Did the ad work? | Seth’s Blog

Digital advertising has turned millions of people and organizations into not only advertising targets, but also advertisers.

But it doesn’t easily answer the obvious question: Did that ad work?

Long before digital advertising was invented, my late friend Lester Wunderman coined the term “direct marketing.” This is measured, active advertising. Spend $10 on an ad and you’ll know tomorrow whether you made $20 or lost five.

Lester helped invent the American Express card and grew Columbia Record Club, among other direct marketing exploits. The secret is simple: measure an ad, and if it ‘works’, do more of it.

And so, Google. Google makes billions of dollars selling direct marketing to companies that aren’t particularly bold, insightful or clever. They are simply testing, measuring and repeating.

On the other hand, ads on podcasts or Twitter almost never measure well. They rarely seem to ‘work’ in a P&L sense, as they are brand advertising, not direct advertising.

The purpose of a brand advertisement is to convey a difficult but important impression to the potential consumer. Brand advertising tells a story, builds trust, and most of all, helps a customer decide if the brand makes them feel good enough (hard to define) that they’ll pay extra for it.

If you try to measure brand ads, like quarks and other quantum phenomena, the benefits disappear. The things you do to better measure them can be pretty bad brand advertising

No matter how much it means to run brand ads against what the brand is trying to achieve. On the other hand, it is difficult to pay extra to sponsor interactions that build trust and connection.

It goes without saying that advertisers in the digital space are finally spending more time and energy thinking about the places they’re advertising and wondering if they’re just making more noise or actually making a difference.

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