Mad Men-esque adland is murdering clients’ money with laziness

Traditional agencies are being lazy, ignoring the sales funnel and wasting clients' money when it comes to measuring ROI, argues digital marketer Sabri Suby. Here, he speaks directly to clients, advising that if your agency can’t explain what your ad dollars are doing, you need to kill the relationship before it kills your bottom line.

Imagine this. You walk into your traditional ad agency and say: “We spent $10,000 this month on YouTube pre-rolls. How many clients did we get?” Most agencies will fail to answer the question.

Alternatively, they’ll come back with something along the lines of: “Look, this is how many views you got. Did you see these views? How great are they?” Or: “Look at this social reach, it’s off the charts.” They’ll persuade you that these views are good for your business’ bottom line, with absolutely no information to back up those claims.

“Adland sits around in board rooms, Mad Men-style”

Views, likes and other vanity metrics might make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but the reality is, awareness, interest, and activation mean nothing if they’re not providing a clear return on investment.

Adland sits around in board rooms, Mad Men-style, dreaming up big esoteric marketing campaigns – campaigns that fail to provide a single useful measurement on what they’re doing to your bottom line. ROI is not generated from a gut feeling about a clever bit of creative. It’s generated from a clear understanding of the sales funnel, and a genuine concern for what happens to traffic once it comes through the door.

An agency might argue that it’s only responsible for one part of the sales funnel. But no matter how small a part it plays, an agency should always be interested in how the rest of the funnel is functioning, to give its clients the best possible opportunity for generating a ROI.

Agencies have gotten away with this behaviour for so long because they can. The excuse is always ‘we can’t’, or ‘it’s too complicated’.

It’s not too complicated; it’s pure laziness.

Sure, building a sales funnel that works takes more effort than looking at a few stats about likes and views – but it’s never impossible. Clients deserve better, but, in most cases, they don’t even know they’re being cheated.

The horror stories are real. 83% of clients that come to us don’t have tracking set up. In fact, we’ve seen clients with millions of dollars in ad spend, but no conversion pixel set up. Not even a Google Analytics account.

And even if your agency has managed to set up tracking, don’t stop asking questions there. I’ve seen cases where every click a client received on their website landing page was being counted as a lead. This is not a lead, it’s another vanity metric. Sadly, these are not extreme cases. I see them every single day.

Most agencies are so bad at providing a clear ROI that clients have started to think of advertising as an expense, not an investment. “How can I get the two grand I pay on this every month down? Or, better yet, how can I eliminate it entirely?”

If you’re thinking of your advertising like this, you’re on a slippery slope towards the business graveyard, littered with businesses that looked at ads as a cost rather than an investment. If your campaigns aren’t providing a three to one return on every dollar spent, you should be asking some serious questions about your strategy. After all, what’s the point of advertising if not to generate more money than you put into it?

Cutting corners is not the solution. Simply hiring a bunch of offshore staff to follow a cookie cutter, robotic approach to digital marketing isn’t either. Although it might seem like a cheaper option at first, it’s actually way too expensive – the cost of acquisition will skyrocket unless you have a highly capable partner.

If my ad account goes down, or there’s an issue with my card, I’m running around the office panicking, desperately waiting for my ads to go back up. I know that it’s an investment, and every second I’m not advertising, I’m losing money.

So next time your agency tries to persuade you that your ads are performing well, take a step back and ask: How many leads have they created? What is your direct return on investment?

If your agency can’t give you a solid answer, walk out the door and find one that can.

Sabri Suby is the founder of digital marketing agency King Kong


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.