Our New Report with The Drum Indicates That Brand Advertising Isn’t Working

Phil Nottingham


The results are in! Head over to The Drum’s site to download the free report and dig in to the findings.

Marketers are spending ever-increasing sums on digital advertising in order to increase brand salience and brand affinity, including $30 billion spent on digital video alone in the US this year.

As brand marketing budgets continue to shift from offline media to digital channels, we have to ask questions about the efficacy of these new channels and formats. Are things working the same way as they did with TV? Does having a big budget make it easier to see results in relation to brand marketing?

Over a hundred years ago, John Wanamaker famously stated, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” But is this still true today? Has the promise of more attributable, efficient advertising spend been realized or are most of us still spending with care and abandon, hoping for success?

For the last few months, Wistia has been working with The Drum to find the answer to these questions–asking brands and agencies about their approaches to brand advertising to determine what people are buying and how they’re measuring success.

And we are super excited to announce that next month, on January 21st, we’ll be releasing a full report that reveals our findings on how well brand advertising is working and how brands are approaching this new landscape.

A summary of the conclusions

Our study shows that despite a shift in the way ads are being distributed, the way businesses measure brand advertising hasn’t really changed. This disconnect is masking profound ineffectiveness as media agencies and tech giants are disincentivized to share honest results.

The data shows that more than half of marketers are continuing to invest in brand advertising without any proof of tangible return, and those who are able to quantify a return on investment are doing so with traditional metrics poorly suited to the digital advertising environment — impressions, views, and conversions.

By using clicks or conversions to measure brand advertising, you end up judging your investment as if it was a direct sales tool. By using impressions, on the other hand, you end up judging your investment according to the number of successful page loads. Neither correlates with genuine engagement.

Despite marketers recognizing that they’re asking tech giants to mark their own homework, they seem to not have much else to work with. John Wanamaker’s adage remains true today as half of our interviewees recognize that most of their brand advertising spend is probably wasted. Businesses are nevertheless continuing to invest huge sums in it, with 64% saying this is because it’s an established tactic and they’re not sure where their marketing budgets would be better allocated.

The fact that businesses are spending so much money on advertising without a clear understanding of what value they’re getting in return is a substantial indication that dramatic change is on the horizon. There’s an open question about where businesses that really care about ‘brand’ should be allocating their marketing dollars in 2020.

Is it finally time to consider the unthinkable conclusion that all media agencies and platforms are desperate to obscure–that perhaps there’s a better way to build a brand than spending money on advertising alone? Stay tuned to find out.

Phil Nottingham


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