Advertising Works — If You Ignore Vanity Metrics

Image for post
Image for post
Image by John Cameron on Unsplash

Yesterday, I took a rare stroll through a city center shopping mall. I was between appointments and needed to find a place to shelter from the rain. It was mid-afternoon, and the mall was incredibly quiet, with the majority of my fellow “shoppers” in search of a cup of coffee and a power point to charge their smartphones while they killed time. But this isn’t another story about the sorry state of “real world” commerce in our frequently abandoned shopping malls — it’s about another “traditional” industry that’s struggling in the digital age — advertising.

As I walked into the mall, I was presented with a massive billboard with the advertising message: “If you are reading this … then this advert has worked! Advertise your business here today!”

House Ad

I’ll be honest, I’ve seen this lazy “house advert” (or variations on the theme) before in numerous places, including in newspapers, on the radio, on the sides of buses and even in nightclub toilets — locations I would be hard-pushed to even consider advertising in unless I was convinced that they had any chance of reaching my target audience.

I describe the campaign as lazy for a number of reasons. However, the primary reason the campaign is lazy is down to the fact that mass consumption of a campaign is not a useful metric by which to gauge success.

Look for Useful Metrics

For a small business, an advert only works if its intended audience acts upon the information portrayed in that ad. This action could come in the way of a purchase or an enquiry (a lead) or, at the very least, the advert should create brand awareness that may be acted upon at a later date. When an advert is consumed in an untargeted manner, most of its impact will be irrelevant and so wasted.

This highlights a huge problem with “traditional” advertising sales. Ads are often sold in volume and portrayed as “good value” or “cheap” in terms of their potential reach. However, the vast majority of this reach is wasted.

Note: Aside from legality with regard to anti-spam laws, this is another reason why you should never purchase an email list.

If I were buying “traditional” advertising space, I would want to know how I could guarantee that my target audience would, at the very least, see my ad — and that takes detailed data.

For example: If I were a travel agent selling luxury cruises, I would want to know how many people consuming my ad had the income and inclination to buy one of my vacations. Yes, lots of people might see my advert, but if the demographics aren’t right, the advert is not going to work.

Challenge Your Ad Rep

The next time you are “sold” an opportunity to buy advertising space, challenge your advertising sales representative to demonstrate how this will help position your business in front of the right people, at the right time and in the right place. If the opportunity is good enough, this shouldn’t be a problem. If it is a problem, walk away.

New Media, New Opportunities

One of the many great things about running a business in the digital age is the fact that advertising and marketing are no longer mysteries. You should know which channels deliver a positive return on investment and which channels require optimization (or being switched off).

If you are spending any money on advertising and you are unaware of whether it is working for you, stop spending money on it straight away and focus on a more transparent channel.

Of course, if you’re looking for a 100% targeted opportunity that offers all the benefits of reach and value for money, you could do a lot worse than email marketing.

Does advertising work for you? Are “lazy” campaigns wasting your opportunities to reach your target audiences? Have you been sold “vanity metrics” and seen little in return? Share your comments below:

This post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.

Written by

Marketing Strategist, Author of #BecomingTHEExpert, Content Marketing Trainer, and Cyclist. Check out my author profile:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store