Clicks, lies and social media

DO you know where your online advertising dollars are really going?

Do you know where your online advertising dollars are really going?

American department store magnate John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”. Despite claims about the trackability of online advertising in this era of social media, programmatic placements and content marketing, the complexity of the current landscape means it can be very difficult to tell whether your advertisements are actually reaching your desired audience. Just slapping down your credit card for an online campaign is easy, but should perhaps be subject to more consideration.

Social media

For years social media gurus have preached about the virtues of building audiences and pushing advertising through these channels. And there is evidence to suggest having a social media presence is beneficial.

However, blindly rushing into social media without a clear plan and objective can be a costly and ineffective exercise — potentially counter-productive and damaging.

Everyone likes to be ‘liked’, but are the likes real? Many so-called “influencers” have carefully curated lists of followers who don’t actually exist. For example, the current going rate to buy 20,000 Facebook followers is just over $1,500.

And even if they are real, Canadian marketing platform, Wishpond, has urged companies to resist the temptation to actively target new social media fans, because “there is no way to choose ones who will actually be interested in your business or industry. It’s just a generic mixed bag. And who knows what country they live in or what language they speak,” a blog on the Wishpond website said.

Engagement is also frequently highlighted as an advantage of social media marketing, but it again depends heavily on who is engaging. Much like finding a quality audience, engagement is only beneficial if it is with the audience you are chasing — likes from “fake fans” can be a distraction and can lead legitimate followers to disengage.

Over the last few years, there has been an increased focus on Facebook ads, which in turn have become more expensive. While many businesses that have paid for Facebook advertising have seen a spike in clicks, there is a need to focus on conversion of the online interest into real sales.

Problems of programmatic

Seen as the future of advertising, programmatic campaigns are not without pitfalls.

With computer learning still far from infallible, programmatic advertising has the potential to get things dramatically wrong, sending ads to the wrong audience entirely. How often have you spotted an ad that has no relevance to anything you’ve ever searched for? Or just isn’t relevant to you? Or is an ad for something you just bought and are unlikely to purchase again soon?

Experts have warned the reliance on last-click attribution (where the ‘last click’ is given credit for a sale or conversion) is a significant drawback for programmatic advertising in its current guise, with CMO magazine reporting that Willem Paling, the author of IAG’s Digital Ad Effectiveness Playbook, is particularly wary of the perils of last-click attribution.

“It’s still a common currency when you compare between tools. It’s a real problem because to do away with it, you introduce a whole lot of complexity,” he said. “Marketers think they’re making a meaningful comparison. The problem is it’s not meaningful.”

Speaking at the World Federation of Advertisers’ Global Marketer Week in Lisbon, outgoing Unilever Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Keith Weed, said the company was paying closer attention to where it spent its advertising dollars.

“Online advertising credibility is still a global, industry-wide problem and as the world’s second largest advertiser, we have a responsibility to use our scale and influence to address this issue,” said Weed, unveiling a Unilever Trusted Publishers initiative which he said would “add more rigour to how Unilever advertises online. We want to know that real people, not robots, are enjoying our ads — bots don’t eat a lot of Ben & Jerry’s.”

Sadly bots don’t buy much travel — most of them are overseas already and of zero value to your business.

Voice assistants and Alexa

Asking Siri, Alexa or Google about the weather forecast or to dim the lights is a great novelty, and marketers are eyeing the wondrous world of voice search as the new frontier. However, the reliance on artificial intelligence leaves investment in voice-based tactics exposed to similar challenges as programmatic campaigns.

Similarly Alexa “website rankings”, touted by some as evidence of online leadership, need to be treated with due caution, because they are compiled from searches conducted by browsers with the “Amazon Alexa toolbar” installed on their computer. No business is going to allow such a modification to their employee desktops — meaning if you’re targeting B2B clients Alexa rankings are completely irrelevant.


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