Geofencing: Attracting Customers at Trade Shows

Map on wall with pushpins.

As we discussed in a recent podcast, the marketing strategy geofencing, or delivering advertising messaging to people in certain locations using cities and zip codes, has many applications. It can be especially useful when trying to use digital to influence physical activities, such as a trade show or conference. How can we impact attendance at a booth or panel in a huge conference center? What are the ways to get the word out about awesome things you’re doing as a company? 

It’s crucial as marketers that we go to where prospective customers are rather than assuming they will come to us. When operating within the trade show traction channel you’ve already identified where those customers exist. You’re halfway to the finish line. You certainly can try and talk to everyone individually. Or you could use geofencing to make sure everyone in the conference center or hotel sees your messaging! We recently ran Facebook geofencing advertising campaigns for two clients with different goals, but similar results.


Geofencing on Facebook

Case Study #1: Trade Conference Awareness Advertising

One of our clients, a Montana chapter of a national organization, was preparing to attend a yearly conference. Given chapters from around the country would be attending they were interested in getting the word out about the great stuff they were doing. Think of it as a bragging campaign.

For the targeting, we geofenced the convention center where the conference would take place. We ran the ads starting the morning of the first day, turned them off for non-show hours and ended as the conference ended.

As for the creative, we gathered the most appealing imagery we had, knowing that even if someone didn’t engage with the Facebook ad the visual would leave a lasting impression. Our text was very direct, highlighting what sets this chapter apart from others.

The results were impressive. At a very small budget, we were able to reach over 11,000 people and drive 700 ad engagements over a three day period. As an added bonus it drove additional likes on the Facebook post.

Finally, an offshoot of the campaign came in the form of one of our core values: delight. The members of the chapter who attended saw their own ads. That brought the campaign to life for them and validated our work!

Case Study #2: Driving Traffic to a Booth at a Trade Conference

This example is where digital truly meets the physical. One of our clients was new to their industry and looking to have a big coming-out party at a conference. They spent a lot of time and energy building out a flashy booth and printing brochures to give away. Being the little fish in a very big pound, though, they needed to get foot traffic.

We took a multi-faceted approach to the campaign. First, we geofenced hotels affiliated with the conference and offering blocks of rooms. These ads started in the days leading up to the conference, knowing many arrived early. The creative specifically urged people to visit the booth.

Once the conference started the targeting switched to geofencing the convention center itself. Again, the call to action was to visit the booth. Additionally, simultaneous to this ad set we were also running Google Search ads in the city of the convention. The hope was that people who were exposed to signage or Facebook ads would want to Google what the company was all about.

The results: a stellar amount of foot traffic to their booth (which can, of course, be attributed to many factors) and triple the number of website visitors during the conference compared to the previous period.

Facebook Ads

Setting up a campaign

The nice thing about incorporating geofencing into your advertising strategy is that it’s easy to set up and can be launched with a small budget. In the planning stages these are the key pieces of information you need to focus on:

    • Location: Where are the people you are trying to reach?
    • Timing: When will they be there?
    • Interests: Are you targeting everyone in the area or only people in the area that resemble an identified persona?
    • Action: Is your action online or offline?
    • Tracking: Put in place ways to accurately define success or failure

Enjoy your first geofence!


Check out this video for step-by-step geofencing instructions.

For more information on trade shows and the other 18 podcasts check out our podcast, Cutting Through The Noise, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.

How Much Should I Spend On Content Marketing

Glass of coins with a small green sprout.

Having just completed the SEO (search engine optimization) traction channel, content marketing is fresh on the mind. As the founder of Pintler Group, I’ve always been a believer in content. It’s why early when we started with GeoFli marketing, we didn’t have ad-dollars to spend, so we had to get creative with articles. The product personalizes website content based on visitor location. I had read plenty of articles in 2015 and well before about what constitutes quality content. Of course, Google’s ranking factors seemed to change daily, but what never changed was the emphasis the search engine placed on quality content. 

The Evolution of Content as a Ranking Factor:

As we mentioned in the SEO video last week, Google’s algorithm has certainly evolved to rank quality content content in a sophisticated way. No longer does keyword stuffing work. Sure, the way Google and Bing describe their ranking factors use words like search intent and did you meet the customer intent. What is customer intent? Simply put, customer intent asks if your article, video or podcast helps answer their query. The “Why” of the keywords.

What is Search Intent:

According to Blue Corona (marketing solution company, not a blue alcoholic beverage). There are four main types of search queries:

Known Query: Where the user wants information about something.

Example: What is the most durable iphone case?

Do Query: Where the user wants to take action on something.

Example: Fix a broken iphone screen.

Website Query: Where the user wants to go to a website.

