Friday, January 12, 2018

Digital Advertising and the Power of Attribution

I have been in the advertising industry for 12 years. I started my career at one of the world's most reputable agencies, Ogilvy, in the PR department. There was no better way get acquainted with the industry than to start with a giant of a company where I learned pretty quickly (had to!) I was immediately tasked with some of the biggest brands: Nike and Unilever/Dove.

These big brands that I worked on had deep pockets and back in the pre-Google era, it was difficult to track campaign success in terms of sales and revenue. When we launch a campaign, we had to make sure our media plans had rest periods so we can properly assess the results of the initiative we ran over the duration of the campaign. This means working with the media team in identifying advertising spend, the client team in reporting the actual sales generated over the period of the campaign and so on an so forth.

While you can't argue sales performance (statistics are pretty tough to argue!) a lot of its performance are still based on assumptions and it's generally hard to pinpoint what exactly contributed to the success of a particular campaign, especially if you are running an integrated campaign with advertising, PR and direct marketing components.

In PR, particularly, since we measure success by calculating impressions (multiplying column and inches of a broadsheet with circulation and reach), it's tough to say how much sales came out from a newspaper that wrote about our campaign. Now, one can argue that PR is really more of a brand-building medium and yes, I do agree, but what I don't agree with is the notion that PR does not generate sales. Public Relations is the purest form of marketing – the endorsement of credible journalists and media personalities. And even if PR does not have the power of repetition like advertising, I am a thousand percent sure that it contributes to sales.

It frustrated me for years how we were not able to attribute sales margin lift to PR.

With that frustration, I felt the need to re-evaluate my career path. I love advertising. Despite the late nights, overtime, stress and workload, my fondness for my craft has grown with each campaign that I launch. Although, I needed to be in a branch of advertising that has control – yes, I am a control freak.

Eight years after, I discovered digital marketing – a facet of the marketing mix that was not available when I started my career and finally found my calling. Digital Marketing is public relations on crack – utilizing word-of-mouth marketing (in the form of posts and online conversations) with the ability to attribute sales down to which advertisement, ad sets, time frame generated the revenue! The closure that I have been searching for.

While I am well-versed in all sorts of digital mediums, my favorite has got to be Facebook. In my personal opinion, it offers the most powerful tools for customizing advertising campaigns. I mentioned in my previous blog post how the most important aspect of digital marketing is audience definition. When it comes to knowing its users, Facebook knows ALOT about its audience. As a marketing professional, it makes me so happy, but as a private person, it scares me how much they know. I mean, it makes sense. People share a whole lot of information on Facebook and Instagram, feeding the platform the power to really understand the behavior of the people who use it, giving marketers like myself the most effective tool there is.

Now, back to attributions.

By installing the Facebook pixel on your website (it's a simple code and it only takes 5 minutes!), you will be able to track which of your ads are generating the most number of sales. Yes, that's right. You will be able to tell what kind of image/language your audience responds to giving you the ability to pattern it out to your future advertising campaigns!

Screenshot of Facebook's dashboard illustrating which campaigns/ads are generating the most number of purchases
This brings me so much joy because knowing valuable information like this gives every brand the power to play with the big boys (with deep pockets). Digital marketing is a great equalizer - you don't need top dollar to be able to generate revenue, unlike advertising on television which requires big $$$. I've led campaigns for brands that have budgets of $30 a day to those with $500 and happy to report that the ROI has been pretty impressive regardless of campaign spend and this is because we're able to utilize Facebook's marketing tools properly.

A lot of e-commerce businesses immediately close their doors on Facebook when they first try it because it didn't yield the results they were expecting – this is true for a lot of my current clients. Unfortunately, you will really need to understand how the platform works to be able to stir it to the direction that you want it to. It's like driving a manual car - in theory, you understand how to do it but it's a little more complex when you're actually on the driver's seat. You have to keep practicing, trying and eventually, you'll be able to get to anywhere you want to be.

If you have an e-commerce store and would like to increase sales margin through social media advertising, email me here and I'd be more than happy to discuss.

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