John Wanamaker’s famous line, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,”[ has been quoted ad infinitum by anyone associated with the industry since the merchant first uttered it in the late 1800’s. Depending on which side of the buy you’re on, it’s either a light hearted defense mechanism meant to deflect criticism of a poorly performing campaign, or a realist’s resignation most often accompanied by a more contemporary “SMH.”
Sitting in a digital pitch the other day, I was struck by the fact that it might just not be a valid statement anymore. Amid the maelstrom of data generated by SEO and SEM, performance stories emerge. Even the term, “analytics” proves that today, there is something to examine – something to analyze – something to react to. What’s the CTR? What happens if we lower our bid? How many Impressions? What is the Conversion Rate? What’s an acceptable bounce rate? It all adds up to knowing in excruciating detail what’s working and what’s not. Sort of.
How a campaign performs is ultimately reflected in the bottom line of the business doing the advertising… not the bottom line of an analytics spreadsheet. That’s why I start every client conversation with the question, “How’s business?” If people are coming through the door, if the appointment book is filling up, if products are flying off the shelves, then the campaign is working. So while it may be exciting to stalk your prospects… and you may feel compelled to spontaneously high-five your co-workers over an increase in “time spent on site,” no amount of fancy analytical footwork can replace the proof-of-performance ring of the cash register.
Do what makes sense….watch your client’s money like it was your own and above all, trust your gut. If you do, then maybe this generation of advertising execs can revise Wanamaker’s adage to have it read, “A little of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; and I’m ok with that.”