New Data to Help Save Failing Campaigns
By Chris Kelly, CEO, Upwave
One of the many challenges that a brand marketer faces is understanding why a particular advertising campaign, or specific ad, fails. We all know the famous quote attributed to John Wanamaker, but knowing why any specific campaign fails is just as important—or even more—than understanding which campaign. Advertisers and their agencies cannot afford to waste ad dollars due to a campaign not capturing current demand, or growing future demand.
While post-campaign measurement is a standard tool in every agency playbook, far too few put the tools in place to test during the campaign, potentially missing some powerful and potentially simple optimizations. As the saying goes, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.”
The good news is that certain optimizations available to advertisers can course-correct poorly performing campaigns, some of which require minimal to no additional spend.
To demonstrate the power of optimizing in-campaign, we studied several campaigns that underperformed and estimated the approximate amount of increase in brand lift if the campaign prioritized the best-possible optimization.
We looked specifically at five brand campaign goals: aided awareness, ad recall, consideration, purchase intent, and customer lift. We then looked at ten common campaign elements (Publisher, Ad Size, Creative, Frequency, Ad Type, Environment, Video Length, Audience, Vehicle and Targeting) to determine what was creating negative lift, and what optimizations worked best for each campaign goal.
We were able to look at the average lift spread, which identified the largest possible optimization, and the percentage of potential opportunities, which identified the campaign elements most likely to have possible large optimizations.
- Frequency is the biggest driver of poor campaign performance, and provides the most opportunity for change
- Beyond frequency, different optimizations had different impacts on different goals—so understanding your primary objective is imperative
- You can and should perform these optimizations mid-flight, demonstrating the importance of real-time brand lift measurement
How Brand Marketers Can Achieve Excellence in Campaigns–And Know Why They Fail
- Know your KPIs: Every ad has the opportunity to produce a meaningful response from the viewer, from aiding awareness of the product, increasing ability to recall an ad, considering purchase of the product, intending to purchase the product, or actually driving sales. It’s important to understand which of these is your primary KPI for the campaign, in order to understand which aspect you want to change, as all campaign elements may have differing impacts on different KPIs. And while, as stated above, frequency has the highest impact on all those goals, it can be costly to run more ads. Therefore, brands should consider less costly improvements like ad type, video length, and audience, especially if they can find a powerful category for the latter that they can access for a lower cost-per metric.
- Creative isn’t always the culprit, also consider switching publishers or ad size: Creative had a higher impact on the lower funnel: It is often assumed creative is the issue when a campaign underperforms, and yet poor creative wasn’t always the reason why brand advertising failed. Or, put another way, swapping creative won’t always improve brand lift. Though our research is a great guideline, companies need to look at the holistic picture of their advertising strategy and test and learn to see what improves their lift the most.
There are opportunities for low-risk and high-risk optimizations, depending on your risk tolerance and flexibility. Some have more influence on different KPIs, and obviously, some are more costly to fix than others. That’s why it’s so critical to know exactly what you’re trying to solve for and what’s the most efficient or cost effective solution because the difference between potential lift can sometimes be minuscule.
- When all else fails, frequency provides the most powerful course correct for a failed campaign: Frequency proved to be an important driver in campaign success or failure. In some cases, the frequency cap was set too high (primarily for down-funnel KPIs like consideration and purchase intent), and lower frequency performed better. This means advertisers could adjust their frequency cap and save money while increasing lift.
In other cases, especially for top-of-funnel KPIs, increasing frequency would make a positive impact. This makes sense on an elemental level–the more exposure your marketing messages receive, the more people are aware of your product. Here’s the issue – increasing frequency can be a costly fix. Simply putting more spend behind a failing campaign can be a difficult proposition for companies even in favorable times – it’s a harder argument to make during economic uncertainty.
Either way, paying attention to frequency is key.
- Lean into cost effectiveness: This is not to say that cheaper ad inventory is better, but rather that optimizing doesn’t have to mean simply spending more money. When two potential improvements are possible, it’s important to identify the option that is the most cost-effective and efficient, or helps reach the primary intended outcome. If two optimizations are equivalent, you shouldn’t do both; do the cheaper or more efficient one.
Optimizing the ad size to something larger or increasing frequency might cost more, but there may be something with a similar lift at a lower cost increase. For example, with the primary objective being consideration, changing frequency has a 32% chance of improving the brand lift, but changing creative is nearly 2% higher and may, for larger campaigns, be much more cost effective.
While the goal of any advertising campaign is to drive sales–whether in the short-term or long-term–work needs to be done to move consumers down the brand funnel to eventually lead to sales.
Ultimately, this data highlights the importance of looking at performance during a campaign, and not just what is driving lift, but what is dragging it down. You can often course-correct and optimize before the campaign ends–not wait for the next campaign. And you can pick some less obvious optimizations that could have a much larger impact than throwing more money into frequency, if not warranted. Don’t waste time looking at the post-campaign results and wondering what else you could have done, when the answer was there all along.