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Another way these ad engines extract money out of you is by allowing competitors to bid for your brand name keyword. Try searching for Ozonetel on Google. There will be six competitor ads and then our website will show up :)
In our early days we used to be scared and bid for it.Lost a lot of money doing that. Then we talked about it and stopped. Again, no change in customer acquisition. Turns out, customers scroll down the ads and still click on our website.
Are our competitors getting some of our traffic?
But my business is not built on the assumption that people will not find my competitors. Its built on the fact that people will explore options and try to find the best fit for them. So its ok.
Looking at what business Ozonetel is in (i.e. sales are directed towards business owners), I'm not suprised FB ads were also worthless for you. I get the sense FB ads are really only good for things a consumer might impulse buy (e.g. clothing, games, small gifts, etc.) but anything where the user is probably going to do some more in-depth thinking about the purchase, they're beyond useless. Which pretty much makes sense - even if you've drilled down your targeting well for business decision makers who may sign up for Ozonetel, it's highly unlikely that decision maker is going to really want to know more about Ozonetel while they're looking at cat vids and fighting with crazy uncles about politics.
Just because your ads didn't convert, or 90% of the traffic you buy didn't convert, doesn't make it fraud. Fraud is malice, with the intention to defraud someone and not deliver what you promise, with intent. This is completely different to you setting a target demographic on FB and Google and it not converting.
I imagine most people calling fraud in this thread aren't actually talking about fraud, just non converting traffic. There could be a million reasons for this. You haven't set up conversion tracking, your targeting could be off, or your product or landing page is just crap. Calling it fraud is not helpful.
My business also sell only to other business, and Google kept calling us nagging us to do some "experiments".
One of them involved enabling "display network" ads on mobile.
Like the guy side... it "attracts" fraud.
So, what kind of fraud?
I am not talking about no conversion or no click, I am talking about all our clicks, or almost all to the point it was impossible to tell the difference, were fraudulent, for example most our ad spending was going into a musical keyboard app for kids, that has nothing to do with my business, despite me blocking the category multiple times, the app in question just kept being reuploaded in different categories to avoid bans.
When I went to check out the app Google Play page, it was rated 1 star, and lots of complaints similar to this:
"App is just a fraud, it keeps opening ads in the middle of the song while my toddler is playing to force my toddler to click the ads, then it automatically closes the page that opened and keep running, using all my battery and making my toddler see weird stuff."
So yeah, it is fraud, it is not "failed conversion", it is an app conning toddlers into clicking my ads that are selling stuff that shouldn't be anywhere near a toddler, both the parents and my business were being scammed.
The general user quality you get from Facebook Ads is atrocious.
I don’t believe they were saying the adds themselves were fraud, merely that they had a higher than average propensity to attract fraudulent customers.
There are definitely multiple categories this would fall under.
It would likely have to be added by a human, but still: there are a relatively small number of items that people only need one of.
And yes I agree it sucks.
Now, when the ads begin predicting what I would want the next day—that's when I start worrying.
They do work but like anything it's about choosing the right tool (platform) for the job. We wouldn't run ads on LinkedIn and B2B SAAS companies shouldn't advertise on FB/Instagram.
Why is it an initial assumption that customer acquisition and ad spend are linked short or even medium term? That doesn't seem right.
When I see an ad for washing machines it doesn't make me run out and buy a washing machine. It gets me familiar with Samsung the brand so in 6-12 months when I buy a washing machine I am familiar with Samsung and buy their brand. Or it means that if my washing machine starts to sputter I'm more confident knowing where to go to buy a new one.
It doesn't seem enough to stop advertising for 6 months and claim no damage is being done. It seems well understood that repeated exposure to a brand has a powerful effect on humans.
When I was doing some work in this space for Travelocity many years ago the biggest problem was cannibalism of data and traffic. Yes, the traffic coming in from ads was shitty and generally costs more than it returned, but even still cannibalism was the bigger problem. We would have been better off taking all the ads off the site and spending money in other offline venues. It was so apparent that ad spend was a drug addiction. I still don’t understand how this was a mystery to anybody in management considering the strength of the brand and the success of their television ads.
Eventually the business imploded and the partner/affiliate segment became more valuable than the core business partially because it was absent online ad spend.
Optimization is part of the process to ensure wasteful spending is reduced as analytics and sales data is generated but unfortunately the biggest issue is the people who actually run these campaigns. Lots of politics, perverse incentives, lack of skills, and general apathy.
But the promise of performance marketing is exactly this immediate connection between ad spend and performance (i.e. sales).
Sure in broad strokes you are probably right that brand awareness has ROI positive in the long term. But then why would you buy targeted advertising vs a giant billboard on the main road?
To more specifically answer your question; I imagine they have some sort of strategy with advertising. A billboard campaign might work. I always see Barracuda ads in airports, but nowhere else. Soap operas are named because soap and consumer products advertised to homemakers during the day. Even when using a broad brush you look for the best use of your money and target your audience.
The problem with attribution is that it's entirely flawed. Just compare what Google Analytics reports for a campaign vs what Facebook is reporting for the same thing. They'll give you different results and in most cases you probably shouldn't trust either.
BUT, what they do is provide an easily accessible number that you can show your boss to show you had results. This is massively flawed but most marketers don't understand the mechanics of advertising or tracking well enough to understand why they're reporting garbage data.
They randomly change distribution models, ignore the bot traffic, and present eye candy line graphs to show "tremendous" impact from ads. And this keeps on running until cash graph goes below the threshold and CEO goes into the "introspection" mode.
How the hell do I structure my empire so that it out-lasts my reign as obsessive good emperor? I am the one guy who can finally say, “I’m sorry, you’re a good person and a great VP of marketing, but you’ve done such a great job that you’re now just marketing yourself really and you’re fired.”
> When you type the word “Uber” into your Google Play, it auto-fires a click to make it look like you clicked on an Uber ad and attribute the install to themselves.
Isn't above an example of a criminal intent of deliberate fraud?
You explain it like:
>For ex, one ad network launched “battery saver” style apps in Google Play, giving them root access to your phone.
>When you type the word “Uber” into your Google Play, it auto-fires a click to make it look like you clicked on an Uber ad and attribute the install to themselves."
You don't have to be a genius software engineer to understand that.
Unfortunately, that's frequently not the case.
Because they have first-party information, neither Google nor Facebook suffer as much from this problem (although the most common school attended on Facebook is Hogwarts, so obviously they're not perfect).
Maybe not from the problem outlined in the study, but fraudsters certainly create fake high value "profiles" that they use to commit fraud on those networks.
I spoke with an ad fraud researcher recently for a marketing podcast I started and he spoke in detail about this fraud is carried out. IIRC he referred to it as retargeting fraud.
Like, they are definitely not perfect, but they are so much better than the rest of the industry.
