Traditional Marketing and Advertising Doesn’t Work Anymore

The only pro traditional marketing articles proclaiming “No, really, print still works!” are penned by those selling it. This should be a red flag by itself, however, the fact that nobody can really measure it should be another reason to swear off of traditional media entirely.

Anyone who tries to tell you its working is selling you something. Be wary.

This article explains it well – read on:

4 Reasons Traditional Marketing and Advertising Doesn’t Work Anymore

Before you traditional media types email me with your tirades of “How traditional marketing isn’t dead”, and that “You have no idea what you’re talking about”, I should note that most of my background is in traditional marketing and media on the agency side. I’ve spent hours on end writing TV and radio scripts, mulling through Nielsen reports, calculating gross rating points, frequency, and an endless list of data points that attempted to provide the most value possible for my clients. Many of these clients invested quite a bit of their own money for me to provide these services for them, with little guarantee of return on investment. I sold these media with the promise that they would reach the most amount of people and eyeballs for each dollar spent. Looking back (hindsight is always 20/20 right?), my thought process was very flawed.

Sure, you could tag (insert traditional ad medium) with a promo code as a feeble attempt to track return, but at the end of it all with the media market as fragmented as it is, it becomes very difficult to firmly close the loop and determine what actually worked. The key performance indicator (KPI) generally becomes “Did I sell more?” or “Did I see a jump in phone calls?” With how complex market forces are, it’s almost impossible to track a jump in sales to traditional media spend without making some very broad assumptions, and who likes to make business decisions based on assumptions? Exactly.

It should be understood at this point that I’m a huge proponent of digital marketing, more specifically, inbound marketing. The 4 Reasons Traditional Advertising Doesn’t Work Anymore that are below will help explain why.

Read the rest of the post HERE. The author [Brad Larabell] covers four main points:

1. The consumer buying process has changed (A LOT!)
2. Traditional Media Is Interruptive in Nature
3. It Doesn’t Work on Millennial Buyers
4. Lack of Trackability of ROI


Marketing analytics: You need Neil Patel on your team

Marketing Analytics… and marketing in general

Here’s another recommendation for marketing analytics advice, and digital marketing in general.

Keep in mind that Neil Patel is an aggressive and effective marketer. He knows his way around analytics and digital marketing. You’ll notice a very different marketing approach from Avinash Kaushik when you visit his site. Whereas Mr. Kaushik takes a softer approach, Mr. Patel doesn’t hesitate to start marketing to you immediately. This is not a horrible thing, but you will get marketed to when you visit his site.

Get acquainted with Mr. Patel with a couple of helpful and informative blog posts:

How to Navigate Google Analytics Like a Pro (Way Beyond the Basics)

How to Get Actionable Data from Google Analytics in 10 Minutes

Don’t Lose Money: 5 Analytics Tools to Help You Fix Your Leaky Sales Funnel

Enjoy, and here’s to marketing with better metrics!

Digital marketing needs to clean up its act

(Does) digital marketing need to clean up its act(?)

P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said what many digital marketers have been thinking for some time now. “The days of giving digital marketing a pass are over…It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.” [We don’t] “want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain.”

Almost immediately after reading that, I came across an article, 10 Things I Hate About Digital Marketing by Jerry Daykin.  Skeptically, he points out many of the potential pitfalls of digital.

What do you think?

“Digital is all around us and there’s never been a more exciting time in marketing. There’s also never been an easier time to completely waste your advertising budgets. Digital transformation is creating huge new opportunities to reach consumers and drive business objectives. But if you blindly believe everything you read in a marketing headline, or see presented on an event stage, you can easily be led astray.

[You might also like, “What are the Greatest Concerns for Marketers Now?”]

“The digital industry is sadly still full of misinformation, misguided gurus, false perceptions and perhaps even a few deliberate crooks. With so much constant change it’s hard for anyone to keep up. But in general, the traditional rules of marketing all still apply…”

In the same post: “The answer to how much content you need to make is nearly always dependent on how much you can afford to promote to a big enough audience. That’s why content isn’t really king, it’s a democratically elected president which can win hearts & minds only if it has enough of a campaign to get started.”

