For the longest time, I worked for global e-commerce giants Expedia and eBay. Both wielded many millions in advertising budgets, the majority of which landed in predictable and largely measurable digital channels like Google. The largest advertising agencies were brought on board to strategise, bring great creative concepts to life and execute campaigns across more traditional media.
The last few years, however, have been very different now I work with SMEs. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve learnt rings true for medium-sized advertisers with less than $2 million budgets, and some tips on how to avoid waste.
‘Big agency bias’ — availability and rates
Much like in other industries, in advertising, the largest customers get the best deals. Fair enough.
If I’m working with a global agency that has the largest brands as clients and my budgets run into the many millions, I expect to be courted by the media owners and get great value for my buy. I would also expect to get bonus spots, value adds like ‘first- or last-in break’, special integration opportunities and first right of refusal. My continued custom is critical to the success of the sales teams reaching large targets that impact quarterly results and reporting. As a result, I get the best availability and highest exposure for my brands.
Given these dependencies, it is no surprise the lion’s share of quality inventory is mopped up by big agencies and their clients. The leftovers are sold to the rest of the advertisers.
The problem is the quality of ad spots varies significantly. A media owner has availability across all hours and days of the week to fulfil a sold audience number, but this metric varies greatly in quality. There is a very large number of spots that have limited value, and as a result, an unknowing advertiser can get a media schedule which looks appealing at face-value but has significant wastage.
The media owners are managing their yield, which is also fair enough, but warning: buyer beware.
Regrettably, the interests of smaller advertisers are sometimes not closely observed, incredibly, the same can be said at times even for the larger ones!
Avoiding costly mistakes
For most SMEs, your website is normally the first port of call for most of your clients and potential customers. Rarely is it the case the site is set up correctly to capture and direct traffic generated by TV or radio, and even less common are the conversion points being tracked and reported. Don’t even start thinking about sending people to your website if it is not fit for purpose.
Social media can take the driver’s seat in some verticals (beauty and fashion, for example) but in most cases, the key driver of traffic to your website will be Google. Your site needs to be in good shape and you need to ensure your Google presence is strong, otherwise you will lose out to others on the results pages, who have paid for, or earned prominence. Make sure your site is credible, for example. Review platforms are helping a great deal to cover this piece of proof.
Don’t get distracted
It’s a simple statement, but still important: don’t try and do too much! Focus on the core components of your strategy. You don’t need to be everywhere at once. Coordinate the key media elements in a stepped fashion so you can to observe the impacts. Record the data, understand the numbers and don’t rush towards the latest thing. Snapchat anyone?