I am aware of a bunch of advertisers who refuse to use open-web/app advertising because of the high levels of fraud, and this is a reasonable decision given the state of the industry.
This is going to depend entirely on the product and the market. We're B2C, and a very "personal" service rather than a service for one's professional life, so that probably helps. Plus our target market isn't defined by being tech-savvy.
As with all channels, optimising for customer acquisition (not just clicks), and lifetime value (not just easy sales) is critical for the long term health of the channel.
EDIT: I suppose you could ask for more, you could do as you hint at and not even link to sites with malware I suppose.
In form of directly executing code or something encouraging to download and run programs containing it.
The difference is that Google got paid for one and not the other. Pay them the protection money, and they’ll let you through.
Tried it. One ad. From ozontel.com
Pretty sneaky Dialpad lol
Hopefully the metrics show that the latter is mostly happening.
It's only fraud if the advertiser counterfeits XYZ's brand on their website.
The ad can violate trademarks even if the site behind the ad is squeaky-clean.
If putting the other brand name first causes consumer confusion in certain places, that's a problem, even if they're not lying or even doing it on purpose.
In Germany there is a law against dishonest competition, called "Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb".
The problem was phishing attacks on our customers.
They charged me for the ads, I complained to credit card company and did a charge back and they never followed through...
in fact, they offered me more credit to try advertising more.
For the life of me, I'm not sure how you can pay for 1,000 clicks to a very specific keyword and not have a single person download anything. The download was also valid for any user type. If you were on a mobile device, it showcased data that you could see on your mobile phone vs requiring a tool to download XISF or FITS data - it allowed you to download the high res image(s) in native iOS/Android formats.
Beyond the improbability of landing page being junk, Google analytics didn't fire for the majority of the traffic and twitters response was "the landing page may be too slow"
the landing page was < 1 second load times even within the twitter iframe nonsense.
anywhoo... the same ads on facebook, bing and google all had 75% click through and downloads but there were still a ton of clicks that had no analytics, no web time, didn't load anything in web analytics that we got charged for too...
the whole thing seems like a scam
When I searched for a very specific pillow type (and added country name to the search to get local results) I get this as first result on Google https://i.imgur.com/Fxx9b80.png. It's a mattress/pillow start-up/brand in India. The ad shows the exact thing I am looking for.
But when I click, and I am redirected to the actual product page https://i.imgur.com/eI6sNtJ.png that has none of these features and the product description is completely different from what it shows on Google Search result page.
I had reported this to Google sometimes back and nothing changed in their SEO gymnastics the last time I had checked a couple of weeks later.
I think what they are doing is fraud (wrong? unethical?). But what really annoyed me is it wasted a lot of my time as I thought I was doing something wrong and probably they actually had the product I am looking for.
It seems like you could implement your described behavior as a cross-browser extension, for everything except Safari (and Android Firefox -_-). Easier than forking Chrome! :)
Did you mean: ozonetel?
(Gboard bit me again while typing it out here too lol)
DHH (of RoR and Basecamp fame) has been beating the drum about this for a while now.
Having a trademark doesn't forbid your competitors from talking about you.
1. User types CompanyFoo (whose real URL is www.companyfoo.com) into their address bar, which lands them on Google (because Google owns Chrome and pays billions for the privilege on other browsers).
2. Since Google will sell this keywords to others, many businesses always bid on their own brand name to ensure it comes up first.
3. Thus, an ad for CompanyFoo shows up first, even though www.companyfoo.com is the first search result, so when user clicks on the CompanyFoo ad Google takes its cut. Again, this is also because Google has done as much as possible to make ads as visually similar to SEO results as possible - just the teeny 'ad' banner, compare to the big yellow box of early Google.
I don't have as much objection for other companies buying branded keywords, but the way Google has set up things up they are taking their cut from everyone even when they are giving very little value.
There was a search engine that got really popular doing that. I think they were called Google..?
Either Google should take a note from the old days when they were not rent-seeking jerks but did no evil and actually distinguished search results and ads by placing the ads to the side bar.
Or their practical search monopoly and all the profitablity from there should be regulated to oblivion.
That's just what I think should happen. The sensible me understands that obviously neither is going to happen.
But from what I've seen, the vast majority of ads that incorporate a competitors trademark are not doing that, and making it very clear they are advertising an alternative to the trademark being referenced.
Google makes money with these so they allow it as long as the ad text does contain the trademark.
"If your customers intend to go directly to you, why do they not go directly to your site but instead search for it on a general search engine?"
It's because now mostly people(including me) search for a brand we know and click on the site. Mainly we type in the address bar(without .com) and press enter. The default search engine brings up the list and we click.
Sure, and I want to watch a show and then have all of the commercials run at then end after I turn off the TV.
>More generally: if I search for "apple", what should the first result be? Wikipedia or Apple.com?
So what would your answer to this be?
Apple is a common noun in the English language. So I would assume the first result to be Wikipedia or some site which gives the best details about apples. The second result could be Apple.com or whoever has applied for the keyword.
If, hypothetically, Google was more pervasive than it already is, and made their ads more intrusive until consumers overwhelmongly clicked the highest priced ad for a given keyword, and Exotel bought the Ozonetel keyword, Ozonetel would have no choice but to buy ads for its own name. They could also buy ads for the Exotel keyword. The two could get stuck in a bidding war, wastefully sending money to Google when the optimal thing would be to just send users to the site they're trying to reach.
We're long past the point where you should expect users to try to guess domain names and to pretend that Google is just another general-purpose search engine. That universe could be nice but we don't live in it.
And then we decided to step back from the bidding war. One reason to do so was because we did not have VC funded money. If we had VC money, maybe we would have continued the bidding war. But glad that we could make the right choice.
One of the things I would like the antitrust investigations to dig into is Google's decision to make ads look more like search results, after a long-held principled stance of clear differentiation between the two.
IIRC, Google never did comment publicly on that particular design change.
I'm sure any internal discussions on the topic will be fascinating reading.
2) Related to the above: Google has decided they want to be a critical cog in the body politic. We as citizens get to have a say in how critical cogs in the body politic function. If Google doesn't like that, Google should not put themselves in that spot. We can help them with that if needed.
Plenty of people use the search engine as their homepage or reflexively open it when making a new tab, and searching for the name of the service (you don’t have to remember the TLD) becomes a habit.
why do they not go directly to your site but
instead search for it on a general search engine?
My grandmother still searches Google for "google images".
Calling out flaws, or wanting a change, doesn't mean people are demanding the strawman you've constructed of "exactly like you get today but free".
Just as an example, the people at the top of a few organizations could flip a switch and make all the major browsers default to nonprofit search engines.
Putting them above the results gets more clicks though, and the predatory advertising customers know this.
