The Real Reason Your Ad Campaigns Aren’t Working (And 3 Ways to Fix Them)

Marketers are tired of overspending on campaigns that aren't landing with audiences. Here's how to avoid that and get real business results.

We talk a lot about how difficult it is for marketers to prove the impact of their efforts. No matter what they do, CFOs and CEOs want more proof. They want clear attribution and explanation for each dollar spent. It’s the eternal struggle, but if we’re honest, marketers have some responsibility in the disconnect. 

Years ago, when digital-only advertising platforms arrived, they seemed to make everything easier. From reporting to ad placements, digital advertising made our lives easier, so we stopped prioritizing anything but digital ad metrics. As demands on performance and budget increased, our commitment to faster and easier digital ads only strengthened, whether or not they resulted in the sort “results” our CEOs were expecting. 

In 2024, we just can’t justify prioritizing digital advertising metrics. Marketers need to shift to more thoughtful, comprehensive plans built with a single goal in mind: real business results. Here’s how you make that possible. 

1. Concentrate Efforts on Brick and Mortar Customers

The internet has taken over all of our lives in a way that makes it seem silly to differentiate between online and offline lives. We stay connected to cross-country friends online, we make big announcements online, we shop for homes online. 

But the truth is, 83% of all retail purchases still happen in brick and mortar locations. We are still largely offline buyers, which means, if your Marketing team does not have an explicit plan for driving in-store visits, you’re leaving money on the table. 

To grow consistently in today’s competitive landscape, advertisers must shift their strategies away from digital-metrics-first and create more balanced media plans. That means instead of low CPMs, your North Star metric should be in-store visits. Rethink how you build audience segments so that you are targeting people with proven intent rather than just affinity. Partner with companies that can help you draw clear lines of attribution between each ad set and traffic. 

Unless you make this fundamental shift, your company is at risk for overspending on marketing that will keep you stagnant at best, despite great-looking CPMs. 

2. Expand Your Performance Goals for Connected TV and Other Channels

Beyond that, advertisers need to expand the way they think about audience segments and behaviors across channels. Because digital platforms made it easy to find audiences based on what they engage with online, marketers got out of the habit of thinking about people complexly. 

We see an audience segment named Sports Enthusiasts and we automatically start to narrow what our creative might look like, what the copy is, what actions they will take. It’s not all wrong, of course. A Timberwolves fan likely won’t turn away from an upcoming playoff to visit a new restaurant in town. But, just because you don’t get a conversion at that moment doesn’t mean you didn’t drive one at all. They do need to eat at some point.

When you’re building media strategies, ensure that you can tie impactful channels, like CTV, to real business results, like in-store visits. Don’t settle for views or click-thru rates. Push your media partners to show you how each channel contributed to the goals your board cares about. 

3. Test and Optimize with Real Business Results in Mind

Finally, marketers must shift the way they test and optimize their campaigns. A couple of months ago, I mentioned that marketers often forget that Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) is an efficiency metric. Many believe that if they just hit a benchmark (3:1, for example), that means they’re performing well. But, that isn’t always the case. Higher ROAS is sometimes required to break into new markets or audiences. In other words, for growth.

Digital advertising has conditioned marketers to think about performance in black and white terms. We sometimes optimize for the wrong goals, or, goals that aren’t aligned with what CEOs are asking from us. Goals that feel good in a digital metrics dashboard but don’t correlate to real impact in our business. 

Again, keep your company’s unique goals in mind when you’re testing campaigns and optimizing for results. If you want more repeat customers, optimizing for unique visitors to your website isn’t an effective strategy. Similarly, if your goal is to increase sales, you should be optimizing for in-store visits rather than website visits. Of course, a strong marketing strategy makes room for all these actions, but the main focus, your single goal, should be at the forefront when you make choices about testing and optimizing. 

There is no silver bullet to the top, but in today’s market, marketers who refuse to incorporate these shifts into their strategies risk not growing at all.