Complications of advertising

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Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don’t know which half.

So said the American entrepreneur John Wanamaker at the beginning of the last century.

These days we can very precisely measure the impact of the advertising we undertake online. If you run a search marketing campaign with Google, every impression and click can be quantified. This apparent clarity has helped Google build a multi-billion dollar business. But things are not quite so simple.

As much as stats inform, they can also deceive. Looking at your website analytics might tell you how much traffic an online advertising campaign has delivered to your website – and the proportion of those visitors that sent an enquiry or made a purchase.

But it cannot tell you why those people chose to click on the ad in the first place, nor why so many others did not.

At Hotfoot, we have found that running marketing campaigns across different forms of media is much more effective than focusing only on the channels that appear on the surface to work best.

This includes using channels that are harder to measure, such as print advertising, or where the effectiveness of the activity can be difficult to prove, such as social media and public relations. People are much more likely to respond to brands they encounter that they recognise and feel some positive sentiment towards – whether that is because of a social media post, an article or advertisement they have seen. The act of advertising can itself be attractive to customers if it occupies somewhere perceived to be expensive – such as a large billboard or back page of a glossy magazine.

“Knowing (or sensing) how much money a company has thrown down for an ad campaign helps consumers distinguish between big, stable companies and smaller, struggling ones,” explains writer Kevin Simler.

This is not necessarily rational or data-driven – and on a spreadsheet it might look terribly wasteful. But it likely represents a sizeable proportion of the advertising spend that actually works.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design