Marketing has often been a “faith-based” endeavor cymbalta anxiety. Retailer John Wanamaker is noted for remarking that “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” He was operating in a print-driven time, where that was his main, if not only, way to communicate about the merchandise in his store. He could actually see his advertising, but didn’t know if it worked or not.

Many brands are feeling that sentiment even more these days, wondering if their advertising and marketing is having an impact. And it’s more challenging for them because in many cases, there is not an ad or outdoor board or TV commercial for them to see.

For so long we have been used to creating stuff that lots of people see, and that the business doing the advertising could see too. Whether running a print ad or a banner on a website, we knew where it was and that we could see it. It was proof. It was there. There’s a tear sheet and proof-of-performance. And this does still happen.

But now, with nearly unlimited options for media placements across the Internet, the landscape is changing. We don’t always know where those ads are. We don’t all see the same thing. And sometimes marketers are just paying for search words, not a traditional advertisement at all. It makes it hard to know if you are wasting money on advertising, especially if you can’t see it. And, there can still be a lack of transparency in reporting ad placements, leading to skepticism about digital advertising flung far across the Web.

Trust, but verify.
However, giving up that ability to “see” your advertising can actually get you closer to figuring out Mr. Wanamaker’s puzzle. By shifting advertising dollars and spending to digital means, you are closer to learning what is wasted and what is not. The data and real-time response capabilities of the digital marketing environment can tell you if your message is being seen and reacted to, very positive aspects of digital advertising. It’s trackable, and marketers can measure its impact based on what people are doing (or not doing).

Thinking about advertising this way is an exercise in faith and trust, but with the bonus of being able to verify. It is an approach that is still difficult for many marketers to accept. Marketers who are used to seeing an ad in print, or a commercial on TV or radio, or who believe that they absolutely have to be in a certain publication may continue to find it hard to adjust to this way of marketing.

And maybe they don’t have to. With the rise of ad blocking applications, digital marketing is also facing a challenging future. Does an ad that is served but blocked count? Still, reaching customers where they spend the most time (online, most likely) is a smart strategy. It just requires a little bit of courage to change your ways.

Leap, and the net will appear.
So for 2016, make this the year that as marketers you really resolve to try something different. Even if you might not be able to see it.

Try out some programmatic buying. Really work on your search engine strategy. Promote your social content. Retarget customers online. Find look-alike site visitors. Do things you maybe cannot point to and say “hey, we advertised,” but know that you’ll have data collected that helps you know if you’re wasting money or making money.

Make some resolutions to change the way you think about marketing. Stick to them and give them time to work. Trust that your message is out there, but verify with data. Commit to measuring performance before you advertise, and you’ll be closer to figuring out which half of your advertising is working, and which isn’t.

And have a little faith.

About Patrick McGill

Patrick McGill is our very own Sherlock Holmes. As the managing director of strategy, Patrick puts his detection skills to work by helping our clients develop successful strategic plans that more effectively communicate with their target audiences. When he’s not immersed in research you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling – those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at patrickm@2rm.com.