Read the rest of the post HERE.


The Online Ad Scams Every Marketer Should Watch Out For

Setting up a new digital ad campaign or hiring an agency/someone to do it? Read this Harvard Business Review article on some techniques of which to be aware and that can often overstate performance for a given tactic.

online ad scams
HBR Staff

Imagine you run a retail store and hire a leafleteer to distribute handbills to attract new customers. You might assess her effectiveness by counting the number of customers who arrived carrying her handbill and, perhaps, presenting it for a discount. But suppose you realized the leafleteer was standing just outside your store’s front door, giving handbills to everyone on their way in. The measured “effectiveness” would be a ruse, merely counting customers who would have come in anyway. You’d be furious and would fire her in an instant. Fortunately, that wouldn’t actually be needed: anticipating being found out, few leafleteers would attempt such a scheme.

In online advertising, a variety of equally brazen ruses drain advertisers’ budgets — but usually it’s more difficult for advertisers to notice them. I’ve been writing about this problem since 2004, and doing my best to help advertisers avoid it.

Overstating the Effectiveness of Sponsored Search Campaigns
A first manifestation of the problem arises in sponsored search. Suppose a user goes to Google and searches for eBay. Historically, the top-most link to eBay would be a paid advertisement, requiring eBay to pay Google each time the ad was clicked. These eBay ads had excellent measured performance in that many users clicked such an ad, then went on to bid or buy with high probability. But step back a bit. A user has already searched for “eBay.” That user is likely to buy from eBay whether or not eBay advertises with Google. In a remarkable experiment, economist Steve Tadelis and coauthors turned off eBay’s trademark-triggered advertising in about half the cities in the U.S. They found that sales in those regions stayed the same even as eBay’s advertising expenditure dropped. eBay’s measure of ad effectiveness was totally off-base and had led to millions of dollars of overspending.

Now, eBay is unusual in its dominance of U.S. consumer auctions. Your company is probably less fortunate in the markets it serves, and if you don’t buy your trademark as a keyword to show your search ads, Google will try to sell your trademark to your competitors, a tactic which some courts have allowed. But if a user searches for Dell, an ad for a competitor like Lenovo tends to underperform. Some users may be willing to consider an alternative at Google’s suggestion, and others may be tricked or not realize the difference, but at least a portion will recognize that Lenovo is something else entirely.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago generalizes these methods and shows that buying your own trademark tends not to be as good an investment as standard measurement tools suggest. Tempting as it may be to increase spending on these (supposedly) “top-performing” keywords, I’d advise the opposite: Cut them, perhaps all the way to zero.

Overtargeting Display Ads
Another problem arises with “retargeting,” which recognizes consumers who didn’t make purchases. The logic: if you went to Expedia and looked at a hotel but didn’t make a reservation, Expedia will arrange for its ad to be shown as you browse the web in the coming days. The banners can be eerily precise, often promoting the specific properties you considered. This approach makes it easy to click back to where you were and complete the purchase.

Here too, standard metrics indicate that the campaign works. No doubt the folks who browsed at Expedia are good candidates for buying from Expedia. Showing banners may remind them to do so. But how many of them would have made a purchase anyway? Certainly not zero. (Consider the traveler who was waiting to finalize his itinerary, perhaps awaiting confirmation from a friend or a business associate.) Yet most measures of ad effectiveness will give full credit to the retargeting vendor — asserting, falsely, that had it not been for the retargeting banner, the user would not have purchased. This hasty analysis leads advertisers to run retargeting campaigns that appear to yield profitable purchases more than sufficient to cover retargeting costs. But if an advertiser considers that some of the sales would have happened anyway, the appeal of retargeting campaigns necessarily diminishes.

