Why Do Marketers Love Waste?

Last week, in "Why Web Sites And Online Marketing Suck," a conversation was started over the metrics that matter for social media. The more conversations I had about it this week, the more I felt I needed a sanity check. The myth is that the goal of all advertising is to sell product. The truth is that selling product is important, but at what price you can sell your product, and what people will do to get your product over a perfect substitute, is where the real money is.


There are more metrics online than many brand marketers know what to do with, especially if those metrics don't actually measure against the goals of brand marketers. The real goal of brand marketing, in its simplest state, is to build awareness, change/enhance perception and, finally, to create/enhance intent to purchase. Tracking all the way through to sale would obviously be a huge plus, but purchases do not occur after every brand advertisement exposure or engagement. It's much more likely that a brand purchase occurs after a number of exposures to the brand, and more often than not, will occur offline. So let's stick with a simplified goal of brand advertising as -positively Impacting an individual's awareness, perception or intent to purchase a brand product. I am sure there is a better definition in a textbook somewhere, but this will serve our purposes.



Given the simplified definition above, brand marketing's objective, online or off, should be based in its ability to change people's minds. For offline media, marketers and publishers have studied, negotiated and built models to come to agreements on the number of people a marketer can impact using a particular media type. For online, we have built proxies for how many impressions, how many clicks, how many pieces of content created, how many views of the video. But all of these are just proxies that leave it up to marketers and agencies to figure out how many people they actually affected with their campaign. As we said last week, online can get marketers closer to what they need: a much more accurate number of people impacted by their campaign. But will marketers even buy it?

While I watched the "Lost" season finale last night on my DVR, I thought about how expensive this content was to make - and I wasn't even watching a single ad. I felt a little bad, and then as I skipped through the commercials, I stopped feeling so bad. I didn't need the maxi-pad commercials, I didn't need the truck commercials. Seeing them would have been just wasting my time as well as the marketers' money, so at least this way it was just the marketers' money. There were probably two to three ads that would have impacted me, that I would have welcomed. ABC could show just the right ads to the right people, but would Toyota pay the same price for 100,000 people as they have been paying for the 12 million people supposedly seeing their ad? They should if it's the right 100,000 people that they can actually have an impact on.

But marketers love waste. If I asked a marketer to pay $100,000 to positively impact 100,000 people, many would be agreeable. But for some reason those positively impacted people have to come with considerable waste to make marketers comfortable. Because if I told the same marketer that I would only be showing their brand to 200,000 people to achieve their marketing objective of 100,000 positively impacted people, they would do some quick math and respond "that's a $500 CPM!!!" So? Why is the proxy for impact important when we can actually measure impact? Most marketers could go out and buy 10 million impressions for $100,000 and not positively impact 100,000 people, but it's a much more reasonable $1 CPM rate. So? Was your marketing objective to be served on a Web page 10 million times, or was your marketing objective to actually impact 100,000 people?

Finally, there is a medium that can provide marketers measurable results regarding the number of people positively impacted by their campaigns. Marketers can set objectives and work with agencies and publishers alike to achieve meaningful marketing objectives. This, I submit, should be the definition of an "engagement": a level of interaction between an individual and a brand asset that positively affects an individual's awareness, perception or intent to purchase a product. Will marketers reevaluate their desire for proxy metrics, or do marketers just love waste too much? Can someone please explain the psychology here? Help me out!

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