Fact checking you: On Google, I see at most a single ad (on most refreshes for Ozonetel, on one occasion for something called dialpad, on some cases, no ad is shown) and then your website, whatever it may be. It would seem that you are trying to piggyback on this article's discussion to increase awareness of your brand, which is not cool.
No one can actually prove it has any ROI at all. No one is willing to run the experiments necessary. In the few cases of natural experiments, where ads got turned off for some people by accident, there was no change in buying behavior.
The people that would have the power to run this experiment have their entire careers depending on things staying as-is. Running the experiment carries a significant risk of exposing that the advertising operations they're responsible for provide much less ROI than they pretend it does.
The unwillingness of anyone to run such an experiment is already an answer. Why wouldn't someone jump at an opportunity to prove the thing/service they provide actually works, unless they were unsure about it themselves?
A small tech team investigated fraud on our platform and developed a system that was pretty robust at detecting and potentially shutting it down. But literally nobody was interested - even the people advertising don't want to know.
The people spending money are typically networks, media buyers, ad agencies, etc, far removed from the actual brand.
There are so many parties who want a slice of the brand's cash that they are all long past caring about whether the ad is being viewed by a human or not.
IIRC our system wasn't even fancy ML - just finding known user IDs with identical timestamps over many simultaneous clicks / impressions on really diverse publishers.
I assure you the big brands CFO's take a huge amount of interest in what is spent on advertising.
Other dept;s like IT have to justify every penny, but Sales and Marketing not sooo much
I've seen it not just in the phenomenon you describe, but also in layoffs and restructurings.
Engineering , R&D, Manufacturing, Tech, Testing : "cost centers". Ever tightening budgets.
MBA, Beancouting 101
That said, companies like P&G, Airbnb, and Uber, which are oft-cited as examples of digital not being worth it, fail to understand their own brand recognition and organic power, built through prior marketing efforts, as key to their current standing.
Sure, TODAY, it doesn’t have the impact they’d like it to have but the investments PRIOR were key to ensuring their success.
I worked next desk to people running a small ad agency. Because we shared office (and I found them an intern), I got a very good look at how they're working. What I've seen can be summarized as: people who have zero clue or interest in statistics writing "reports", with "graphs" they don't even understand beyond "pointing up = good", proving positive ROI to customers - who also have zero clue or interest in understanding the numbers in the report, and not enough visibility into the whole funnel to independently check attribution. Both the agency and the clients were engaging in a shared and completely unjustified fiction of positive advertising return - and as long as both sides were happy, the money kept flowing.
I've been long since suspecting a lot of advertising on-line looks like that. Every now and then, I see evidence in favor. Like that good ol' Optimizely debacle, where it turned out Optimizely was structurally optimized to help people make invalid A/B tests, that erred on the side of concluding the interventions were working. And sure, big brands with some superstar ad teams probably do this right. But I think there's enough slack in most businesses that advertising spend can get quite far detached from actual ROI without anyone noticing (and with plenty of people happily riding the gravy train).
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10872359
The large ad firms deliver a very good product but it usually isn't cheap.
I've personally dealt mostly with the other end - the individuals and small agencies - and what I saw revealed total lack of necessary competences for the reports to be corresponding to reality. Perhaps it's understandable - after all, people who have the required knowledge likely end up working for big advertisers, or in entirely different fields. But small business owners don't pick these big advertising companies either.
The question isn't are the scientists good, the question is if the vendor is honest.
In a huge number of cases these tests are run by people that don't have the statistical background to property run and understand these tests, in the remaining cases there is almost never follow through to ensure that the results of the test have persisted after the experiment.
People will say "oh this test shows 10% improvement, and this one does too! and this one! and this one!" But then you should see a nearly 50% improvement just because of ad spend and you almost never do. Nobody ever check that all the numbers add up, they just want the numbers that someone reported to feel like they are sound enough to hold up to scrutiny but scrutiny is never applied.
It seems like it would be important to measure this standing and turn down spend once it is reached. I can see how there's a lack of incentive to help large advertising spenders understand this.
I worked at an ad company. It was an absolutely standard metric to eg geo-fence ads out of a state or two for 3 months to demonstrate the impact of ads. This isn't easily externally visible, but tests like this are standard practice.
Particularly in the app install space, which is sketchy as hell once you stop buying from the top handful of vendors, buyers should be auditing by a couple million in annual spend. To get to $150m without looking hard at big chunks of their spend is just plain arrogance and/or incompetence.
The technical aspect aside, there are a lot of "soft" factors that help: regular communication of easily consumable numbers/graphs/metrics to the client, calling out inconsistencies, etc. In other words, this is far from a fire-and-forget exercise; this can be an intense monitoring and client-engagement exercise.
The regular client engagement sometimes helps you in pinpointing cause-effect in the observations too. For ex company X might decide to advertise less of product Y in a certain state Z because of new laws there. But the team you're interacting with might not be aware of this change, or might not be cognizant of its potential impact on an advt. campaign. Regular dialogue helps here since you might observe a change in sales trends, and bring it up in a meeting - and the client team might be able to then rationalize the change. This is healthy for both parties.
~Chomsky to Andrew Marr.
Because everyone is already acting like they know it works, so the only way that experiment can change things is in a way that's bad for the person in question. In that situation, they should (from a local, selfish perspective) be resisting even if they're awfully sure it does work (and perhaps even if they're right!).
Given that, I don't think the behavior has already given us an answer.
The goal was to demonstrate an impact of in-store sales from internet advertising. They did the first studies in about 2008-10, and have continued running these studies ever since.
They even built a tool so that advertisers can run these studies, and get a sense for the incremental impact of their ad.
Google have a similar (less full-featured) system.
Really, it's the rest of the ecosystem that has much of the fraud, and I think that a lot of people in the industry are aware of this.
So the goal was to advertise advertising. A more scientific goal would be to see if there was an increase of in-store sales from internet advertising. Instead they were looking to design experiments that would show a positive effect, with the goal of giving advertisers a dashboard so they could run those experiments themselves.
I think you are misinterpreting what "do the experiments themselves" implies.
Certainly there is a JOIN with Google's or FB's data, but it can still happen entirely in a hosted sandbox with no data sharing necessary.
We've run Google's Local Campaigns, which are supposed to drive brick and mortar store visits, which they measure using GPS and "other signals". I checked with one of our most remote and least frequented stores, to see whether they could see any of the 100 daily visits that Google claimed to have generated, and they couldn't see a thing (avg daily visits were around 80 before during and after the campaign)
And the social stigma in science of being someone who tries to take down, discredit, or disprove your colleagues/superiors/ competitors theories is pretty substantial: IME there has historically almost been a taboo against attacking our speaking negatively about publications and your own sciences + faculties practices.
The saying of sciences advancing one funeral at a time doesn't exist because they're all such great skeptics and falsifiers, and current scientific practice is heavily biased towards positive findings and contains general publication biases.
indeed there's actually a LOT of common ground with advertising self-interest, since a lot of publication in science is effectively just advertising your brand...
