Online advertising: Looking beyond the obvious

Today’s post is about an element of online advertising, which gets very little attention. I’m referring to the longer term impact of a successful advertisement.

Mercedes and the longer game

I recall Seth Godin talking about the way Mercedes look at advertising.

Mercedes’ head of advertising said that if he focused on showing people advertisements for Mercedes the day before they were about to buy a new car, it wouldn’t work. Instead, Mercedes focus on getting their advertisements in front of us when we are children – so that when we’re 35 and looking for a luxury car, we buy a Mercedes.

Understandably, that’s a longer term approach than most small business owners are interested in. I mention it, because it highlights an element of online advertising that is often overlooked. I’m referring to the lifetime value of an ad and the need to look beyond the obvious, immediate, trackable results.

People are still hard to track

When we decide to advertise, we need to look beyond the obvious and beyond the short term. Yes, there are some people who only use one device, only use one Internet connection and have cookies enabled on their one device. However, most of us use multiple devices and multiple ip addresses (connections) to connect.

For instance, I use half a dozen different connected devices and access the Internet from lots of locations, such as; home, work, coffee shops, hotels and my phone provider’s data connection, etc. If I were to access your site via an advertising link, using my phone from a coffee shop’s wifi connection, I will not show up as coming from that ad a week or a month later, when I Google you from home using my notebook. I will just show as a new visitor, accessing your site with a new device from a new IP address for the first time.

Beyond the obvious

If online advertising is part of your marketing mix, don’t make the mistake of only looking at the immediate, obvious metrics. Look for an increase in sales and inquiries, related to the advertised offering. Look for an overall lift in visitors to your site. Oh, and never miss the opportunity to ask a new customer or client, where they first discovered you. The trackable metrics matter. In fact, they are essential, but they are not everything.

It will become possible at some point for all online advertisers to trace people across multiple ip addresses and multiple devices. Until then, I believe it pays us to look beyond the obvious.

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