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How to Reduce Media Spend Waste & Optimize Your Advertising Spend

By Melissa Sierra

When implementing a digital advertising strategy, it’s crucial advertising spend is effective, efficient, and not wasted on blind efforts. Minimizing media waste is essential to maximizing ROI and should be prioritized when maximizing your business strategies and plans. The immediate benefits of producing less waste, should result in staying on budget, increasing your bottom line, and proving advertising efforts are contributing to ROI.

There are a variety of types of media waste this article will explore. Analytics and data monitoring tools can also assist with identifying where waste is occurring. In this guide, we will discuss exactly what media waste is, how you can minimize it, and other tips for optimizing your advertising spend, regardless of your budget.

By the end of the article, you should have a new perspective or learn something new regarding digital advertising strategies that you can apply to your marketing and take your business and brand to the next level.


What Is Media Waste?

Media waste refers to any portion of a marketing budget spent trying to reach consumers outside a specific demographic or target audience. This can vary across platforms as advertising media in today’s world becomes more abundant. Media waste can exist in a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign to a YouTube digital advertising campaign. It is crucial to be informed how this can occur, and what steps you can take to pivot or correct.

Even if a small portion of your budget is spent on advertising efforts that do not target the right buyer in the right way (or at the optimal time) brands would often consider that money wasted. For example, consider that your business sells medical devices that can only be used by a doctor or for a doctor’s use. It has no significance as to how many nurses may see an advertisement about this medical device if the device is not relevant to them.

To better understand media waste, it should be divided into 2 different categories:

  • Human waste
  • Non-human waste

As part of the constantly changing digital landscape, this is a critical part of reducing waste and optimizing ad spend.


The Shifting Media Landscape

Human web traffic is on the rise, in addition to bots and non-human traffic. Adobe conducted a study that showed 28% of all traffic coming to websites displayed “strong non-human signals,” which can significantly impact digital ad budgets. Nevertheless, if 28% of your site’s visitors aren’t sentient and cannot benefit from your products or services, that’s almost a third of ad spend wasted.

It’s not that ‘cut-and-dry’ when it comes to the analytics behind media spend waste. This is an example to help illustrate where spend waste can occur even with the best intentions, planning, and digital marketing executions.

Like many of the issues that plague media waste today, the ever-changing media landscape combined with the increase of non-human interference can be avoided through awareness and anticipating these types of occurrences.  


Who’s Behind the Screen?

Let’s consider digital traffic. Do you know who is actually the consumer behind the screen? Most businesses do not, and perhaps you can’t necessarily get a precise number (such as Adobe did with their study). When under the impression that visitor rates and click-through rates are on the rise- assuming all are human -  in reality it is possible the interactions are with a bot or non-human interference. This can result in creating inefficient results and trends aligning woth your ad spend.

Once considered, companies can optimize their media landscape. What does each visit or click represent? Understand your analytics—were they actual visitors, potential bots, or something else entirely? In the fast-paced and constantly shifting digital media and marketing landscapes, it’s important reaching human audiences as a legitimate concern.


How GRP Plays a Role in Video Ad Waste

As many as 89% of all TV ads are entirely dismissed.  This isn’t just due to the growing popularity of streaming services with “no commercial” options— people entertaining themselves with their smartphones during most commercials contributes to this as well.

In this case, an advertiser has a few options when it comes to eliminating digital TV waste, such as:

  • Increasing the frequency of ads and commercials.
  • Brands and businesses to explore improvement of content to gain more attention on television.
  • Do something different altogether. Save the money delegated to these kinds of television ads and choose a different advertising channel. For example, what social media platforms can you reach your target audience while they are scrolling during TV ads.

Historically, the gross rating point (GRP) was the currency of TV advertising. Marketers and advertisers have been conditioned to expect to pay more for increased frequency, improved timing, or expanded reach.