This is a dangerous misconception to be spreading. It is not at all related to your other claims, namely:
> Sampling can skew results. Scientists are people too. We all have flaws.
These are of course correct statements. But they do not influence truth. They may well influence people's understanding of what the truth is, but that's different.
Same for a lighter, there are many factors involved, and playing with lighters that way was a party trick where I grew up.
We use truth as a concept every day as an approximation, but the universe is not bound to follow. Very unlikely things happen all the time.
And yes, when we put things that way it brings a lot of possible issues with sampling, processing, and measuring (and who’s doing the measuring). Some of these things would be harder to control for in a study of the effectiveness of advertising.
Any large company could invest in some experimentation, whether their marketing directors want it or not. It makes sense that at least a few do but just don’t publish the results
And then using data from a one system that went down and nothing happened as a proof that systems reliability doesn’t matter at all, and it’s huge scam by engineers.
Or they have run the experiment and the results haven't lines up with their own personal biases so they were discarded.
Because advertising in some form certainly works. If you can determine that approach "A" that everybody is doing is actually a waste of money but approach "B" is effective, then you can develop services around approach "B" and market them based on these findings.
It also happens to be the sole form of revenue all of the largest tech firms enjoy.
No wonder there hasn't been a real audit.
Also, all those marketing execs buying all the ads would be out of a job too, so they aren't speak up either.
I don't think this is true unless you qualify it a bit. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, don't make most of their money on ads. Even Google has other revenue streams.
How long do they survive in their current form relying solely on them?
There is so much money at stake that could be either saved or generated, its simply not possible that no one has looked at it. I used to help Pepsi/Fritolay set up tracking to tie advertising on youtube to in-store sales. They spent millions of dollars to measure their ads, Google had a clean-room data center specifically for pepsi/frito. The idea that no one actually checked if this system works is simply not possible.
Also, there's one alternative that's often forgotten in these discussions: Perhaps game theory is at play. It may be, for example, that, across entire industries, advertising costs more money than it's worth. But that everyone has to do it anyway, because anyone who chooses not to will start losing ground to everyone else. IOW, just like in the standard prisoner's dilemma, choosing to act is less about increasing your potential gains than it is about limiting your potential losses.
There is an interesting long-running natural experiment in the pharmaceutical industry that suggests, albeit inconclusively, that this is the case.
> these are ALL diligently measured at every stage
Mmm. Sometimes. Sure, you can obsessively measure audience and sales numbers, but if you don't have any controls then it becomes nearly impossible to figure out how much of that came from ads and how much came from everything else in the entire world.
If Coca Cola cut advertising 90% this afternoon, they likely wouldn't see the consequences until a new generation or two grew up.
There's also a huge mutual back-scatching thing going on. I remember in a former life we wanted to pass on a big software vendor's user group show because, while we sort of needed their software for some important customers, we got very little traffic at this expensive event. Their CEO called our CEO and basically said to him "Be a pity if something happened to our partnership."
You seem to be assuming that the potential gains are limited to current players of the game in this comparison.
It's possible that Coke, Pepsi etc. are all losing more money on ads than they're gaining in market share against their current competitors and in increased sales. But that doesn't begin to address the question of whether advertising is a net loss.
For one, the advertising also serves as a collective moat against new competitors, which could enter the market and eat up both Coke and Pepsi's market share. Maybe their biggest gain from it is that a bankrupt soda company from the 80s didn't replace them, and that a similar company today wouldn't have room to enter the market.
It also doesn't account for more complex effects like a net increase in sales for all companies in that market. E.g. maybe Rolex, TAG Heuer etc. all benefit in the long term from expensive watches being seen as fashion accessories.
If Rolex stopped their advertising spend one month and saw little immediate change, then TAG Heuer etc. might follow suit. But both might only experience the real loss years later as "luxury watches = must buy" faded from the psyche of their current and potential customers.
1) Advertising works.
2) Coke, a sugary drink, is largely kept alive by smart marketing, that involves mostly advertising in the end.
3) Much of advertising is quite wasteful, because it is a fuzzy instrument - but on the whole, good marketing works.
4) There is a lot of self-awareness in the industry on this, and no doubt, a lot of borderline fraudulent actions by participants willingly spending money they know doesn't work.
5) Ad networks will happily sell you ads that don't work, and look the other way when there are shenanigans.
The problem here in the thread, is that people are having a hard time grasping how all of these things can be true at the same time, but it's not that hard really.
That some ad spending turned out to be 'not useful' is 'not news' when everyone knows that easily 50% of ad spending is probably wasted, we usually just don't know which 50%.
>2) Coke, a sugary drink, is largely kept alive by smart marketing, that involves mostly advertising in the end.
Not sure I agree. I haven't seen any Coke Cola Ads for years, not online digital Ads and I rarely consume any traditional media. But I will still buy Coke Cola every once in a while.
They are also on all of the convenience store with decent positional shelf space or visual merchandising. Something I learned that no one on HN actually knows anything about during the discussions of App Store.
Edit: All of my friends can taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi. It is just different. So I was surprised to read comments and youtube video about "blind tasting" on the two. No, I didn't drink Coke because of Ads, I drink it because it taste better. (And some people prefer Pepsi )
You saw 1000 'product placements' for coke without being aware of it in films other things. Taste is associated with familiarity and comfort.
I respectfully disagree, I used to work in F&B industry. And product marketing and placement has absolutely no affect on how one think something taste is good or bad. It does however remind anyone next time the walk into store they should buy coke, which does affect sales number. But not taste difference.
My 7 years old nephew hasn't watched a single Coca Cola coke in his life time, but he prefer coke over Pepsi. While my friends daughter ( and her mum ) prefer Pepsi.
Yes it odes.
"My 7 years old nephew hasn't watched a single Coca Cola coke in his life time"
1) It's ridiculous to say a 7 year old 'has never seen an add for coke'.
How would you possibly know that? Unless they are living as the Amish, that kid as seen ads.
2) That someone will prefer one drink over another is not relevant to the argument.
Nobody is making the claim that 'ads make you do stuff'. No Coke ad is going to 'force Pepsi drinkers to like Coke'.
Ads are influential. They root the product in feelings, emotions, those have impact, which is why advertising is there.
3) Your nephew was probably drinking code from some age, maybe as a treat. It was Coke and not some Italian cola, because Coke has such a powerful market position.
In Italy, they drink Brio and it's quite good, you can't even get it here, if you could, people would drink it.
Coke spends billions on ads because they work not because they don't.
Second, inefficient relative to what?
Third, so far, what you've written here looks like a rant, not a predictive theory nor a powerful explanatory theory.
