The following is a guest contributed post by Chris Cunningham, CRO at Unacast.
Let me start by saying I’ve been in advertising for 20+ years and I understand and appreciate what the term scale means and why clients ask for scale on a good day. Note, on a good day scale means a shit-ton of people you want to reach actually see your ad and engage with your creative. In the end, these people buy your product. As a result, you drive revenue for your company and get promoted. Life is great.
Sadly it’s not that easy in the advertising world as we face ad-blocking, viewability, bots, and other challenges prohibiting your target audience from seeing your ad or knowing its location. Yet almost every meeting I walk into the person I meet replies almost robotically they want scale. It’s like I could have asked them what the weather is outside and they respond with, we need scale!
Are they asking for scale because they were taught this way, do they care about the quality or the performance? Or is it they rather reach more people than less even if that sacrifices quality at all levels. Maybe the agency is compensated on scale so naturally, everything is going to break down.
This ties up the question to my post, why does scale matter? Does scale matter in advertising, location targeting, attribution and does it contribute to success? Or is having far few engagements, interactions or views the right approach so long as it was quality. Is less truly more? Can we say 100 highly targeted ads is the better approach to 100,000,000 ads that people ignore or don’t see, or location was inaccurate?
My company competes in a highly competitive world of people’s actual location in the offline world and for our partners and us quality and accuracy is everything – it’s paramount. If you are an advertiser paying millions of dollars in mobile advertising tied to one’s location, you would think the location should be perfect or close to vs. probabilistic but the reality is that OK is accepted over perfection.
I have some theories centered around this point; one of those being early and leveraging first mover advantage. Often those ahead of the market can take advantage of budgets given by lack of competition, buyers wanting to jump on to the shiny new toy and lack of market education. First movers can generate a ton of cash and then education and technology evolves and the bar is raised and dollars begin to spread. Is this the cycle or is it that quality and granularity simply and without question need to scale eventually or die because brands simply want to reach more people than less even if that comes with some sacrifice?
You may be thinking cost is associated with scale and performance but let’s just assume pricing is consistent everywhere. How do you start to appreciate granularity and quality and get brave vs. taking the safe road not only in my industry but in general?
All industries need to strike a balance between revenue and scale vs. testing and exploring alternative technologies. More importantly we need to challenge ourselves to understand who really wins and who loses with a scale only approach in the short vs the long term.
While human instinct normally reverts away from change, change is what brings us forward. So, let’s move on.