Example: Apple Support Page

Visit-in-person Query: user wants to visit a physical address.

Example: Closest iphone repair shop.

All this is to quickly educate you on what it means to match user intent to an end piece of content.

Google Search Screen

How We Grew From Zero Visits to 100/Day

This headline wouldn’t sell books. 100 per day, that’s it? But for so many businesses, an additional 100 website visitors per day could mean serious revenue gains. When thinking about what 100 clicks from Facebook, Google and LinkedIn would cost in marketing each day, the monetary value of those clicks really ads up (to the tune of about $500/day if you average $5 per click).

Content + Inbound

Below is an example article we guest posted on’s blog. We received some great traffic and referrals from the post, but perhaps more importantly, we gained valuable page authority with a link back to our site. A link equity tide that ultimately lifted all of our content-marketing-ships.

Trello article by GeoFli

We started with content. As mentioned before, our budget for ads was zero because revenue from software sales was zero. We had to get scrappy. We originally knew that we wanted to target higher education with our software: personalize content for enrollment teams during the busy recruitment seasons.

Without too much thinking about SEO implications or meta-tags or descriptions, we started writing about the ways that we had grown digital marketing leads and traffic at the University of Montana. The information seemed on the razor edge of higher-ed marketing. Building custom audiences, retargeting based on inquiry email addresses and how to set up an Instagram ad the second week Instagram Ads were available to the masses. We just wrote about topics we found interesting and knew would help marketers paying attention to what was going on stand out.

Keyword Research and Content Marketing

Tip: sometimes keyword research can lead you down a competitive path. The allure of winning high traffic high competition keywords. Then there are times when writing articles about topics you’re adopting early means you might rank early for keywords that in the future will be competitive. Think: streaming service circa 2005. Google Search console is a valuable tool for identifying your current opportunities in content marketing.

As a result, we launched a lot of articles early. And the traction was slow. What we found, however, was that our traction during that time was slow because we were a little ahead of the keywords. Geofencing wasn’t popular. Website personalization wasn’t popular and geotargeting wasn’t a top search term. Today, that’s changed, and we positioned ourselves nicely.

Our Missoula based marketing firm, Pintler Group grew from a software-as-a-service we built , we had zero organic searches. Over the next two years, we were diligent about producing quality content. Articles about international admissions, articles about personalizing content and articles about Google Analytics tracking and much more. Slowly, we began to see traffic to the website increase organically. I credit a two pronged approach:

Number One: Quality Content:

We have a saying in-house that done is better than perfect. We’ve modified it to emphasize that perfect does not become the enemy of good. That being said, we took time to lay out exactly what we did that worked and how to replicate our systems. We introduced new ideas about geotargeting and we did write in a way that coincided with SEO best practices: internal and external linking.

Number Two: Inbound Link Strategy:

We wanted to make sure people found us. We wrote content but also understood that inbound links from other sites was going to be critical. To obtain links from other sites, we took an approach that included writing testimonials for software we used, contributing as guest authors to websites with page authority. Here’s an article we put together for Trello.

Here’s a testimonial and case study for MaxMind.

And here was an article written about us in the paper without a link, so we emailed and asked if they could kindly add one 🙂

And during this time we continued to write content and continued to think of ways to earn links to our site.

Below: here’s a look at GeoFli analytics landing page report. It shows most all of our top landing pages are articles we’ve written on /blog. Thousands of visitors finding our personalization software and marketing services through organic search.

Google Analytics

What Does Content Marketing Cost:

As we grew and actually had, what do you call ’em? Oh yeah, customers. Time spent keeping customers happy trumped writing articles. Predictably, organic traffic plateaued. To try and keep momentum we began running Facebook Ad campaigns. Specifically, we ran Facebook Lead ads targeting higher ed professionals (but we still found time to write an article about targeting geographically on Facebook).

Facebook Ads vs. Content:

We measured lead quality based on traffic. What we found was 75% of leads from organic traffic were considered qualified: intent and ability to purchase software. Facebook generated leads were qualified about 25% of the time. The quality of leads from organic was 3X better than leads from Facebook. Given the choice to spend money on Facebook ads or writing content to drive qualified traffic through organic, I would choose content.

Content Writing and Content Marketing In-House Versus Contracting:

With GeoFli, we have tried both methods with varying levels of success and consistency. While in-housing is amazing for domain expertise and idea generation, it can easily become the thing that drops off the to-do-list because of other client or customer related tasks. What’s the saying, the cobbler’s kids have no shoes? We like to practice what we preach by writing content and improving our organic ranking, but it’s easy to get distracted.