Would you like to quantify your claim? Or at least make it more precise? As it is, I don't think it advances your argument.
I'm interested in strong logic, data, explanations, and persuasion. I see none yet.
The sad thing is it's not inefficiency relative comparable things. But anyone that has worked at these places or sold B2B to them just knows it on intuitive level that they are garbage, and need a heavy sedative to think there are no alternative.
> not a predictive theory nor a powerful explanatory theory
It's not. It's about letting go of some efficient market ideal and then finding new ideas.
We can look at Fortune 500 case-by-case to learn new things
> Cola cola
Sugar drug cartel. Despicable business with very stable revenue despite being a net drag on society. (At least "regular" drugs have a lot more upside!)
> Proctor and Gamble
Just as restaurants are reaching down market, and the inefficiency of everyone cooking and cleaning is starting to have market implications, we should see their reign finally dwindle. Wash-and-Fold should follow laundromats. The specialization means that stupid differentiation between products for uninformative consumers (c.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopolistic_competition) should go away and restaurants and laundromats optimize.
Personal soaps and cosmetics (of course many soaps are cosmetics) however will stay as cultural reasons ensure people will continue to clean themselves and not contract that out for the foreseeable future.
It might be interesting to define a systematic and testable definition of organizational efficiency relative to an ideal market. Just like combustion engines can be compared to their theoretical maximum efficiency, it would be interesting to compare a particular organization against its maximum potential.
Here is another angle on the topic of relative efficiency. Consider a particular organization. Coca Cola will do as an example. Given its environment (financial incentives, regulations, cultural norms, etc), are we surprised by its behavior? This raises the question of how much an organization's particulars (e.g. leadership, history) affect its efficiency.
I suppose I take a systems view of it. Many deplorable businesses survive in niches. But can you "blame" them? It is a matter of perspective: organizations, like life, adapt to their environment and modify it to their liking. Such organizations can stretch the environment to or past its breaking point for a relative long period of time before having to deal with the downstream consequences.
Elaborate on your reasoning here? While I can maybe imagine a more centralized food preparation system being more efficient, the currently growing market solutions (DoorDash, etc.) are certainly not, and I can't think of a system in which transporting clothing somewhere for someone else to clean would be more efficient than an in-home washing machine. The wasted energy alone would be colossal.
Both are propped up - actually maintained - by huge and vastly expensive brand management strategies.
The criticisms of individual campaigns here are missing the point. It's not about micro ad spend, but the perception of value and manipulation of behaviour created by the combined effect of multiple PR and advertising efforts - which include traditional print and TV/radio ad campaigns, guided advertorials disguised as news in the MSM, interviews with prominent figures, political campaigns of more or less obvious relevance to the core business activity, state, national, and international political lobbying, direct political campaign donations, advertorials masquerading as "freelance" journalism and blogging, managed astroturfing on social media, shareholder relationship management, product placements in movies and music promo videos, articles about commercial visual design elements in trade journals. And on and on.
That perception of value is - unsurprisingly - extremely valuable. And it's very much a US way of doing business. Instead of producing products that are inherently superior, produce something that is functional but glossily packaged, brand it as a premium lifestyle commodity, and charge exorbitant prices for it.,
The prices are traditionally far out of proportion to its actual utility. In fact real utility may well be negative - see also diabetes and any number of other health issues, depression associated with social media use, debt-driven spending on lifestyle products. Etc.
So the rent seeking comes from a kind of cultural squatting. There is value in dominating discourse in all of these different ways, because discourse and narrative define markets and ultimately control behaviour. And while this is happening other kinds of discourse - which may well have more real utility - are diminished at best and crowded out at worst.
So in this case it doesn't matter if Uber "wasted" their money. Uber have their own branding thing going, and explicit ad spend is a tiny part of that.
And even if all online ad spending ended tomorrow, a small number of corporations would have a difficult time for a while, but the marketing industry as a whole would inevitably interpret the change as minor damage and route around it.
In the case of Coca Cola, I agree - in the case of Apple, not at all. "Keyboardgate" aside, their products are vastly superior to the competition in build quality and life time. A typical Windows laptop is unusable after two, three years (almost all are made from plastic which breaks or looks extremely ugly rather sooner than later), and has next to no resale value while in contrast even old cheesegrater Mac Pro's fetch many hundreds of dollars today. iPhones are supplied with firmware updates far longer than most Android phones outside the flagship Pixel line are. OS X is, while it has gotten locked down a fair bit over the last years, still way better than Windows as it doesn't do tracking bullshit and start menu ads and decently better than Linux because no matter which device, stuff usually Just Works (tm) without having to fiddle for hours to get something as basic as a Bluetooth headset working.
Apple built themselves a loyal following with pure quality superiority over the competition, unlike HP or Dell who are only surviving because of enterprises who follow the "no one got fired for buying IBM" line.
And that doesn't even touch that it's Apple who's at the forefront of innovation. iPods, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watch, AirPods, now the M1 CPU - these entire device classes were created by Apple. When was the last time you heard about something truly innovative from the Windows/MS/Google side of IT? Only thing I can remember is the Google Glass.
What Apple is doing is not a "brand management strategy" per se - it is delivering actual value and innovation instead of rent-seeking. And for what it's worth Tesla are doing the same thing.
This shows that you are just spreading FUD. A Windows machine is no slower after 10 years than it is the day you bought it. Sure you might have added so much software-crap that the software runs slow (which is easily fixed) but the hardware is exactly as fast after 10 years as Apple hardware is. Do you think Apple builds their hardware out of magic and unicorns?
Capacitor, DRAM, Heat Sink, etc.... There are quality difference in hardware. Although the two / three years remarks were definitely exaggerated.
By "typical windows laptop" do you mean a cheap model where the macbook equivalent is buying nothing at all? Of course it's going to be lacking in that case.
Well-made windows laptops exist, and hold plenty of value. But you have to pay for that, no matter what brand you choose.
> tracking bullshit
Like checking signing certificates by pinging servers almost every time you run a program?
Marketing the new thing is what Apple does. It is good at it. That is not the entire spectrum of customer value.
Source: forced to use one daily. If I could get a Mac laptop running Linux but with the input smarts of the Apple trackpad and keyboard, I would in a heartbeat.
The trackpad is superior to apples and it can come preloaded with linux
Apple's half of the phone Duopoly. Either you pay them or pay Google if you want a phone and want to buy software for it.
This page , for instance, says the cost of goods sold for the soda itself is a penny an ounce for the syrup and CO2. Iced tea is apparently the margin champion, as the same page indicates it can cost as little as a penny per glass.
Exclusive / Special agreement with serving only one kind of Soda ( or no Pepsi where there is Coke ) are Anti-Competitive arrangement. Not Rent Seeking.
Calling it all "rent seeking" is not a hill I want to die one.
