Is advertising a waste of money?

It was once observed by an American businessman that half of the money he spent on advertising was wasted, but the problem was he didn’t know which half.  Since then, with the advent of the internet, the world of advertising has changed beyond recognition.  The return on investment for some types of advertising, including but not limited to, digital or online advertising, can be more accurately measured. 

The digital agencies will tell you that you should divert your budget their way, they'll say digital ads are less costly,  will be seen by many more people, and are more measurable, ergo, more effective. 

Is an ad that costs pennies cheaper than one which costs pounds?

Compare the cost of advertising in a national magazine or newspaper, per edition, with the cost per ad “served” online.  It’s true that banner ads, those long banner shaped ads you see above the info you’re looking at, will inevitably appear to be extremely good value, with a very low cost per ad, but before you part with your money, there are a few more questions to be answered.

Think about the banner ads you last saw when you were browsing the internet.  If you don’t remember seeing any, is that because you’ve blocked them?  Or is it because you’ve learned to ignore them like you do if you’re listening to commercial radio?

If you’ve blocked pop up ads when you’re online, then you’re in good company. According to the industry magazine, EMarketer, one in four of us uses ad blockers, so you won’t even see the ad that a company has paid for and had designed.

As if that’s not bad enough for advertisers, that figure went up in 2018 by 34%, compared to the year before. Put another way, 1 in 3 people that weren’t using ad blockers in 2017, had them in place in 2018.

Can ads be trusted?

Trust is a huge issue for businesses, as without trust people will not buy from you. Not only are people sceptical about what companies tell them in general, but this figure also varies depending on the medium, with only 13% trusting ads they see on websites according to MediPost. There’s the additional issue of people worrying about getting a virus on their PC, making them wary of clicking on banner ads.   

Did you click?
If you do remember seeing some ads, did you actually click on them to find out more?  The very first banner ad on the internet had 44% of people clicking on it. This was partly due to its novelty, and partly due to some tongue in cheek copy tempting you to click, that wasn’t relevant to what was behind it.

Banner ads are now all over the internet, but instead of over 4 in 10 of us clicking on them, that figure is now less than 1 in 200.

Is it worth wasting your money on advertising?

Having questioned banner adverts as an effective spend of your money it’s worth exploring how else to reach your audience.  There are huge numbers of people on social media, but unless you know what you’re doing and have the time to test and measure everything, it could be an easy way of spending a lot of money. Again consider how often you’ve clicked on an ad on Social Media.

People don’t like to be sold to but they love to buy.
If this is true, then we need to work out how to enable people to buy from us, rather than how we can sell to them. People need to feel like they are in control. Most importantly they need to be relaxed. This is going to be the case when they are reading content they find interesting, e.g. articles in online magazines and blogs, which they will often share across social media platforms, so the content has a far higher reach than its original audience. 

Advertisers will sell sponsorship of such content; often referred to as native content. This is where your brand name, product or company is woven into an interesting story that has relevance to the publisher’s audience, your prospective buyers. 

There are agencies that specialise in writing and placing sponsored content, but with a price tag. You will, however, find niche publishers offering cost-effective opportunities to reach an audience that’s perfectly matched to your target audience. They will often help you write the article or re-purpose content from your own website or blogs.

As with any type of advertising, start with the end in mind. What do you want to achieve? You can build credibility in your field by positioning yourself as an expert with a well-written, educational article. If you want to generate leads you can market to later,  then you need the content to include a means of capturing people’s details, so they have to give you their details in return for something, e.g. an ebook, a how-to guide to something, or to join you on a webinar.

If you have identified a publisher whose audience is aligned to your own target market, then rather than repeat that campaign of banner ads, consider trying sponsored content. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results.