It turns out that even demographic targeting of banner ads (without retargeting) is also at risk. Suppose your company is fortunate enough to enjoy popularity with a given demographic group — say, 40% market share among men aged 18 to 25. You might target banner ads to that same group, hoping to reach the 60% of customers in this group that you don’t yet serve. But remember that you’ll also be addressing the many customers that already use your offering. You might falsely attribute “success” to a campaign that prompted purchases from the customers who were going to buy from you regardless.

My advice: try a randomized experiment. Take a portion of the users who would have seen a retargeting campaign or a demographically-targeted campaign. Rather than showing them your ad, decline to advertise to them, and track how many of them buy anyway. If 20% of them still make a purchase, your ads are actually 20% less effective than basic measurements would suggest.

Paying for Affiliate Sales That Would Have Happened Anyway
Affiliate marketing is supposed to align incentives perfectly, paying only for success — like a 10% commission if a user actually buys a given product, but zero for impressions and clicks. Is fraud “impossible,” as some have claimed? Not at all.

Consider a sneaky affiliate who “stuffs” a cookie on every user’s computer as the user browses an unrelated web site. With a moderately popular site (or a banner or widget on someone else’s site), this “cookie-stuffer” might claim to have referred millions of users to a given merchant. Some of those users are bound to make purchases, and the merchant will pay the affiliate a commission as if it truly caused the user’s sale. Worse, the merchant is unlikely to suspect the problem; with real sales, merchants are often slow to realize that some customers’ decisions are uninfluenced by any affiliate marketing activity.
Mere speculation, you worry? Not so. In 2008 indictments in San Francisco, Shawn Hogan and Brian Dunning were charged with wire fraud for using these methods to claim more than $20 million from eBay. They were, for a time, eBay’s largest two affiliates, and they report that eBay wooed them with dedicated account managers, chartered jets, and more. Only years later did eBay realize it was being swindled. (Disclosure: I advise eBay on certain aspects of affiliate marketing fraud, and litigation records indicate that I uncovered Hogan and Dunning’s activities.)

The take-away: if you run an affiliate marketing program, you shouldn’t assume it’s fraud-free. A good start is to know your affiliates — browse their sites to examine their offers and approach. Some affiliates try to keep their sites secret, claiming that merchants might copy their proprietary methods. I can understand their worry, but if they want to get paid, they should expect reasonable oversight. If an affiliate’s site doesn’t look quite right — too ragged for the volume it reports, too hasty, or otherwise not quite right — you should push for specifics and check third-party sources like affiliate network staff, server logs, and online discussion forums to try to confirm your suspicions.

Measuring Success When Adware Intervenes
When users’ computers are infected with advertising software like adware and malware, advertisers are at still greater risk of being separated from their money with little to show for it. I’ve tracked adware that covers advertisers’ sites with their own pay-per-click ads, so that a user browsing (say) sees paid links for RCN rather than (or on top of) the genuine RCN site, prompting unnecessary clicks. I’ve found banner injectors that insert ads into other companies’ web pages without permission from those pages, and certainly without paying those pages’ publishers. Remarkably, some injectors insert an advertiser’s banner ad into its own web site — a particularly outrageous scam against the advertiser, which then pays to retain a user it already serves. (An example is Revizer adware and ad network Criteo charging Zappos for users already on Adware can also monitor a user’s browsing, then invoke the affiliate link to the site a user is about to buy from.

Adware tends to be particularly tricky to uncover since testing is so difficult. Advertisers are rarely willing to set up testing labs to see adware in action first-hand. As a stopgap, consider insisting on higher standards from responsible networks. Revise contracts to allow for clawback of any payments later shown to result from adware. While you’re at it, you might look for one-sided terms throughout an ad network’s contract; ad network defaults tend to protect their interests only, disclaiming every possible warranty or guarantee to leave advertisers vulnerable if anything goes wrong.

The Way Forward: Aligning Incentives for Marketing Managers
It’s probably no surprise that advertising networks offer services that aren’t in advertisers’ best interests. An ad network is an advertiser’s vendor — fundamentally, not a genuine partner or ally, but a supplier whose direct interest is charging more for doing less. Savvy advertisers should view the relationship accordingly.

