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Rethinking Advertising ROI: The Dawn Of Impressions Is Here

Online advertising ROI has long been one of the most controversial subjects in digital marketing.

Brace yourself: It’s about to get worse.

Many business owners are disappointed by online advertising. It’s not just that they don’t get the results they expect. That’s only one part of the story. A complaint that’s nearly as persistent is this: Even though there is so much more data to look at, it’s often impossible to prove that a given ad led to a sale.

The ability to connect advertising and marketing initiatives to cold, hard revenue is called attribution. And every time it seems like the online world is closing in on the Holy Grail of a clear, consistent ROI measurement based on sales activity, something else comes along to reset the board.

Most recently, that something is the demise of third-party cookies.

Make no mistake about it: Third-party cookies are on their way out, and attribution as we know it will be a thing of the past. Yes, alternatives like device identifiers are making first-party data more helpful, but you shouldn’t wait to rethink how you’re using advertising and what you expect from it.

The long and the short of modern advertising ROI is this:

If you focus on campaigns and lead generation, you’re going to be disappointed.

Narrowing your advertising to only those campaigns where ROI is 100% clear will leave you on shifting sand in 2023 and beyond. Online advertising use cases are shrinking in many industries, and if you want ads to work for you, it’s essential to broaden your thinking.

Impressions are becoming more valuable by the day.

No matter how user activity tracking changes in the future, impressions are on their way to supplanting other ad metrics as the most informative measure of success. Yes, there will be some exceptions. For the most part, though, it’s time to get ready for the era of impressions.

Look at customer behavior and you’ll see it’s already here.

Outside of Retail, Ads No Longer Lead Directly to Immediate Purchases

In an ideal world, ads would grab attention and inspire instant action.

But we may have left that world behind years ago.

Attention spans are shorter than ever, and there’s good reason to believe they’re getting even shorter. This is having an effect not only on the performance of individual ads but also on the basic rationale of them.

At the same time, millions of users are unilaterally opting out of the whole concept of ads. Browser plug-ins like AdBlock take just a few clicks to use, and the younger generation of consumers swears by them.

With reduced attention spans and a smaller pool of active ad viewers, content is more important than ever. And content is getting better, more precise, and more insightful. In a situation where two brands compete with comparable content, the one with the bigger budget will have more staying power. Now is the time to evaluate whether there’s a better way for your brand than simply duking it out.

Even when your content is great, users are getting tired of it faster. Without responding to that loss of interest, your cost per result will steadily rise even as your reach decreases. That’s not just down to the habits of users themselves, but algorithms that penalize content once it is no longer “fresh.”

This can result in a death spiral where you pay more and more for less and less. As time goes on, your future campaigns can also be impacted. Many advertising platforms use the average performance of a selection of past campaigns to determine the startup costs for new campaigns in the future. Once you start slipping, you’ll pay even more to reverse the trend. There’s even less room to experiment.

It’s time to break free of the hamster wheel by using ads in an all-new way.

The Cumulative Effect of All This: A Campaign Is No Longer a Campaign

With ten years of experience in digital marketing, one thing we’ve learned is that the only constant in marketing is change. There’s a small handful of things that haven’t been transformed by the advent of data-driven, scientific marketing. And one of the biggest of those is evolving as fast as you read this.

Up until very recently, an ad “campaign” could run anywhere from one month to a full year, but it was not out of the ordinary to align it with a company’s quarterly schedule. There would be little tweaks on the way, based on real user responses, but it was rarely necessary to tear it down and start over.

When ads were based on good data to begin with, they could produce predictable, measurable results for a long time. We’ve reached an inflection point. Today’s campaigns don’t resemble those of the past in the slightest.

To be effective, it’s necessary to painstakingly refresh your campaigns nearly every month – with all the overhead that entails. Before long, we could be looking at doing it twice a month or even more. And the cumulative effect of all these changes is driving many smaller companies out of online advertising.

To succeed with advertising in today’s market, it’s crucial to shift your focus to long-term results.

And it’s even better if you hire a marketing agency you can trust.

Just Like Marketing, Advertising Is Now Part of the Long Game

Digital marketing and advertising have long been seen as two sides of the same coin. Search engine optimization created opportunities for long-term, low-cost traffic. On the other hand, if you wanted attention overnight, you’d take on the added risk of online advertising.

This dichotomy had problems even in the best of times.

Small businesses have often wasted thousands of dollars by running ads before the right marketing was in place and their website was ready. Now, advertising’s impact has changed 100%. Using it to augment your existing SEO and content marketing is your best bet.

By and large, that means using ads for long-term goals.

When you use ads to heighten brand awareness, impressions and reach become your main metrics. These are, and always have been, easier to measure than full sales attribution. And no matter how underlying technologies change, they will still be available to help you judge your campaign’s health.

A long-term approach creates an overall strategy that’s more sustainable and generates better long-term results. Done right, advertising and marketing can continue to support and complement each other. That all depends on thinking more creatively about how you leverage your advertising budget.

New York Ave is here to help you do it.

The Sooner You Embrace Impression-Driven Advertising, the Better

At New York Ave, we help service-based businesses like yours get the most out of their advertising spend by combining stellar content with a deep knowledge of what works for your audience. Those elements will be critical as brands make the shift from ads for conversions to ads for impressions.

Contact us to find out more or get started.

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