This is the biggest large scale test of advertising I'm aware of. But it probably doesn't apply to all products.
It also means advertising is a net loss to society, but that is separate from the question 'does advertising work'
Not so clear, especially before internet search engines existed. As a consumer, I find it useful to know what's available for me to purchase.
If this is even remotely close to reality then it makes sense to me. Companies are more concerned with constant growth than strict efficiency, imo. They're throw as much money around as possible, and every cent lost or left on the table is panic inducing.
I also imagine different types or products and/or markets behave quite differently. Eg a new product might very well benefit from advertising - since no one can buy your product or visit your store if they don't know it exists.
More complicated since there are multiple device graphs/etc in play, but effectively tens/hundreds of millions of dollars at play and no one trusted anyone. The largest thing at risk was YouTube’s ad revenue.
Have definitely heard that one before. No disrespect.
This is entirely false. I work in adtech, and almost all companies run experiments in order to optimize their ad spend (everything from Ad A vs Ad B, to Ad vs No Ad, to Channel A vs Channel B, and more).
This isn't to say that advertising always produces ROI. Quite often, experiments will be run that will show a certain strategy isn't performing well, and the company will adjust accordingly. It's incredibly naïve to think that companies are flushing half a trillion dollars a year down the toilet on advertising without any attempt to validate their investments.
I've also worked in adtech, for quite a long time on all sides, and my experience is that far more companies do research to justify their ad spend not validate it.
I have managed plenty of A/B tests in my day, each one claiming to show some improvement, 10%, 15% etc (some, as you said, showing no improvement). Even though these tests are often run "correctly", essentially nobody goes back and asks "wait, we had a 10% increase multiple times in the past year, but is our <metric> really showing the cumulative improvement we expected?"
The greatest trick in the industry is that because VC are pouring money into everything, everywhere, every metric appears to grow. At every startup, everywhere, pre-pandemic, numbers were going up because people were pouring money into the system.
I've worked at companies who I know for a fact their adtech product cannot and does not work, yet their business continues to explode because in recent months nearly all ad spend has been on digital ads.
I've talked to companies whose entire function is bidding optimization who literally do not understand how to optimize bidding given the information you have.
Absolutely people are running "experiments" but the function of the "experiments" is to justify that the ad team is worth having, and then that the VP of marketing is doing their job and then that the CEO has hired some super smart people, and then that the VCs might have really found a unicorn. Everyone sees what they want and no one really wants to ask the question "wait, does this really work? are these tests really able to capture the complexity of the environment?" And if you are one of those ornery people that insists on probing into the details and seeing if any of this is working, you will eventually get fired.
Ad tech is largely a scam, but a huge number of rich and smart people benefit from the illusion that it is not, so we continue to see experiments showing that everything works as expected.
I don't think your view is representative of how most F500 companies, or many of the new DTC brands, invest on major ad tech platforms though (FB/G/Snap/etc.). Experienced marketers try to measure metrics as close to core business KPIs as possible, and comparing ads based off of simple A/B tests is increasingly becoming a technique of the past. Measuring the incrementality of ad campaigns through long-term holdout groups gives companies a much more accurate read of their investment, while bringing higher statistical rigor as well. So rather than looking for cumulative increases on <metric> after advertising for a year, you could instead point to group A (who saw no ads) and see that group B (who saw ads) drove a 1.5x higher <metric>.
I'm not sure how you can say advertising is a scam when there are clear examples of popular brands that most likely wouldn't exist today without digital ads? Take Allbirds as an example. There are dozens of consumer shoe brands that are already in physical stores and have higher brand recognition; how can you argue that advertising didn't help them cut through the noise and grow their bottom line?
We have a very large and conspicuous example here that suggests that Uber hasn't been doing this.
Running experiments like you suggest is difficult and to do them right requires some fairly specialized knowledge to do correctly. I'd doubt more than a small percentage of companies have the expertise to effectively run any kind of advertising experiment that returns useful data. Most businesses lack that knowledge and rely on metrics provided by the people selling the advertising—who are likely to provide self-serving numbers.
While I'm sure some of the bigger F500 companies do a good job validating their ad spend, I most companies don't even know how. Certainly the majority of small businesses have no idea how effective their advertising spend is aside from very crude word-of-mouth feedback. I suspect this creeps way up into the Fortune 500 as well.
I'm not sure this article is the smoking gun that the author makes it out to be. By 2017 Uber had reached saturation in what could reasonably be considered their addressable market. From my perspective, turning off app install campaigns and not seeing any dip in acquisition validates this position.
Meanwhile, their other major app, UberEats, is a business that exists in a highly competitive market, and they continue to invest in app marketing in order to grow that division. If the takeaway from this article was that Uber discovered app marketing was useless, I doubt you'd see them make that same mistake again.
> While I'm sure some of the bigger F500 companies do a good job validating their ad spend, most companies don't even know how.
If anything, I think bigger companies are more prone to overspending/spending inefficiently. While they do experiment to try and optimize strategy, there is some business inertia that gives them the flexibly to move a little slower, since one poor marketing decision will not sink the business overnight. Conversely, small businesses don't have the resources to investment as much in marketing. This leads to poorly run ad campaigns, but rather than continuing to invest in a bad strategy, they typically just kill the effort altogether.
Most small businesses don't need complex experiments to understand how marketing effects their bottom line - poor ROI is a lot more apparent when you're low on funds. That's also why it's in an ad tech platform's best interest to make efficient advertising as accessible as possible.
Isn't it possible that these experiments you talk about are fatally flawed? I have serious doubts that a company can run and do well designed statistical experiments when academic experts are plagued by p-hacking and other foot guns.
Platforms can accurately determine who engaged with an ad (basic logging on their sites), they have infrastructure to create statistically balanced ad experiments, and can also accurately determine whether a conversion happened (either through a conversion pixel or through data brokers).
Running these tests on behalf of advertising clients, or for internal research is fairly standard. If we couldn't prove statistically that our ads were working, I would have left a long time ago.
Of course, this just reinforces your point that experimentation in adtech is largely not subject to the same issues that have fueled the replication crisis in academia.
(I'm a data scientist but not in adtech.)
Sure marketing people want to protect their jobs but the odds of “advertising is entirely worthless” being this closely guarded secret kept by millions of people in the industry or being a collective delusion is pretty darn low. The reward for defectors is just too high.
> I have serious doubts that a company can run and do well designed statistical experiments when academic experts are plagued by p-hacking and other foot guns.
By "company" are you referring to individual advertisers or digital advertising platforms? Why do you doubt that either are incapable of running well-designed experiments? It's in both parties best interest to spend ad dollars as efficiently as possible.
While it's certainly possible that every one of the 100 million+ ad experiments ran over the past decade have been fatally flawed, it's highly unlikely. I guess the alternative scenario is that digital advertising is one giant hoax being kept secret by the millions of employees who work in the industry, but given how easily tech news leaks, this also seems extremely improbable.
