Interaction over Attribution

Brandon Grosvenor wrote this on Dec 13, 2019 | 0 comments

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Thanks, ‘guru’, but online and off, marketing will always be more psychology than math

To speak with some online media specialists, you’d think they’d invented the idea of measurability. “Today, you can trace each dollar and attribute how well your buy has worked,” they’ll tell you, speaking loud and slowly if you’re over 40.

As though coupons, phones and the mail didn’t exist a century ago.

Measurability is great—always has been—but transactional advertising is only part of marketing a brand.

Sure, you can buy a campaign of banner ads on any busy portal and count how many people click on them. Just be sure to count how many people immediately close the ad they’d accidentally clicked while intending to minimize it.

You can also count the number of people who sat through 5 seconds of your pre-roll before skipping, which proves “they engaged with the content” (hey, you have to notice it to skip it).

Does that mean your online ads are better? Or that the offline and less measureable media are inherently inferior? Does it mean the advertising worked? Hardly.

Speaking as multi-media specialists, we don’t think, we KNOW marketing’s not that simple because it involves that unfortunate wild card, the human.

There’s so much else to consider. Everything from the readiness of the target and timing in the life cycle of the sale, to the time of year and, of course, the quality of the media buy.

A reaction isn’t a sale. Interactivity is often better for dialogue than transactions. 

Example? If someone bought an S-Class after clicking on a 27¢ Mercedes-Benz ad, does that mean the ad sold them? Please! According to Mitsubishi, Canada, the average car buyer researches 17 internet sites before making their final decision. Each of those visits will factor into their decision but so do countless other factors.

Consumers are highly complex individuals, not 2-minute Sudoku puzzles. By offering them information they’re interested in when they’re interested, then listening, you enhance your chances of a sale.

At the other extreme: How many people buy gum or breath mints from the internet and not as a last-minute purchase from their local retailer? It’s a rhetorical question but we think the answer’s somewhere between zero and none. But does that mean you shouldn’t have interesting content online about your gum to remain top of mind the next time they’re at the checkout counter full of last-minute purchases?

Smart agencies never claimed their advertising was solely responsible for the success of any popular brand. (Consider the classic advertising saw “nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.)

New media change old ones, they don’t replace them. 

Despite that catchy chorus, video did NOT kill the radio star. Considering the ubiquity of podcasts and streaming services, if anything, radio is bigger than ever—exactly 40 years after the Buggles’ mega-hit.

And remember how online media was supposed to hale the end television? But 25 years after the Internet hit the mainstream, TV has also entered a golden age.

Maybe you recall that the fax machine was going to make business travel obsolete. Advertising has long been home to visionaries selling simplistic magic beans.

As pioneer retailer John Wannamaker is alleged to have said well over 100 years ago, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” There’s wisdom in that. We maintain that, despite the gobs of data blown into every new business pitch, marketers still can’t really determine which half is wasted—because as much as technology has changed, people haven’t.

As much as the numbers wizards would love to extinguish the need for creativity in this industry, we’re still selling to humans. And humans won’t be reduced to numbers. We’re funny like that.

Next time you’re interviewing an agency about the effectiveness of their advertising, ask to talk not just to the numbers people who have “proof” their ads worked but the creative thinkers. How well do they understand your product or service and customer, and the complex relationship between them?

In short: We recommend that you question someone who only talks about advertising on the Internet without a better reason why than being able to attribute how well their dollars perform through clicks and pass-ons. The Internet also attributes that same quotation regarding wasted half-budgets to Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy, Frodo Baggins, and, after today, quite legitimately to Brand Grow Media.

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