Wanamaker’s Dilemma

By | August 5, 2010

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker

As the CMO of BlueCava, I know a thing or two about advertising. In fact, I come from an advertising family. My grandfather founded an advertising agency in New York City in 1922. My father ran a direct marketing agency. And my wife and I founded and ran an advertising agency too. So the above quote from John Wanamaker rings true to me, particularly in light of my experience in the world of new media. Wanamaker was a pioneer. He created one of the first department stores in America, later absorbed into the Hecht’s chain that now is Macy’s. For a long time, the Wanamaker’s name was a big deal.

Wanamaker’s dilemma, or the attribution of what advertising works and what doesn’t, is a problem that is in process of being solved by digital media. Of course, we cannot get inside of the human brain and understand what messages cause buying behavior. But with the digital method of distributing ads, we can target more accurately, measure engagement more closely and ultimately better attribute advertising spending to sales.

The promise of better targeting plus better attribution of advertising to sales sounds great, yet there is another problem. It’s a very dark little secret that the online advertising world faces. Many of the impressions served online have no chance, that’s zero chance of getting a sale. That’s because these impressions are being served in the wrong geographic area. They are being served to the incorrect target audience. And they are being served to a non-human bot (that’s a robot to those of you are abbreviation challenged). With close to a trillion impressions in the online display space each month, it’s hard to keep track of all of them. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I am of the mind-set that in online advertising, as in life, you should get what you pay for. Here’s where BlueCava can help.

In past blog posts, we have discussed what BlueCava can do in the area of click fraud. We can tell you little things like do the clicks come from a bot? Do an unreasonable number of clicks come from one computer (say your competitor’s machine in Cambridge)? Or do you see tens of thousands of clicks coming from a click farm in China? On the online display advertising side of the business, we’re trying to get to a point where we have clicks that are certified and those that are not. Our conquer the world pricing strategy adds just about a penny to the cost of a certified impression. So let’s say that 20% of the potential impressions you are serving are bogus. Adding a few pennies to the CPM to eliminate 20% of the waste seems like a pretty good investment. Getting what you pay for – that’s what BlueCava is about.

By Dean Harris, CMO of BlueCava

Category: Uncategorized

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