This may be true but it's a separate issue than the fraudulent clicks.
Brand advertisement (the kind you are talking about, as opposed to closed-loop direct advertising) is an investment in a brand, that doesn't get paid off in a day, or a week, or a month, or even a year. It adds fractions of a penny onto a customers value, every day from today into eternity. It's an investment in your mind, but the long time horizon makes it, as you point out, nigh impossible to measure ROI.
However, this is one of those cases where despite being immeasurable, it still works.
Imagine doing a study on low-fat or low-fat diets and trying to measure health outcomes like lifespan, or heart disease, or cancer after just one month. You can't do it. The best you can do is measure markers of these outcomes, like insulin resistance, blood triglycerides etc. Brand advertising is similar. You measure markers of long-term purchase intent. It's not perfect.
And just like actually doing a long-term study of diet for example is riddled with confounding variables and very hard (nigh impossible) to do well, so it is with advertising.
The reviews for the movie were poor but it had lots of household names as its voice talent, including Anne Bancroft in her final film. Good or bad, advertising likely would have lead to more people seeing it than two per screening. Of course there's no way to know for sure how many more would have been enticed by the ads but we do know that going with zero advertising resulted in a huge disaster.
On the other hand it got displaced by Oogieloves which had $40 million in marketing costs. Critics found it mostly bad and the only award it won was for films produced in Brazil. Maybe there was a reason no one wanted to spend ad money on that movie?
Eminem released his last two albums without even announcing them. Word of mouth got them both to #1 on the charts.
If you tried that same movie experiment with something like Avengers, I bet the results would look a lot closer to Kamikaze than Delgo.
As for movies, Avengers got to where they are today through lots and lots of advertising.
First of all, they didn't differentiate between display or PPC advertising. PPC you only pay if the user actually engaged with the ad. Nearly all of the anecdotes they used where about online display advertising - a known crock.
And we absolutely run experiments all the time! In fact, we tie our ad spend directly to conversions. If anything, the market is too efficient - it's really hard to get more than what you are paying for.
Or you can do the equivalent of an excess mortality study but for client acquisition or product sales. You take something like the month of January and you say "this is what we expect for web traffic given our standard traffic for that month, and extrapolate it with your average web activity growth". And so long as you have "clean" months to compare it to (with no ads running), you can get a pretty decent back of envelope about what your ad campaign did.
Like, there's so many different ways you can cut the apple, it's patently ridiculous they made those claims.
To give them a bit of credit, there's something to be said for there being a lot of bad ad spending out there. But like the stock market, there's a tacit understanding that it's more or less efficient.
PPC you only pay if the user actually engaged with the ad
Example: TVguide.com/listings. On most devices, I get a nondismissable audio ad when I'm looking at telecast schedules. I kill the audio immediately.
I never experience the bulk of the ad, and even if I can identify the product being advertised, I'll form a strongly negative impression of them.
I don't count this as "engagement", but it's charged as that.
One thing we learned a long time ago is never to trust "engagement" data from platforms (be it Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever). There are enough random user behaviors that you generate a ton of noise. You need to build larger, more robust attribution models that tie ad spending directly to revenue sources - new leads, new accounts, purchases, etc. Patting yourself on the back for how many shares or clicks you get is not great.
and of course for more detail the full text of the fraud suit is public https://www.adexchanger.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Uberf...
That's a philosophical question of whether you consider statistics to be "proof".
> No one is willing to run the experiments necessary.
You're nuts if you think this is true. I assure you that companies in traditional industries (i.e., without venture capital) can and do run these experiments.
The Uber story is about venture capital and its anti-market incentives, not about the ad industry.
I guess you could propose a conspiracy theory that all these people are conspiring to put together fake reports and data sets, but that sounds extremely unrealistic - ad agencies are essentially money-counting businesses like banks, and they take data security very seriously. (Because usually they'd be audited at every step.)
In short, smart people have already thought about these issues, and there isn't any inherent pro-advertising bias in industry, rather the opposite.
The latter is all about incrementality. When you adjust for it, you get the true effectiveness of ads. In some instances, the incrementality will be significant, in others it won't. It looks like that in Uber's case, the incrementality was low. Btw, if you're not familiar with this term, please look it up - there's a ton of literature on it: https://www.adroll.com/blog/marketing-analytics/beginners-gu...
Which brings me to the point about bad employees - marketers who are not adjusting their performance measurement based on incrementality should be fired (and it certainly looks like this was not being done at Uber at that time).
Not without reason. Even without the conflict of interest that Nextgrid points out in a sibling post, there's still a significant financial barrier to attempting to measure this stuff. According to a former professor of mine who spent a large chunk of his career studying this stuff, the size of study you need to conduct in order to get any kind of statistical power at all on an ROI study is just absurd. See, for example, the treatment starting on page 15 of: http://www.davidreiley.com/papers/OnlineAdsOfflineSales.pdf
Depends enormously what sort of business you're in. I used to work for a company where all of our sales came from ads, 100%. It was trivially true that if we stopped advertising we would have no sales. We were also committed to running experiments: we knew how well all of our many advertising channels performed, and we ran A/B tests for every change.
Positive lift in the range of 0-20% is very common, and many statistical aspects of causal inference on ad impacts are well understood.
Negative lift and flat campaigns are real phenomena too, and it does deserve more widespread publicity that negative lift happens in an appreciable number of campaigns, but that doesn’t take away from the overwhelming evidence that digital advertising works and that the mechanics of positive lift are well studied.
Here are two of the foundational papers in this area:
Particularly Figure 1 (page 26) in the second link. That figure alone utterly refutes any nonsense claim that digital advertising doesn’t have provably positive ROI.
They back up their claims with studies of their own as well as metanalysis.
The ebay example twists the concept of user acquisition (new customers) and purchases (new or old customers). It is a common tactic to buy advertisements defensively, for example, if you're a product manager, and have determined that some of your user base are more transactional rather than frequent.
Another pet peeve I have is how they conflate direct response advertising and marketing.
I definitely trust the academic studies over an entertainment podcast.
If you're doing an $XY,000 ad campaign, it's a waste of your time and money to figure out which 50% it is.
If you're doing a $XY,000,000 ad campaign, you employ people whose job it is to figure out which 50% it is. The thing is, you usually don't go ahead and pay them to blog about it.
I would not be shocked to learn that advertising for a specific product or event is not particularly effective. However, I'm inclined to believe it has a huge effect on overall brand recognition.
Let's say you go to Amazon to buy a roll of toilet paper. How do you choose from the literally hundreds of options? You could spend a day of your life reading reviews, and trying to parse which ones are fake. Or you could buy the toilet paper from Scott because you recognize the brand.