Traditionally, when a  brand sought out a primetime commercial spot, it would likely take a significant part of their marketing budget. However, it would be worth the ad dollars.

Today, primetime viewership, even reaching millions of people, is far too distracted by their phones or enticed by the premium “ad-free” experience TV services offer. For brands, that means they can no longer guarantee that TV ads are as effective as they once were.

With the decline in viewership, variance in how TV is viewed is also something to consider. This can skew the traditional delivery of ads and make it significantly harder to meet GRP goals. The basic solution is increasing ad frequency to be most effective. However, it doesn’t mean running the same ad on the same channel repeatedly, just hoping that eventually, your intended consumer will see it.

You can no longer solely rely on GRP goals to optimize media spending. Instead, a comprehensive strategy that focuses on when and how to best reach audiences, on television and in other media formats, will be exponentially more successful. Before we dive into the ways to reduce media waste, lets discuss reach versus frequency in your media marketing.


Reach vs. Frequency in Media Strategies

Reach refers to how far a marketing message or media campaign extends—how much of your audience is interested what you are advertising? Effective campaigns need a broad reach that focuses on high-quality advertisement. If you’re exclusively marketing for frequency, or how often an ad is seen, results can be biased and the quality and reputation of your reach begins to deteriorate.

Media is a science comprised of statistics, economics, data analysis, and behavioral science. You can’t forego the value of reach and frequency.

Although frequency and reach are important, you should not focus on these pieces of information with only a single channel. Embracing cross-platform marketing and measurement of efforts to properly balance frequency and reach has proven to be beneficial.

If your marketing campaigns aren’t being monitored appropriately, the frequency could lead to eventual ad fatigue, in turn requiring a new approach to your marketing efforts. The best way to avoid this is to enlist the assistance of a cross-platform monitoring solution that can help analyze when and where ads have the opportunity to be most effective.

Reach can be effective without frequency, but it’s seldom the other way around. It’s about creating a compelling ad campaign that focuses on utilizing the best resources and reducing the monetary loss on poorly executed ad campaigns.


Ways to Minimize Media Waste

For as many ways that media waste may be hitting your bottom line, there are just as many ways to proactively minimize that waste (and eliminate it where you can). The exact approach to reducing media spend waste that you take will depend on the type of media strategy and digital marketing plan you have in place.

The solutions discussed below are effective in helping ensure that your ads are the most accurate, which means less waste all around.


Audience Targeting

When targeting broader audiences, cost is more significant to reach fewer people interested in the products or services provided. The “blanket approach” to marketing has proven to be ineffective for most companies, with little positive outlook for the future. Dynamic digital tools and resources are at the fingertips of marketing professionals to help carefully, and strategically target each audience for a precise piece of media that is produced.

Finding those audiences is turn-key. First-party data can be used and gathered about users and their behaviors. Secondary and third-party data from other sources can help to better understand audiences.

Analyzing and targeting the right audience based on psychographics, demographics, and traffic source will guarantee maximizing every bit of ad spend when creating marketing campaigns. Utilizing CRM and sales data can help define primary, secondary, and other audiences that are necessary when taking media strategy into consideration.


Third-Party Analytics

Analytics is an integral part of any process improvement. When setting goals for improvement  you must have these pertinent analytics before applying a strategy.

There are several third-party analytics tools to help track impressions, audience types, and provide more valuable information. ComScore and Nielsen are two examples of third-party companies that can offer these analytic tools, however there are various companies to choose from to best fit your business or brand’s needs. The analytics presented by these companies can assist in creating a more targeted approach to marketing, whether you define one audience or multiple.

Something to keep in mind is that achieving 100% in-target ranking is not realistic. The average ranking is between 40 and 55 percent, which may not sound impressive but the brands and businesses in this range have historically been deemed among the best for media strategies and market reach.