How about ad agencies and advertising buyers? Advertisers often pressure agencies and buyers to deliver near-impossible results. They often face tough demands — “20% more customers for 10% less money” and so forth — and cutting corners can feel almost unavoidable. I understand advertisers’ insistence on results, and I share it. But when measurement is imperfect, an excessive focus on measured results invites vendors to game the system with tactics that advance measured indicators without genuine results.

I’ve even seen instances in which a company’s in-house staff become complicit, knowing that vendors are up to no good, but afraid to call them out on it. Companies almost invite this behavior through bonuses and performance objectives — “$10k extra if you increase ROI by 10%” — yielding temptations too enticing for some to resist.

Advertising is hard work. Short of the rare product that practically sells itself, advertisers and their vendors should expect to hustle to find scalable and cost-effective methods. When you see a new tactic delivering outsized results, you might ask yourself whether it’s too good to be true. Sadly, often it is.

Original POST

Author: Benjamin Edelman

Seven thoughts on effective social campaigns

The original hed was The 7 Secrets to the Most Effective Social-Media Campaigns which was a little click-baity for my tastes but, nonetheless, the post had some good tidbits. My biggest takeaway? “Filter out mobile traffic” on paid social media ads, which after reading, made sense. What do you think?

I’ve resisted social media advertising for a long time, believing that there are a host of free tools and free strategies that can help your business grow on social media organically.

What I’ve come to find out (and I’d imagine many of you have discovered this already) is this:

If you’re spending money to advertise online, social media ads may very well earn you the biggest returns.

(In some cases, it’s the cheapest way to reach people.) 

There are so many inspiring digital marketers who are pioneering the best practices and cool strategies for social media advertising. As we dip our toes further into social ads here at Buffer, it’s been fun to discover all the great tips we might try. I’ve collected seven of my favorite ones here in this blog post—a list of simple, actionable tips that drive successful social media ads. 

I’d love to hear in the comments any strategies you might add!

1. Create multiple versions of the ad

When we write headlines for Buffer blog posts, we often come up with a big handful of options (15 or more headlines per post when we can manage it) so that we can test and see what works best.

The same idea works with social media ads.

When you read about a successful social media ad, it’s likely that the ad has gone through a few key variations based on these actions:

  1. Write several versions of ad copy
  2. Test different images
  3. Adjust and hone your target audience

In the comments of our post on Facebook advertising budgets, Lucie shared this great tidbit about how to gauge what’s working and what’s not:

I always have several versions of the ad and anything with lower than 1.5% CTR after few hours I deactivate.

The strategy then would look something like this:

  1. Create lots of ad variations
  2. Check often to see what’s working
  3. Deactivate the lowest performers and try something new

In terms of testing out different ad copy, there are many popular recommendations for what might work (including a few ideas I’ll share below). This SlideShare from e-CBD, while a couple years old, has some interesting ideas for things to try: power words, time prompts (“now,” “limited time”), and question marks.

Question Marks in social media ads

For images, you can test things like product pictures, people and faces, evenmemes.

And when it comes to custom audiences, there are some great tactics on different ways to hone in on a segment that converts (probably enough tactics for a post of its own, which we’d love to cover separately). One bit of advice I’ve found helpful in thinking through things is another useful comment on our Facebook Ads post, from Bill Grunau:

You want to cast a large net, BUT not try to scoop up the entire ocean.

A target audience of 3,000 to 5,000 is very, very small. For FB ads it should be in the high five or six figures as a minimum. If it is many millions then it is likely too big.

2. Use the “Learn More” button

When creating ads for the Facebook News Feed, you get the chance to include one of seven buttons with your ad.

If in doubt, it’s best to choose a button instead of no button.

And the best button of all? The “Learn More” button.

