Advertising used to be easy.
Brands would work their respective agencies, make a media buy, create the ad, place it (in a newspaper, on the radio, television, etc...) and watch to see if anyone cared. In the golden age of advertising, you could - literally - buy your way to the top. As the industry evolved, grew and matured, things changed. Prior to the power of the Web, most media planning was done several months in advance, they worked in fiscal quarters and were highlighted by moments-in-time like holidays and seasons to attract new customers and bring the loyal ones back. The Internet changed everything. Not just in terms of changing the distribution and media models, but in how advertising is planned and managed.
Sadly, there is still too many brands that manage their advertising with a very traditional planning mindset.
You can call this the "set it and forget it" mentality. Media is bought, ads are placed and metrics are gathered post campaign. It seems simple enough, but in a world of Google AdWords, real-time bidding, Facebook's newsfeed and more, you can iterate, optimize and build different destinations (or landing pages) for a brand to test and learn - in real time - what is working and what is failing. At a primal level, this means that you can spend your money sparingly and strategically to work towards a better outcome before the media is all spent. There is no need to do a post-mortem to figure out what happened. Instead, you can work towards a better conversion rate when things start to fall apart (as they often do).
But, here's the thing...
You can't blame digital advertising for not working if you - as the brand lead - are not doing the hard work. Check this out: Small-to-medium-sized businesses waste 25 percent of their search advertising spend. Re-read that. According to the AdWeek article, Smaller Businesses Waste 25% of Google Search Cash, we're simply throwing our money into the garbage. From the news item: "The biggest problem is that SMBs only tweak their keyword buys only every 90 days or so, said WordStream chief tech officer Larry Kim, and don't spend enough time zeroing in on relevant lead generation tactics... What's more, Kim's firm found that 95 percent of SMBs don't have a functioning click-to-call button for their search ads, eliminating the opportunity for countless phone leads."
"My advertising doesn't work!"
Here's a clue: advertising works better than most marketing professional could ever imagine, they're just not willing to do the heavy lifting required to make it efficient. If AdWeek numbers are true results for SMB's, what do you think the numbers might look like for larger corporations? I shudder to think. This past week, I spoke at a few events around the continent and would regularly hear the hallway chatter that Facebook advertising doesn't work or that brands aren't finding ROI with Twitter or that their Google ad spend isn't performing like it used to. Advertising is hard. Bringing to it a traditional mindset of defining keywords, then simply running it against budget without putting into place a much more rigorous, real-time accountability plan to iterate and optimize doesn't make the advertising channel ineffective. It simply means that advertisers haven't changed their philosophy and approach to digital. In fact, it feels like they're simply trying to make digital adapt to their traditional ways of planning. That's the true waste.
Things need to change.
We used to find out about brands in a very different way. We waited for brands to announce to us what they were up to. Now, consumers are infovores. They are on the prowl for information and details about what is the best widget, and why people think it is the best. They're looking towards their peers for answers. They're looking to strangers for answers. They're looking to see if the brands are awake and at their beck and call with answers. They're using very different media channels and sources to find these answers as well (think: Google, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube and beyond). We - the marketing professionals - need to reverse engineer how we make great advertising happen. It needs to happen now. There is only one place to point the finger of blame, in a world where analytics, information and sentiment dances in real time.
It's on us.