Setting achievable expectations for campaign delivery will help reduce media spend waste and deliver ways to largely improve the marketing strategy. Early on, it can define related costs and where they will be incurred. This will also allow identification of where efforts can be narrowed in on to focus on the majority of your media strategy, as well as what kind of metrics to improve upon.


Data Reviews and Audits

Now that analytics have been provided, how will they help create an efficient marketing strategy? If minimizing media waste is the goal for your brand, utilizing various third-party tools will help monitor and manage your efforts. Reviewing and auditing all the data will help produce and deliver quality advertisement to your target market. For example, knowing that you get a particular number of impressions from Facebook is not the most insightful data. What is more valuable, is knowing that those impressions are all from one of the sources of your ad spend and that this particular ad is effective. These types of analytics can provide more deliberate decision-making power.

Effectively reaching your target audience is crucial to limiting media spend waste. Applying data from verified partners can help get a better idea of what’s working, what isn’t, how you can reduce waste, and increase conversion rates. Real-time targeting is available in audits to make improvements as you progress, which will save time and effort, creating more precise spending.


Reach and Frequency Control

As discussed, reach and frequency are two major players in the media spend discussion. Taking the time to sample different levels of reach and frequency for each channel or medium that you intend to use is imperative to find the best fit. The reach from product to product can vary significantly.

For instance, a plumbing supply company may have contractor products that are aimed at contractors and professionals, in addition to products for residential use that require consumer marketing. Those are two different reaches for two different audiences that it is necessary to control.

Frequency control can be considered more important than reach in most cases, simply because frequency issues can lead to ad fatigue and overexposure. Marketing teams have to find the balance of ad frequencies that are going to make an impact on the right audience at the most optimal time, while avoiding exaggerating their efforts and breaking through all of the ad clutter that is found abundantly online. When companies take a deliberate approach with reach and frequency in their media strategy, the waste reduction is quite substantial if done correctly.


Cross-Platform Planning

Today’s marketing efforts are no longer divided into categories and handled like separate efforts. A majority of companies no longer create separate ad campaigns for every medium that they use. This would not only contribute to media waste, but it would likely be far too much to keep up with.


Cross-platform marketing refers to using multiple platforms to share the same/similar marketing message. For example, Coke has a summer commercial on TV that invites people to scan the QR code on the bottle for all kinds of digital freebies and experiences. That gives audiences the opportunity to engage on at least two platforms. Planning and measuring cross-platform media strategies will help gain a better idea of the bigger picture and understand details such as:

  • The full impact of your campaign(s)
  • Ad frequency across media types
  • User demographics and psychographics based on which platform is being used for advertisement

The benefits of cross marketing are to create a dynamic strategy for media marketing that will generate the best results with the least amount of unnecessary spending along the way.


Break Through Ad Clutter with Engaging, Relevant Content

The Internet is infiltrated and overrun with ad clutter. When reading a single news article, most consumers experience the inconvenience of having to click out of three or four ads, minimize banner ads, and fight their way to the content, an encounter we might all relate to. People hate ad clutter. No one wants to click through multiple ads or close out of videos just to read the intended content.

Another consistent inconvenience regarding ad clutter, is social media advertising—the relevance of what you search online is easily found scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram account. To put things into perspective, consider when you shopped for a gift for your mother, and now you’re getting “targeted" ads —only because you searched for gifts for mothers. That’s where adopting a new approach to your media strategy will make all the difference. There’s so much noise in media that consumers likely don’t pay attention to the “good” ads most of the time. What can your team do to break through this noise and get your message out? A few popular ideas include:

  • Involvement in influencer marketing if your audience is younger

Millennials aren’t known to trust traditional advertising. However, they love watching videos and hearing promotions from their favorite celebrities and online personalities. If the concept fits your product or service, consider using influencers to help validate your brand and get your product out to new audiences and in new mediums. This will enhance your media spend in several ways.

