Why Your Media Buying is Underperforming


A quick guide of the most common issues we see in paid media advertising


Paid media campaigns seem like a commodity, with every vendor offering the same (indistinguishable) solution, and most brand managers having had at least one bad experience.

This, plus the fact that many buyers work with an increasingly broad client portfolio, generates a lack of the much needed in-depth, data-based strategic vision and implementation.

In reality, most campaigns are underperforming and brand managers don’t even know it.

Here’s why: 

  1. Publishers monetize their inventory. Most publishers are looking to maximize their revenue, not to identify your best consumer, KPIs, and ROI. 
  2. Programmatic vendors don’t optimize. The promise that programmatic algorithms find the best audience can be true, but it usually isn’t. It takes data crunching, testing, and optimization to get to high returns and optimal results. 
  3. Vendors take shortcuts and don’t do the rigorous research needed to identify the right strategy and target audience. 
  4. Media agencies are in the wrong business. Media agencies execute campaigns, but most of them run minimal optimizations, which take time, effort, and expertise. The result is lost opportunities. 

Do you know if your media planning and optimization are underperforming? Contact Us for a free media audit or consultation. 


In the rest of this article we will analyze the top reasons why campaigns are underperforming and we will take an in-depth look into today's media landscape's most common mistakes.


Getting rid of inefficiencies:  Do you really know where your investment is going?


At InPulse, we are proud to say we are platform agnostic. Our media plans are never written in stone and we execute a platform agnostic optimization, leveraging unique features and algorithms of each channel and placement. 

Understanding each platform and their constant changes while optimizing in real-time to avoid wasting a single cent in a channel that isn’t driving towards our ultimate goals.

A good channel and placements strategy -where the ads will be displayed- can define whether a media strategy will succeed or not. 

A frequent mistake is to only analyze top-level KPIs, like cost per click or click through rate. We often see that a campaign or placement is reporting costs that are lower than benchmarks or prior campaigns, but when we take a look at the final conversion, the customer acquisition cost (CAC) is very high, and the conversion rate is low. 

We prefer a phased approach whenever possible, first learning with smaller budgets, adjusting and scaling as we have identified a winning formula. The whole consumer journey is important, sometimes the problem is in the creative, the communication, the landing page, and so on. A phased approach allows time to iron out the issues without wasting a large percentage of the media budget. 

As media buyers optimize each platform, budget should be reallocated to maximized ROAS (return on advertising spend).  

Another possible inefficiency can be found in hidden or high fees. Many vendors include their media fee within the total campaign budget. While this sometimes feels good because it doesn’t show additional fees, these hidden administration costs can bite off 20-25% of your budget. We recommend a transparent model, where interests are aligned and you understand the actual costs. 


Back to the basics: Communications 101 & Media Ops


All agencies have a key element: People. And people have good and bad habits. When we hire a new member for the media team we select the best experts in the field. Often highly specialized, but with one key aspect lost in translation: the habit of dynamic and efficient  communications with other areas. 

So we train them to relearn how to work as an integrated part of a bigger machine, including the creative team, business intelligence, account management, and so on.

If BI people export performance reports but have never talked to the person who runs the campaigns to share insights, or creatives never had feedback after their assets were boosted, and media people haven’t reviewed their strategy with the account team in months, there sure are several inefficiencies along the operations that are affecting your media results.

Not to mention when many team members have never spoken with a client before. So how will they understand their objectives and be their right kind of partner? All the team needs to be working side by side as one to perform the most. 

Let's maximize your investment: Does anyone remember hands-on optimization?

In a world where set-and-forget is still the paid media norm, having proper ongoing manual optimization practices usually make a big difference in your Ad spend KPIs.

As we optimize, we run several testing scenarios. We develop many audiences with sub-segments, to which we show different creatives to discover which one converts more. We evaluate the performance by day and hour, finding trends related to paydays, weekends, or unique audience behaviors for each client, to name a few best optimization practices.

Automatic optimization driven by the platforms are important, but frequently misread opportunities and spend Ad dollars in the wrong creatives or placements. At InPulse we let the data tell the story, but we take the time to understand what the story is actually saying, so we make real-time informed decisions to level-up our optimization game. 

Do we also take advantage of the latest technologies to detect opportunities using AI powered media learning? Of course. But we are still human. After all, Artificial Intelligence + Human Intelligence = Augmented Intelligence. 

We learn, unlearn, optimize, start over, and continue until we achieve the perfect tactics for each client. And once we have it, we start our process all over again. We are constantly evolving, which helps us to closely follow the trends of the different platforms, markets, and industries to always be at the top of our game, and consistently achieve our goals (and our client’s).

Did they take the time to do the homework?


We recently planned a digital media campaign to reach at-risk migrants coming through central and north america, from Colombia to Mexico. As we dug deeper we realized that no one in the process completely understood or had taken the time to read the available (free) research by ONGs that gave a detailed picture of the consumer journey. 

Publishers, programmatic platforms, and many media agencies have junior people that create proposals off a template or a media planning tool, without understanding the consumer and having a fundamental understanding of the strategy. 


In the end, what makes InPulse Digital or any other agency successful is the company’s people culture. A culture of effort and relentless pursuit of excellence will always perform better than a culture of quick sales and junior un-prepared teams. 


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