The Philadelphia 76ers are a better team than the New England Patriots because they average 98.8 points per game, while the Pats only average 27.6 points per game.*
That sentence is so bad it was hard to type… but it serves as a simple analogy for an unnecessarily complicated topic.
*For those wondering, the 76ers are a bad NBA team, while the Patriots are a good NFL team. The analogy highlights the fact that points in basketball aren’t the same as points in football, and statements made in a vacuum without considering all factors can lead to incorrect conclusions.
Advertising should be conceived, created, and placed to achieve a specified goal, and measured and evaluated in like terms.
In other words, your ads should always be measured by comparing “apples to apples” and evaluated based on how effectively they helped you achieve your goal(s).
One of the toughest challenges facing companies, organizations, and individuals in marketing today is determining the true value of different advertising mediums. Many advertisers today are comparing “apples and oranges” in their ad evaluation process because different advertising mediums report on their ad performance using different types of metrics. (e.g. Television Rating Points, Impressions, Circulation, Engagement, etc.)
The goal of this six part series is to help break down the complex nature of measuring success in advertising and propose methods of practical application. Or put another way, to turn oranges into apples and compare apples to apples. (Sick of that stupid phrase yet?)
A few of my definitions (personal interpretations) before we get started:
Advertising Medium – Anywhere an ad can be placed in some form, such as billboards, magazines, newspapers, radio, television, the internet, direct mail, etc.
Advertising Messaging – The information that should be taken away upon consumption of a creative asset. For example, if Kroger has a billboard that has a picture of a milk carton on the left and the text “$2” on the right, then the advertising messaging is that milk is $2 at Kroger right now, although the ad does not explicitly state that.
Campaign – A specific set of creative assets, advertising mediums, and advertising messaging with a common idea or theme. For example, if Kroger has the billboard mentioned above, along with newspaper ads, radio spots, and television commercials promoting that milk is $2, then that group of ads is a campaign.
Creative Asset – Any copy, graphic, imagery, video, or audio, such as television commercials, coupons, direct mailers, digital display ads, motion graphics, etc.
Now, let’s begin.
Forty years ago advertising was primarily in the form of television, print material, outdoor signage, and radio. With what seems today to be such a small number of ways advertising could be placed, effectively evaluating performance was primarily evaluating the creative assets and campaigns.
But now, with the introduction of the internet and our connected world, there are exponentially more ways to place advertising—creating exponentially more factors to be considered when evaluating performance.
Companies, organizations, and individuals are dealing with information overload. They sift through the mounds of analytics and metrics to evaluate if their ads are performing well to make marketing decisions, and sometimes they end up just making assumptions…
Well, we’re making money, so it must be working. You know what Pappy always said, “if it ain’t broke…”
The solution is efficient, effective education.
It’s not feasible for one person or a small marketing department to not only learn about and understand every single advertising medium available, but to also keep up with all of the changes that are constantly happening in those mediums and how they affect their specific industry.
Hence, the need for the education to be both effective and efficient.
So how does one go about embarking on this educational journey without getting overwhelmed or discouraged?
Part 1, Goal Identification
First, it is absolutely imperative to identify your main goal(s)… the purpose for why you’re advertising—increase profits, solicit donations, feed mouths, etc.
At this point, you should be thinking, “No crap.”
But the problem isn’t initial identification, it’s cognizance of that goal throughout the entire advertising process – from ad conception to ad creation to ad placement.
Advertiser: Billy’s Birdhouses
Goal: Increase Profits
Billy has determined that there is a direct correlation between the number of birdhouses he sells and his profits. So, in an effort to sell more birdhouses, Billy has decided to take out a half-page ad in Birdwatching Today.
Billy’s competitive advantage is his price point. His birdhouses are significantly cheaper than his biggest competitor, Birdhouses by Bobby. While built to the same quality, Billy doesn’t decorate his birdhouses as extravagantly as Bobby, choosing instead to save those expenses, resulting in less expensive, plainer-looking birdhouses.
His graphic designer presents him with two different options for the ad.
Billy, who is proud of his work, opts to use Option #1 because he thinks it is cleaner, more ascetically pleasing, and showcases his work in the best light.
What’s the issue?
Billy’s decision to use Option #1 is an indicator that Billy has potentially lost focus on his goal in the ad creation process. He has defaulted to using the more aesthetically pleasing ad, rather than the one more likely to more effectively achieve his goal. Since his competitive advantage is his price point, that needs to be showcased in the ad. All other things being equal, if a potential customer’s purchase decision is based on appearance, they’re more likely to buy one from Bobby.
Advertiser: Campaign to Decrease the Number of Distracted Drivers on the Road
Goal: Decrease the Number of Distracted Drivers on the Road
Note: This is a real advertisement that was on a billboard along the interstate in Hartford, CT. These observations are my own assessment, and I have no information about the advertisement aside from the picture and its location.
Seemingly, with the goal initially in mind, the decision makers in charge of this campaign apparently set out to tell people that distracted driving is dangerous. Presumably, someone determined that there was an indirect correlation between the number of people that saw the campaign’s messaging and the number of people driving while distracted. (i.e. The more people who saw the message, the less people driving while distracted.)
All of that seems logical.
But notice the shift in the goal. What was initially “decrease the number of distracted drivers on the road” became “maximize the number of people that see our campaign’s messaging.”
What’s the result? Someone decided to put up billboards with the campaign’s messaging on them.
It could certainly be argued that these billboards achieved the goal of maximizing the number of people that saw the campaign.
But, they do not effectively achieve the goal of the campaign to decrease the number of distracted drivers on the road. Billboards, by their very nature, distract drivers, and those who see them are the drivers who are not already distracted – in other words, not the target audience. The target audience is too busy being distracted by their phone, makeup, etc. to see the billboard.
While the goal was initially identified, the decision makers did not stay cognizant of it throughout the entire ad placement process.
In closing, to relate it all back to the annoying idiom, before you start turning oranges into apples, you need to define exactly what an apple is to you.
Other Articles in this Series:
Part 2, Identifying Related Variables and Their Relationship with Your Goal(s)
Part 3, Valuation of Goal(s) and Related Variables
Part 4, Measuring Ad Performance
Part 5, Considerations in Advertising Strategy Adjustment
Part 6, Practical Application