  • Utilize social media to target audiences and segment customer groups

Too often, brands create a social media profile and leave it at that. You might have profiles, but how are they being used to gain consumers? Utilizing Facebook Ads, Instagram, Twitter ad campaigns, and other resources can aid in going beyond your organic audience to a new demographic that are eagerly waiting for a new product to come across their screen.

“Pay-to-play” is the way of the social media world right now. Less than 2% of marketing reach is attributed to organic efforts on Facebook, and it’s similar to other sites. What is the most efficient and cost-effective way to promote new business? Utilizing the right social media marketing methods with targeted messaging and a dynamic strategy is an excellent start.

  • Create a mobile-first experience for users (or an app)

Most people today access the Internet from a variety of types of mobile devices. People use these devices for simple navigation, apps for accessing brands and their products or services, and integrations that make browsing more natural on a smartphone or tablet. If you don’t already have one in place, it’s critical to develop a mobile-first experience that will deliver the resources and solutions needed in real-time without being difficult to navigate.

Major retailers have shopping apps for their customers. Some even have separate apps for their store credit cards, making it easy for people to apply for and manage their credit accounts. Launching an app requires a lot of resources including willing to spend a large amount of you budget, but embracing mobile-first would be the first step in creating this experience for potential consumers. Responsive design creates an opportunity to reach your audiences effectively.

  • Back to basics with direct mail and print campaigns

Many modern brands and digital startups overlook the power of direct mail and print campaigns. Despite the rise of digital media, today’s audiences still respond to these types of print campaigns. With this type of advertising being less common nowadays, these ads may stand out even more, working in favor of businesses looking to make a lasting impression. Direct and print marketing campaigns have proven to foster cross-platform promotions (similar to what Coca-Cola did with the QR codes) and encourage consumers to come to find you in the digital space.

Although less common, direct mail has an impressive ROI. Brands that want to stay ahead of the competition will capitalize on that for their own marketing efforts. When fewer brands are competing for this marketing space, using direct mail will stand out.

  • Get creative with impactful media

The Internet has created a world where you can produce almost anything that you can imagine. The leading issue many media strategies will endure is lacking creative inspiration. Brands and businesses continue to use the identical marketing tools and methods without thinking outside the box and creating unique marketing and branding.

  • Written word reigns supreme

Videos and images are powerful content, but there’s still a lot to be said for written content. Copywriting is (and is to be expected to remain) a leader in the digital marketing space. In addition to your digital media strategy, ensuring there is a solid content strategy in place that aids in advertising to your audience, positions your brand as an authority, and delivers engaging content will reinforce the notion of consumers wanting to do business with you.


Improving Ad Spend Starts with a Better Strategy

Although reducing waste to help optimize your ad spend through all the efforts mentioned, working to improve ad spending in other ways is of critical importance as well. Having a strong strategy for advertising that including the different mediums intended to use and the budget for each is vital. When unsure of appropriate spending for each type of ad spending, market research will be most helpful when aiming to reduce ad spending waste. Once market research in ad spending is complete, you will be able to estimate what is needed to optimize your spending.


Identify the Waste

The first step in identifying waste is, discovering what’s the least efficient, and how to optimize your spending. In this case, we’re referring to allocated budget (or time, effort, etc.) to ads and marketing efforts that are ineffective. Once it is identified where ad waste is hitting the hardest, coming up with a strategy to rework your media and improve your ad campaigns will prove to be the most beneficial step in reducing media waste.


The Next Steps – Accomplish All of the Above with a Media Agency Partnership

When developing effective marketing campaigns and initiatives, reducing media spend waste must be a priority. Consider all the different ways to reduce waste discussed, including how you can work with professionals to cultivate a practical and valuable media strategy that capitalizes on your ad spend and guarantee that every part of your marketing budget  well accounted for and spent wisely.

Your USIM team will help you evaluate potential and drive success. For more information on how our team can help optimize your media spend and budget, connect with your team to discuss the next steps and get started on those efforts right away.




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