Five sure fire ways to screw up your next digital campaign

In this guest post, Daniel Monheit has some tips for what digital advertisers should always do if they like to fail.

Stop the guesswork. These tips will ensure you screw up your clients next digital campaign so badly that social media, mobile and the internet at large don’t find their way into another brief for at least a decade. Thankfully, this will let us all get back to REAL work like making interruptive (but potentially award winning) TV commercials and running auditions for flash mobs.

1. Ignore the golden ratio

The golden ratio refers to how much we ask a user to do in relation to the size of the outcome they get for doing it. The more difficult, obscure or ridiculous the better.

For example, as a treat for pulling out their phone, downloading a QR code app and looking like a dick by scanning a poster at a bus stop, reward users with a visit to the homepage of your website, preferably scaled for desktop.

Other top suggestions include getting users to switch on their webcams, make and upload their own videos and instal software to ‘experience the awesomeness of your augmented reality app’.

2. Don’t involve developers until the very last second

Keeping developers away from the project until they’re absolutely, totally required is imperative. After all, they’re there for production, not ideas. This technique also stops the guys who build the stuff getting in the way of any important promises your account manager makes about things like performance, time frames and possibilities.

If you can, outsource all of the ‘low value grunt work’ to Bangalore or Manila. Everyone’s doing it. Besides, how hard could it be to build the thing once someone else has already cracked ‘the big idea’?

3. Desktop. Desktop. Desktop!

Start here. Finish here. People don’t use their phones for browsing anyway. That’s why only 40% of web traffic comes from mobile devices.

If you’re running outdoor, tv, radio or print ads, I’m sure people will remember them and check your site just as soon as they’re back at the office anyway.

4. Be careful not to promote it

The Internet has pretty much got your back here. As long as you include enough ‘Facebook share’, ‘tweet this’ and ’email a friend’ calls to action, awareness should take care of itself.

Let’s take this baby viral!

5. Make sure you really crunch the timeline

Don’t worry about the 12 weeks you’ve got to get the print ads looking just right. If you’ve see an opportunity to slice a few days off the digital stuff then hop to it.

How long could it really take anyway? It only needs to work perfectly on 3,000 different device/operating system/browser combinations (some stretching back a decade), while integrating seamlessly with a stable, predictable platform like Facebook.

Testing is a great place to start for this one. A week is completely ridiculous. I have a 14 year old cousin who could build a whole website in less than that.

So there you have it. Five simple steps to digital disaster. Happy briefing!

Dan Monheit is director of strategy and an owner at HardHat Digital


  1. BleedingHeart
    15 Feb 13
    11:39 am

  2. ” People don’t use their phones for browsing anyway. ” eh, what? Mobile traffic will overtake desktop traffic in the very near future.

  3. Cpt Obvious
    15 Feb 13
    11:50 am

  4. I think every agency in the world knows all this.

    And this is great advice—in a vacuum.

    What it doesn’t acknowledge is the limitations of budgets, non-savvy clients and inter-agency politics.

    I’ve worked in huge digital agencies where this process rarely happened, so I can safely say this isn’t solely a problem with advertising agencies.

  5. Damo
    15 Feb 13
    11:56 am

  6. Great advice. Sadly simple, direct, helpful, jargon-free advice such as this is increasingly rare.

  7. Steph
    15 Feb 13
    12:11 pm

  8. Enjoying the first comment. Sarcasm… lost, much??

  9. Golfer
    15 Feb 13
    12:21 pm

  10. @Cpt Obvious, a big reason that digital has limited budgets is because clients are constantly being burnt by agencies making all of these mistakes.

  11. wayne
    15 Feb 13
    12:56 pm

  12. haha informative, entertaining and devoid of self service or agenda – good little piece. cheers Daniel

  13. Nic Halley
    15 Feb 13
    1:12 pm

  14. nice, but can i suggest a 6th – “Lets build it in Flash, Adobe tells us Google can ‘see’ it no probs”

  15. LB
    15 Feb 13
    1:14 pm

  16. nicely written, thanks mate. blows me away that this sort of the thing is still happening- be cool if there was a list of recent examples of this “adfail”.

  17. Peta
    15 Feb 13
    1:26 pm

  18. Love it.

  19. NS
    15 Feb 13
    1:27 pm

  20. amen to that, Golfer – from an advertiser who has slashed our budget because we’re sick of digital snake oil

  21. Gregory Stone
    15 Feb 13
    1:29 pm

  22. Nice piece, Back to the basics… refreshing

    Thanks Daniel

  23. Hardhat admirer
    15 Feb 13
    2:29 pm

  24. An honest builder in a sea of cowboys

  25. Nice one centurion
    15 Feb 13
    6:08 pm

  26. A friend who works at a brand asked me to look over his (under development) website by an agency. It had an “click here to enter site” on the homepage. I was astounded. Then she told me how much they were paying the agency; I was dumbfounded! I then checked the functionality of the site, which was awful – she is now ANGRY! 😉

  27. DanMonheit
    15 Feb 13
    6:17 pm

  28. Thanks guys. Appreciate the comments.

  29. Peter Noble
    15 Feb 13
    8:59 pm

  30. Gold…Dan you just described my week!

  31. copyfiona
    16 Feb 13
    5:46 pm

  32. Major fail: ‘Content? It’s only a few lines – get the graphics guy or the client to knock out a few words…’ Or
    Five massive words that drives everything?

  33. Adam
    16 Feb 13
    7:45 pm

  34. love it

  35. Kate Richardson
    17 Feb 13
    12:43 pm

  36. Good piece, that Golden Ratio thing is so true. Step away from the brand people.

    At the same time, I have seen plenty of digital folks evangelising campaigns that involve these kinds of interactions a la ‘you guys really need a FB campaign so you can increase engagement and be part of the conversation’. Really, do you really?

    It’s unfortunate we have to play on two polarising teams when it comes to the “traditional vs the digital”. A lot of agencies are guilty of downplaying one approach, and upselling the other in line with either their agenda or their stupidity.

  37. Whaddup
    18 Feb 13
    3:01 pm

  38. #6: hire someone who’s never had experience in an art form to f-ck-up that art form in fake-it-til-you-make-it RMIT style, and therefore screw over the client, like the “Crimestoppers” stuff. Which has been recently used for TV spots! Hey, you make things for TV, and you make things for hand-held iTard devices, and make things DIFFERENTLY for both!

  39. Yoni
    1 Mar 13
    4:13 pm

  40. LOVE IT.