisers’ campaigns don’t work. Today we talked through aligning campaign objectives, creative, and success criteria and how you must have these discussions with your advertiser before, during, and after the campaign.
In my next column, we’re going to address best practices for branding and direct response campaigns. I’ll show you specific examples and even provide a checklist that you can use with your sales team and share with your advertisers.
Then we’re going to address how you, the publisher, can best design your website, email newsletters, and ad programs to improve results for your advertisers.
In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Please share your advertiser success or horror stories. Send me examples of ad creative that worked really well or that failed miserably. Or send me the URL of your website so that I can evaluate your website and email ad programs.
I will not share anything that you send to me unless you give me explicit permission.
But take the initiative and have these conversations about ad campaign alignment internally and with your advertisers and agencies. It’s this kind of customer service and consultative selling that will help set you apart from Facebook and Google.
Eric Shanfelt is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. He now consults with B2B, enthusiast and regional media companies on their digital platform, audience, and revenue strategies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.