Attention is Expensive: Part III 1

Snagging that initial attention is only the first part of the struggle for market share.

In the previous two posts in this series, I discussed the importance of online advertising and explained the importance of developing and harvesting intent.

The two components of advertising that I want to focus on are impact and breadth. Impact is broadly defined as how much of an effect the advertisement has on consumer behavior. Breadth is the number of people that the advertisement reaches along with the diversity of the market that it’s targeting.

Deep Impact

Impact has traditionally been viewed in terms of the expense that it cost to create the advertisement – as if that’s the only determinant of how effective it will be. The idea has been that you could create a flashy advertisement that garners attention and makes the customer excited to purchase immediately – but that you can only afford to run over a short period of time and in front of a small market.

But flashiness and expense are not necessarily what causes people to buy your product. Creative pizazz can even be more distracting and confusing than a spare ad. Some of the most effective advertisements in history have been largely all-text or through simple voice-over.

What makes an advertisement powerful is that it gives the target consumer a reason why to purchase. If your target can go through your material and not have in their mind a clear reason as to why they should do business with you and not your competitors, then it’s been a failure – no matter how much you spent to create it.

Why should I buy it?

Why should I buy it at this price?

Why should I buy it now?

Why should I buy it from you?

Luckily, impact is one of the easiest metrics to test for through smaller campaigns. Run your ads in smaller test markets and see what your percentage conversion is. It will never be exact as compared to a broader test, but ramping up a campaign before testing it at any major scale is a serious error. It’s also one of the reasons why it’s often so wise to hire a marketing or ad agency to assist in the testing process.

Once you’ve proven that the ad resonates, then you can scale it up and change the campaign as needed.

Soaking the Market

Increasing the breadth of your campaign is important to building the authority of the ads and to ensure that it has adequate frequency with your target market. Frequency is just a term for how many times the ad displays over a given period of time.

As the media world becomes more fractured, finding what your potential customers are looking at becomes more complicated. But the competition has also driven down prices overall.

The more different locations and media formats that your target market views your advertising in, the greater the authority that the ads will hold over the viewers. Slight changes in format can also activate their brains – the ad and the message will seem fresh, but also familiar.

Online ad networks can easily accomplish this – both through display ads and Pay Per Click (PPC). Podcast ads, online video ads, and plenty of other options are sprouting up as viewership of traditional media stagnates and declines.

That doesn’t mean that running print ads to increase the breadth of your campaign isn’t also still a good way to go. You just have to be sure to target the ads carefully. A local business will not fare well by running a national ad. The New York Times still charges upwards of six figures for a single bloc – and unless that’s a rounding error in your budget, and you can afford to run those types of ads day after day and week after week, then other venues will suit you better. Scrimping and saving to run one massive ad in a national publication is almost always ridiculously underwhelming to the point to which you would be better off setting your money on fire.

Direct mail – both e-mail and traditional – is also often overlooked.

The Way Forward

There’s a lot of room for growth in online advertising. There are plenty of fantastic Youtube channels, blogs, podcasts, and others that would be amenable to advertisers that aren’t getting the attention that they deserve from advertisers.

Many of these people have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dedicated followers, but they either never consider sponsorships, or offer them at under-priced rates. Although the audiences may be smaller in some cases, the engagement of the audience tends to be higher – which increases the impact of the ads.

About JC Hewitt

JC Hewitt is an independent copywriter and marketing consultant based in New York City. He loves innovative companies of all sizes.