Market Maturity Means New Media Buying Standards

Contrary to popular opinion, digital display advertising does work, only not the way we think it does. In fact, consistent display ads create brand lift in the same way TV advertising does. And display used for brand lift is a “good buy,” allowing for many impressions at relatively low cost and contributing to availability bias– formerly known as top of mind awareness.

When we use digital display for performance advertising today, we’re using it incorrectly. We should be using it for branding instead. However, we have become used to digital display as only good for performance. By making poor media buying choices like the misuse of display ads, we continuously overlook efficient ways to spend our digital budgets.

Marketing has changed more in the past five years than in the past fifty, and some of the things we thought we knew, even earlier in the digital advertising era, simply are no longer true.

That is why all marketers are making the wrong decisions, despite data to the contrary. Or so says Adam Heimlich of Horizon after running a three year study on digital media budgets. 

Not only is almost no one executing effective digital media buys, the vast majority of big digital advertisers are on the opposite track, chugging like locomotives in the wrong direction. Many have arrived at zero lift.

Digital display is one of many areas of human endeavor where data is exposing conventions that yield suboptimal results. As in finance and baseball, data alone isn’t enough to convince most decision-makers to move away from orthodoxy in marketing.

Digital video, too, is often interpreted incorrectly. In video, it is not always smart to keep spending to create cross channel campaigns aimed at producing specified numbers of sales.

Here’s why: there’s a number in marketing called cost of customer acquisition. If you are looking at a sales number, and you keep spending until you get there, your cost of customer acquisition may very well drive you into bankruptcy. Especially if you are a retailer, bucking a global market trend toward online buying. Sure, you may eventually reach your sales targets if you advertise to enough people, but your ad spend will be unbelievably inefficient.

So we have to make better use of the data we already have, and develop algorithms that truly learn. Then we leverage those algorithms to make better media buys with less waste.

Heimlich advocates buying against the standards of the MRC and the ANA, and avoiding vendors who are not transparent:

By forgoing transparency, viewability and/or fraud protection, bad actors get away with appearing to deliver more value per dollar. How much this practice is fueling the growth of Google and Facebook isn’t exactly a mystery.

Advertisers’ finance and procurement departments should implement a compliance regime based on industry standards, with regular audits to keep marketers honest. This was very difficult before the ANA and MRC caught up to the marketplace. Now, it’s mature, and there should be no excuses.

Think about that the next time you are tempted to spend all your budget on Facebook.