Learn More button

You can add the button in the bottom section of the Facebook Ads editor. These are the seven button options to choose from:

  1. Shop Now
  2. Book Now
  3. Learn More
  4. Sign Up
  5. Download
  6. Watch More
  7. Contact Us

The theory behind why this button works is that it helps focus your ad to an even greater degree, like a Mario mushroom for your already great copy. Adding a button enhances the call-to-action and primes a reader to take the action.

As for which button works best, you’re might notice that one fits your niche particularly well (“Book Now,” for instance, would be great for vacation spots). For the “Learn More” button, there seems to be growing evidence that it’s the best overall bet for engagement.

Noah Kagan found that “Learn More” converted better than the other optionsand better than using no button at all.

And Facebook ad tool Heyo ran an A/B test to see the effect that the “Learn More” button had, compared to no button at all. The result: a 63.6% increase in conversions and 40% decrease in cost-per-click just from the Learn More.

Heyo Facebook ads test

3. Create a custom landing page

If the goal of your social media ad is conversions—sales, signups, what-have-you—then you’ll want to think not only of the ad itself but also where a person might end up once they click.

Picture social media ads as a two-step process:

  1. Create the ad
  2. Create the destination 

Some of the most successful social media advertising campaigns include custom landing pages, where the copy carries over from the ad and the action crystal clear.

The more targeted your ad, the more targeted your landing page needs to be.

You’ll see this often with e-commerce ads that do a great job targeting a single product and then send the person from the ad to the main product page, full of menus and related products and all sorts of potentially distracting (albeit eminently useful) places to click.

[Also read, 12 Social Media Tips for Business]

Siddharth Bharath, writing at Unbounce, suggests a click-through landing page, which is an intermediate page between an ad and a final destination (shopping cart, for instance).

This keeps the focus on the offer – the reason the prospect clicked – and leaves them with two options: buy now or lose the deal forever.

As Unbounce describes it:

Videos or product images paired with a description and product benefits help to persuade the visitor to click the call-to-action.


Socialmouths shared five key elements of these social media ad landing pages.

  1. Goal-Driven Copy Length
  2. Limited Form Fields
  3. Key Visuals
  4. Responsive, i.e., “Mobile-ready,” Design
  5. A Single Call to Action

Of these, the single call-to-action stands out as a potentially quite key element.

Also of note, the goal-driven copy length suggests the idea that there could be multiple goals for your social media campaign, something like a spectrum from immediate goals to long-term goals or sales/lead-gen to awareness/education. In general, a landing page for an immediate goal has short copy. A landing page for a long-term goal has long copy.

4. Mention price up front

Another interesting tip from Siddharth Bharath involves the idea of pre-qualifying your traffic. Essentially, it works like this:

You only want people clicking through to your ad who are comfortable paying the price for your product. 

The key then is to share your product’s price early.

Udemy price ad

Doing so will help qualify the traffic that heads to your landing page. Instead of filtering out people when they reach your pricing page, you can do so before they even click—thereby saving you pay-per-click costs that wouldn’t have amounted to a conversion.

The goal, in other words, wouldn’t be about people clicking your ad. The goal would be people clicking your ad and eventually buying your product or service.

5. Promote a discount

In a survey of Facebook users67 percent of people said they were likely to click on a discount offer. 

A simple strategy for a successful social media ad: Mention a discount in your copy.

In a really cool case study from Hautelook, the clothing website ran a 50% off sale on their Diane Von Furstenberg line. Mentioning a discount in their ads led to a huge sales day—the third largest sales day in company history.

Hautelook discount

And discounts don’t necessarily always need to be tied to huge sales events. At Buffer for instance, we have three different pricing options (free, Awesome,Business), and at the Awesome price the price is lower when paying a year in advance rather than month-to-month. It’s kind of a built-in discount and one we could explore using in our social media ad copy.

6. Filter out mobile traffic

When creating a social media ad, you’ll typically have the option of segmenting the audience by a number of factors, including those using a desktop/laptop versus a mobile device.

To fully optimize your conversion rate, show your ad to those on desktops and laptops. Don’t show your ad on mobile.

