Invest In The Infinite - There Is No Other Option

Together Meta, Alphabet and Amazon accounted for more than 74% of global digital ad spending last year, which is 47% of all money spent on advertising over that period. And this year, they’re expected to reach 50% of all global ad spend.

In a world dominated by three giant trillion-dollar (well maybe not Meta) media companies that maximize profits by selling as little advertising as possible for the highest price, who do you think will win the negotiation? Buyers (us) or sellers (them)? 

Despite this dynamic, how many times have we told clients we’re a superior agency because we can buy cheaper and smarter or just better than everyone else?

How could that be possible when we’re all using the same media channels and optimizing using the same algorithms and platforms? 



Now, of course, there are agencies and clients that are building their own buying algorithms. But do we really think that our algorithms are going to be more sophisticated than those of the big three?  

We’re Spending The Most Time Where It Has The Least Impact

And still many of us spend most of our time managing platform-based campaigns, optimizing platform-based media and developing dashboards to report on platform performance.

We are spending most of our time in places that have the least impact. Just look at your calendar! Why do we do this?! 

It’s been widely reported that Facebook’s advertising performance is not what it used to be. Back in 2017, Chase changed the way it bought programmatic advertising, saving a lot of money and reducing the number of sites where their ads showed up (from 400,000 to 5,000) and didn’t see a drop in performance. 

There is a very clear (and limited) yield curve for auction-based advertising, and diminishing returns occur a lot quicker then they used to. 

It takes a lot less to reach a spending plateau. ROAS has decreased over the last year, and it’s very clear that these channels are finite. They cannot efficiently absorb all our spending and all our demand. Yet we continue to spend most of our time and attention investing in finite channels. 

Investing In The Infinite

What we really should be doing is spending our time investing in the infinite.  

Remember that phrase, "Nobody gets fired for buying IBM?" I think we spend most of our efforts optimizing the big three for the same reason that no one got fired for buying IBM. 

Optimizing the lower funnel is safe. Spending time in the lower funnel makes us feel like we’re in control and actually driving business results. It gives us a business reason to say we matter because we’re driving performance -- even if that performance is declining and becoming more expensive, less measurable and certainly less attributable, highly competitive, and finite. 

Instead, the real growth is in the infinite.

The infinite is scary, because it’s none of the things we find in the lower funnel. But it is where all the business growth lives -- and where brands are built and where consumers fall in love. The finite is measurable and predictable, even if we’re predicting smaller returns. It’s harder to measure and predict the infinite -- and that’s why we’ve been too afraid to invest in it. 

Coinbase swung for the infinite with their QR code ad in the Super Bowl. I’m sure Paramount+ didn’t approve the brilliant drone installation at SXSW by first doing an ROI analysis. 

Those ideas happened because of brave, smart, experienced, creative marketers and agencies who spent time thinking about the infinite.

They weren’t concepted after a discussion about first-party data activated on a platform visualized on a dashboard depicting disappointing performance results. Those ideas happened after people -- not algorithms -- imagined the infinite.

The Bottom Line

Today we are all competing using the same media channels.

We are all measuring successful ROAS in tiny positive increments. We are all trying to beat the buying algorithms of trillion dollar companies. 

Too few of us are spending any time thinking about what’s possible if we took a chance investing in the infinite.

Let’s change that. There is no other option.

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