Top 3 Digital Ad Mistakes to Avoid

Audience Migration

Everything is changing in the marketing world! From the vast amount of content available, to the media outlets that deliver content, to the devices people use to consume media and advertising; it has all changed. So how do small businesses, with limited budgets and personnel, manage through this paradigm shift? The answer is simple, but the execution is not – they adapt!

After 10 years of helping small businesses make the pivot from traditional advertising-only ad budgets to more integrated Traditional/Digital hybrid ad budgets, we’ve noticed several universal pitfalls. Here are the top 3 digital ad mistakes to avoid. We hope business owners will find this helpful.

Mistake #1: Doing The Marketing In-house

Yeah, I know. Its sounds very self-serving coming from a marketing firm. But consider this: prior to digital advertising, many small businesses didn’t need a marketing firm because it wasn’t that complicated. For example, not that long ago, if you were a small car dealer, you could buy advertising directly in local newspapers, cable TV networks, radio/billboards, and maybe even some broadcast TV if the budget and scope of market warranted it. It was relatively simple to execute.

Today, all of the above-mentioned media outlets are hemoraging subscibers/listeners/viewers, and the audience has fractured off far and wide into the great digital abyss. In today’s digital ad ecosystem, constructing targeted audiences with relevance to the products and services a small business offers takes a tremendous amount of experience and skill. Don’t tackle the challenge of digital advertising on your own. Most small businesses don’t have this level of expertise in-house. The cost of hiring a skilled digital marketing firm will be more than made up for by avoiding all of the endless rabbit holes you’ll go down if you try to do this yourself.

” Don’t tackle the challenge of digital advertising on your own. Most small businesses don’t have this level of expertise in-house.”

Mistake #2: Underspending On Digital Media

Audiences have migrated from traditional media outlets like Broadcast TV, Cable, Newspaper and Radio and onto digital distribution channels. This fact is no longer disputed by anyone who is being objective. The only thing left for interpretation is, to what degree. Advertisers need to migrate with the herd! We often hear, “But we want to dip our toes in the water first to see if it works.” And that’s fine. But while they are getting their feet wet, their competitor dove in head-first and hired a digital marketing firm who is creating relevant audiences for them to target based on known engagement with their brand and online buying behaviors.

We understand the fear and the need to slow-walk big changes to a marketing strategy, but the herd is on the move. The wildabeest are crossing the Mara River, and more of them have crossed now than those who are still waiting to cross. If you are a hungry predator, which side of the river crossing would you want to hunt from? Same holds true in the world of advertising. Small business needs to commit the appropriate amount of ad budget to digital media based on the shifting audiences. A good digital marketing firm will help you work out the right percentages based on plenty of available predictive audience data. But don’t wait until the herd has crossed the river and your competitors have taken all of the prime hunting territory on the other side.

Mistake #3: Buying Digital Ads from a traditional media outlet.

We see this mistake a lot with clients with ad agencies or marketing consultant who really don’t have much experience implementing advanced digital ad tactics. What happens here is the client dictates to their ad agency to buy digital ads in an effort to stay relevant with the shifting media consumption trends. Their ad agency, who doesn’t have much expertise in digital media but does not want to expose their deficiency to the client, then goes out and purchases digital ads through their existing traditional media outlet partners (TV/Cable/Radio/Print companies). It’s easy to do, and the client, who really doesn’t know the pitfalls of this strategy, goes along with it. Everybody’s happy! Right?

“The cost of hiring a skilled digital marketing firm will be more than made up by avoiding all of the endless rabbit holes you’ll go down if you try to do this yourself.”

Here’s where it all goes bad. National traditional media outlets like iHeart Media, CBS, and ESPN, etc. realize their share of the ad-pie is eroding rapidly as a result of this dramatic audience migration to digital content and programming. In response, they have hastily constructed their own digital ad platforms from their distribution network of programming and publishing assets. There are many technical problems with the efficacy of this model — too many to cover in this article. Trust me. But perhaps the biggest shortfall of these inferior digital ad platforms is how they sell it.

These large corporations thought they could simply require their traditional ad sales staffs to sell digital inventory as well. And why not, it’s a lot cheaper than hiring and training a separate digital ad sales staff in every market. Well, all I can say is, What a mess — on many levels! So now what you have in many markets across the country is local TV/Cable/Radio/Newspaper ad reps with very little digital ad acumen selling digital ad services to ad agencies and clients with very little digital ad knowledge. What they are really selling is a corporate digital ad mill, where your campaign gets sent to a fulfillment center (usually overseas), and it runs with no human optimizations and very little targeting layers. The inevitable end result is very little useful data, lots of wasted dollars spent, and a ton of unnecessary client churn. Remember what I said about going down “endless rabbit holes”? Avoid all these pitfalls by investing in a marketing firm with years of digital ad experience, and the ability to demonstrate their understanding of advanced digital ad strategies and tactics.

We hope this post provided some helpful information. Please reach out to us ( if you need any help with formulating a marketing plan the includes the appropriate amount of traditional and digital media exposure for your business.

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