This slide deck from Ad Espresso (a Facebook ads management tool) does a great job explaining the differences between types of social media ad placement, particularly on Facebook.


The mobile News Feed is great for mobile app installs and engagement. It’s tough to get website conversions.

Here’s the key slide:

Facebook mobile news feed ads

Noah Kagan also mentions excluding mobile traffic in his steps for getting started with Facebook ads.

Avoid showing your ads to mobile traffic. Most likely your page is not mobile designed and that traffic is less likely to purchase or sign up for an email address. 

That last sentiment seems key here: Mobile visitors are less likely to convert to a sign up or a sale. If conversions are the goal of your social ad campaign, then it might be great to focus solely on the desktop audience.

A couple of additional notes here also:

  1. Not only do the most successful social media ads hone in on the device type, they also keep in mind the location of the ad. Typically sidebar display ads—like those offered by Twitter or Facebook—see lower click through numbers (they’re recommended as a great option for retargeting). The best results are those that appear natively in the News Feed or timeline. Ezra Firestone calls these “advertisements that blend in with the platform.”
  2. Removing mobile display from your ads is an often-recommended strategy, though there’s definitely two sides to the discussion. Brian Honigman,writing at SumAll, mentions that your ads should focus on mobile first in order to capture the huge volume of Facebook traffic that accesses the site from mobile devices.

7. Focus on relevance score


When I wrote about our Facebook Ads experiments a few weeks back, I was so grateful for all the advice and learnings that folks shared in the comments. This bit from Lucie has stuck with me:

I test my ad on a small budget and see the relevance score first. If it is less than 8/10, it means I should adjust my targeting. If it is higher, then I know I hit the nail on the head.

Jon Loomer wrote a detailed breakdown of Facebook’s relevance score, explaining what it is and how it’s calculated.

Briefly, relevance score helps explain the way Facebook views your ad and why it might prefer certain ads you’ve created versus others.

Facebook says they use relevance score to determine “expected” interaction with your ad.

Relevance score is calculated based on actual and expected positive and negative feedback from the ad’s target audience. The score is updated in real-time as users interact with and provide feedback — both positive and negative — with that ad.

Positive feedback includes people liking, commenting, and sharing your ad and also any desired actions taken with your ad (clicks to website for instance).

Negative feedback includes those instances when people hide your ad or ask not to see ads from you.

It’s all delivered on a 1 to 10 scale and based on real interactions with your ad; there’s a 500 daily impressions minimum in order to receive your first score.

From Lucie and Jon’s advice, there are a couple of great takeaways and strategies on how successful social media ads look at relevance score.

  1. Test your ad with a small budget first, to see where your relevance score lies. Once you achieve relevance of 8/10 or higher, then promote the ad more heavily.
  2. Since relevance scores update in real time, check your ads often. If the score dips below 8/10, adjust the ad.

(This second point hints at a higher-level bit of advice with social media ads: Don’t just set ’em and forget ’em. Consistent, active monitoring is key.)


As we’re in the early stages of testing out social media ads at Buffer, it’s a real privilege to be able to learn from those who have gone before us, trying and testing to see what works in social ads. We’re excited to take all the great advice here and use it in our own experiments and campaigns.

One of the best blueprints I’ve seen for creating a social media ad (particularly a Facebook ad) is this brief list from Noah Kagan, which condenses a lot of the sentiment from the above strategies.

  1. Call to action: Choose “Learn More”
  2. Headline: Give away something for free
  3. Text: Social proof showing why the reader should care
  4. Link Description: Give call to action for them to get benefit

Try to create an ad that uses natural text versus something that seems like an advertisement.

What have you found works well for you with social media ads?


Original POST


Content Crafter. Buffer

The FTC’s Endorsement Guides: What People Are Asking

The FTC updated its Social Media rules. If you do any marketing and/or advertising in this area you should probably take a look at the changes or at least read an overview. Below are the areas and inquiries with which the FTC is most concerned.

Answers to questions people are asking about the FTC’s Endorsement Guides, including information about disclosing material connections between advertisers and endorsers: