How to Dramatically Increase Your Return on Ad Spend

By ​Jacob Ajwani

October 21, 2013

Display doesn’t work. Return on ad spend is weak. Banner blindness.

You hear these negative remarks throughout the year about display advertising, yet come January, those same naysayers saddle up once again with the same uninformed display strategy. It’s really a simple equation: same strategies + great expectations ≠ improved results.

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Routinely, online marketers develop proficiencies in either one of two opposing ends of the funnel: acquisition or conversion optimization. This occurs because there are historic, cultural, and technical silos that separate these two disciplines. As a result, marketers with profound expertise in only one field or the other are governed by totally different processes and platforms.

And the reality is, most leaders are comfortable with allowing silos to exist between their teams, simply for no other reason than it has become the industry norm. Rarely do marketers have the opportunity to tie both worlds together, providing their audience with consistent and relevant experiences throughout the entire funnel.

So the question really is, can this change?

The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s how coordinating display advertising with two other crucial creative executions can change the status quo, while dramatically raising your return on ad spend (ROAS).

The Display Ad

Acquisition marketers are on a neverending quest to find new customers and increase ROAS. In order to bring new eyeballs to the website, they spend a considerable amount of their budgets experimenting on how to discover highest-converting segments.

This discovery phase can run rampant, especially when marketers switch between agencies of record. To establish baselines, agencies cast wide nets with reach campaigns—and as a result, ROAS plummets. This act is often sold as an evil necessity early on, yet the discovery phase never seems to end. (Not coincidentally, most agency revenue structures are tied to impressions served.)

But aren’t media buys made through meticulous research and analysis? Aim first, then shoot, right? Nope. They are made on hopeful wishful thinking of “spray and pray.”

Here’s an example: A media planner for a cosmetic brand purchases wide swaths of inventory targeting women. But only after many months of burning impressions, an analyst may distill from the data that the highest converting segment is not all women but some women with specific attributes (household income, location, age range, etc.).

Wouldn’t insights like these be more useful to guide media buys before campaigns go live? Absolutely. In actuality, there maybe dozens of profiles that qualify as high-performing segments. And if you subscribe to Peter Fader’s philosophy of customer centricity, then reach campaigns should be laser-focused only on those segments, and should be supported with creative tailored to speak to these unique groups. The key here is to start using tools that identify high converting segments.

The Full-Site Experience

The purpose of the display ad is not only to generate a click, but to also to set an expectation of the onsite experience.

If visitors click on a display ad and are taken to a landing page that doesn’t echo the catalyst of the click, then bounce rates rise, conversion rates decrease, and ROAS sours.

The continuous message gap between ad units and landing pages is amazing—and not in a good way. This divide persists because of the segregation between the acquisition and conversion teams. These teams don’t coordinate efforts simply because they are unaware that they can.

Actually, marketers shouldn’t settle for message consistency only between the ad unit and landing page, which yields mediocre ROAS. The catalyst that inspired the click from the ad unit is an insight. This insight should power relevant experiences across the complete website, no simply the optimizing a single landing page.

The Email

If the visitor leaves the website after clicking on the ad unit but doesn’t convert, you should continue the conversation with email.

But this doesn’t mean bombard the visitor with irrelevant emails. It means you should continuously adapt your email messages, pivoting off a variety of insights about the visitor such as viewed categories or products, current weather, and cart contents, all in real time. Engagement rates of relevant emails are significantly higher and crucial to close the loop to improve your ROAS. And make sure that your website and email experience is synchronized, offering continuity of message and creative.

A Brave New World

It’s time to stop planning campaigns in vacuums and to start coordinating consistent experiences across display, on-site, and email.

Breaking down silos for the sake of sparking conversations across teams is meaningless. But if marketing leaders can introduce tools and devices to empower their teams to take action together, in the same direction, then wham-o—you now have synergy. And this synergy is what’s ultimately going to increase your ROAS.

Reach out to me at jajwani at monetate.com if you want to continue the conversation.

Jacob Ajwani is a former strategic services director at Monetate. As an early member of the Adobe Test & Target team (back when it was called Offermatica), Jacob became an established voice within the industry, pioneering personalization strategies for premier brands such as Audi, Disney, and Condé Nast. Between Monetate and Adobe, Jacob spent two years as vice president of client services for Cognitive Match, which focused on display ads, big data, and relevancy. Jacob is also an avid guest-blogger for Econsultancy.com.

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