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Brand advertising is broken. Here’s why.

Last updated: 01-25-2020

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Brand advertising is broken. Here’s why.

It’s one of the most famous quotes in advertising history. Over a hundred years ago, department store mogul John Wanamaker stated: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

The Drum, in partnership with Wistia, has surveyed 235 people working in advertising (either for brands or agencies) to find out if this statement still rings true today. Has the promise of more attributable, efficient advertising spend actually been realized? Or are most of us still spending with care and abandon, hoping for success?

Marketers are spending more and more on digital advertising in order to increase brand salience and brand affinity, including $30bn spent on digital video alone in the US this past year. And according to our data from the survey, three-quarters of brands advertise because advertising is “an established and useful tactic” to achieve brand growth, not because it's been proven to work.

In fact, more than half of the companies advertising on the big media platforms, such as Facebook and Google, don't know whether the views they are getting for their online videos are from real people or bots.

Rather worryingly, the research detailed in this report, carried out by The Drum for Wistia, shows that the way marketers and agencies think about brand advertising has failed to keep up with the changing world.

While advertisers have a wider variety or channels through which to build awareness of their brand than ever before, they’re still using traditional or basic online techniques to measure their success. Furthermore, despite a wholesale shift the in the way ads are distributed, the way in which businesses measure brand advertising hasn’t changed much at all. This disconnect is masking profound ineffectiveness, which both media agencies and tech giants alike are discouraged to be honest about.

According to Wistia’s brand marketing strategist, Phil Nottingham: “That businesses are spending so much money with no clear idea what value they are getting in return is a clear indication that dramatic change is on the horizon. Google and Facebook will hope that their promise of directly attributable means of direct customer acquisition will capture more and more of the budget, but there is an open question about where businesses that really care about ‘brand’ should allocate their marketing dollars.”

Our report suggests brand advertising is broken and that advertisers need to find another way to build their brands. It shows it’s time to find a better way to look at the current advertising environment and the differing attitudes of brands and agencies, especially around issues such as measurement and trust. It also reveals how marketers desperately need to work harder to understand how views differ between the US and EMEA, between B2B and B2C brands, and between small companies and larger ones.

With these startling and depressing results, it is finally time to consider that perhaps there is a better way to build a brand than spending money on advertising.

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