As I see it, buying brand advertising is a lot like buying an expensive suit. It's not that the suit makes you more productive, but it is a sign of professionalism, and—frankly—of wealth. If a brand is advertising everywhere, you know they aren't a fly-by-night company, and their products likely meet some standards of quality.
The problem is knowing exactly which formats and campaigns are working down to the dollar, but part of that is just the reality of fuzzy attribution and it's only getting harder as privacy regulations get stronger. However you can definitely tell the difference when turning everything off, and if you can't then you were advertising to the wrong people in the first place.
Uber's mistake isn't that advertising didn't work, but rather that they didn't vet their vendors or even bother doing any checking and optimization of their own.
Companies like Uber and Ebay have turned off all their adspend and saw little to no change in their acquisition metrics. You can argue that they were just doing it wrong. But the point is that, if even they are doing it wrong - and getting nothing in return for the millions they're spending on ads - then it's very likely most others are in the same situation.
You are right that this doesn't mean _all_ advertising is useless, there are absolutely profitable usecases. But the larger points still stands: most money being spend on advertising right now is likely not returning anything.
We now have some strong precedents being set. I believe this will cause more major companies to run the ultimate experiment: turn off all ads and see what happens. It's too early to tell, but it's not impossible we'll see adspend drop significantly across the industry once everyone finds out they're just burning money.
Fraud is a special case because it's criminal activity and has nothing to do with advertising. It happens in every industry but it's especially easy with online technology spanning multiple countries and data that can be easily faked. Uber was exceedingly oblivious here but I wouldn't extrapolate advertising efficacy from these examples.
"When Tadelis was working for eBay, the company was in the practice of buying brand-keyword ads. Which meant that if you did an online search for “eBay,” the top result — before all the organic-search results — was a paid ad for eBay."
This doesn't show that advertising doesn't work per se, it shows that eBay didn't hire a competent ad buyer. Whether or not you can prove the efficacy of advertising as a whole, this is not a valid approach.
Traditional ad platforms like TV, newspapers might not have done this but online ones surely do. Infact that is one point they consider an advantage as you can measure effectiveness unlike the traditional platforms.
It's not currently possible to run an A/B experiment with a hold out group of potential customers across all channels, let alone for any longer duration experiment. So how can we separate cause and effect? (although pay per conversion channels do get gamed left and right)
Maybe it's even enough if you simply just sell it via mail order, you can then look at the addresses.
There's probably a natural information spread in any market (word of mouth, trade magazines), and there's probably a physical dispersion of the target group of people too (people move, visitors/tourists saw the ad/product and order it at home), but it still should be a valuable to see how much effect just one campaign has.
Maybe one of the best products for this could be a car. They are pretty standard, really not much difference between them, they are in all price ranges, and regularly new models come out. Advertise one in a few major US cities but don't in others.
To see this in action - spend a day watching pitbull videos on youtube and see how many spanish language ads you'll get.
Plus, maybe it's possible to somehow offer a coupon for those who buy via the ad, and so on.
After all the ad/tracking industry probably have a thousand tricks to increase accuracy of this.
But, yeah, I'm not holding my breath for a conclusive answer on this.
Counter-example: I know of at least one consumer goods company that has studied the long-term effects of certain kinds of sponsorship deals on consumer behavior. The study had tracked people for at least 10 years at the time I learned of it. Of course, this company would never publish the results, because they provide a competitive advantage in structuring and bidding on sponsorship deals.
Ads might be less efficient than some believe, but it's super easy to see that they "work", and advertising platforms do it constantly.
But none of them test "no ads" vs "ads".
Tesla is one natural experiment about not spending money on advertising in the mass media compared to traditional car companies that spend HUGE amount of money advertising.
"Hyundai spent $4,006 per Genesis vehicle sold in 2018. Ford’s Lincoln brand came in second with $2,106 per vehicle sold. After Jaguar and Alfa Romeo, GM’s Cadillac brand came in fifth with $1,242 spent per vehicle sold. Tesla was the lowest at just $3 spent per vehicle sold."
If Hyundai couldn't keep Genesis vehicles on the dealer lots, they'd advertise them less too. Having a dealer network means dealers that want manufacturer support in advertising to keep dealers happy, even if the new cars sell themselves, dealers need to get people in to sell used cars.
Twenty-five large field experiments with major U.S. retailers and brokerages, most reaching millions of customers and collectively representing $2.8 million in digital advertising expenditure, reveal that measuring the returns to advertising is difficult. The median confidence interval on return on investment is over 100 percentage points wide. Detailed sales data show that relative to the per capita cost of the advertising, individual-level sales are very volatile; a coefficient of variation of 10 is common. Hence, informative advertising experiments can easily require more than 10 million person-weeks, making experiments costly and potentially infeasible for many firms. Despite these unfavorable economics, randomized control trials represent progress by injecting new, unbiased information into the market. The inference challenges revealed in the field experiments also show that selection bias, due to the targeted nature of advertising, is a crippling concern for widely employed observational methods.
Or, no one is willing to share the results of the experiments.
Sure, everyone wants that. Precise attribution has been the holy grail for a long time and the struggles are far larger than just a few technology products. The new battleground is first-party data and clean rooms vs privacy regulations. And that's after dealing with all the politics and perverse incentives that happen in such a massive industry.
Happy to chat with anyone who is interested in the topic (pfalke at pfalke dot com).
Haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast, apologies if that made me miss the point of the parent post!
Ok, how does those companies know it works? They don't have any real data to show that it does, just the fear that if they stop they'll lose a lot of business.
The amount of data generated by adtech today is staggering. The problem isn't data or advertising, it's the wrong people running the wrong campaigns for the wrong reasons.
Because advertising is like military spending. It takes a lot of money to maintain the status quo.
I suspect that if our browser isn't blocking ads then our brain is. It's complete conjecture, but I assume that adblockers eliminate this cognitive load explaining a portion of why they became successful before they were necessary for security/malvertising.
One of them said tracking cookies only boosted conversion 4%, and another said P&G did better with some traditional media advertising than some digital advertising.
At worst, it’s a front for building “profiles” of everyone.
I can’t recall the last time I bought anything -because- of an ad.
If anything, ads have sometimes actually put me OFF from buying something!
For example we can probably agree that for completely new companies spending on ads makes sense. Or giving out free samples, etc.
Similarly for big companies doing media campaigns to keep the new ones at bay makes some sense.
Even if word of mouth is a thing, even if there are organic searches, and even if it seems like a race to the bottom if everyone just tries to outspend each other.
It'd be great to make experiments about how to sensible prevent/regulate this ad arms-race. But first better data privacy laws.
“URL shorteners set ad tracking cookies”
This is incorrect.
Half was true in his time (a century ago) but I think our numbers are way worse.
I understand you no longer work there, but ads started in 2009 I believe, so you perhaps had some input on this?