With contractors, you pay for consistency. Each week, they’re tasked with delivering one or two articles, published on the site with a clear checklist. Oh, and here’s our checklist for internal content writing just in-case you were wondering! We have hired about five contractors to help with content writing: we deliver the article ideas in Trello and the content writer completes them in a Google Doc for review to be published.

How Much Does a Contracted Content Writer Make?

We would pay anywhere from $25/hr to $100/article. It usually ends up ultimately costing about $100/article for a contractor produce start to finish. At least that’s the going rate in Missoula, MT. What we started to find, was that the articles produced in-house simply performed better than those completed by contractors. The more time involved in an article, the better it performed. Content truly is king and there are no shortcuts to delivering a quality article. Recently we’ve used UpWork with some success in other contracted areas, but not content writing.

A Content Marketing Strategy That Works:

We’ve shifted away from writing specific geotargeting articles and instead focused on building up a content library for our agency site (this site!) We are getting very little organic traffic outside of branded search terms, but the consistency of our Content Thursday has really instilled some discipline into our content plan. We have a Trello card with each Traction channel for each week and we have a Google Sheet with the layout of all our Traction Channel goals. The vision for Content Thursday is at the end of 19 weeks, we have a robust collection of traction channels for our users to download via video, whitepaper and podcast.

Spend Money On Advertising or Spend Money on Content Marketing?

We like to say at Pintler Group, don’t celebrate publishing. We say this because too often we see a well thought out and beautifully executed piece of content go unseen. Remember than $15,000 video your company produced four years ago? How many views does it have on YouTube? Our content strategy is one we think is simple, but maybe because we’ve executed it so many times.

One: Write an article with one of your customer personas in mind.

Two: Publish article using our content writing checklist (see above)

Three: For many, step three is attend the closest happy hour.

This is what separates good marketing from great marketing: getting your content in front of the right audience. We use Facebook Ads, LinkedIn, Pintlerest, Google and other platforms to get a content article out into the world.


As you can see, the first three steps require money to be spent on both. Invest in the time to write the article and the ad dollars to promote. Oh, and don’t forget about email marketing!

Other Forms of Content Marketing

Content marketing is not just reserved for the 2,000 word blog post. Our team has invested heavily in content in Q2 and Q3 2019. We purchased video and podcasting equipment to produce simple tutorial videos in-house for clients and ourselves.

Our YouTube Channel: Pintler Group

YouTube Pintler Group Content Marketing

Our Podcast: Cutting Through the Noise

Pintler Group

Our Blog: you’re reading it 🙂

Pintler Group Blog

Content Marketing is a Solid Investment

We’re scratching the surface of content marketing and a lot of smart marketers believe we’re in the golden age of content. We titled our podcast “Cutting Through the Noise.”  There’s a lot of noise in marketing today.   It’s time to double down on your content efforts and make the investment in people, quality and promotion. Good luck and let us know how we can help!


Check out this video for tips on building a content marketing strategy.



Eye-Catching Offline Marketing Campaigns

Coach brand billboard on street corner.

In the noisy world of digital marketing, innovative strategies and ideas are mainly focused on, well, digital mediums. And yet, the presence of offline mediums including billboards continue to exist all around us.

While not as easy to track as online mediums, offline campaigns are still making quite an impact on marketing. In fact, outdoor advertising remains successful even in 2019. While some means of traditional marketing appears to be declining in growth, billboard advertising continues to report growth in revenue year over year. And the industry is predicted to grow to a $33 billion industry by 2021. 

Its impact extends to the digital space as well. Specifically, its been linked to positively affect an online presence simply by leaving an impression on those who view the boards. The messaging is aimed at encouraging people to seek more information online. According to a 2017 Nielsen study billboards can lead up to a 54% increase in search traffic. Not to mention increases of 38% in Facebook engagement and 47% in sales interaction.

Offline Marketing Can Go Viral Too

Like digital campaigns, offline campaigns need to be carefully planned, developed and executed to get the most return. When you take the time to combine strategy with engaging content big things can happen. While the term “viral” tends to be mostly associated with digital, don’t write off offline campaigns. Analyze the information you learn about your audience from digital and translate that into an offline campaign. Take a more realistic approach and run a campaign humanizing your brand. The following case studies from 2018 are prime examples of creative offline campaigns that generated quite a buzz for both existing and potential users.

Kendrick Lamar Billboard

Spotify “Wrapped” Campaign

Many companies have been in the media spotlight lately regarding their use of user data – Facebook, anyone? While the handling of data ethically is a legitimate concern, Spotify found a way to capitalize on data in a harmless fun manner. 

Every December, Spotify rolls out its end of year “Wrapped” campaign. It’s a nicely presented and wrapped up summary of each user’s listening habits of the past year. In 2018, Spotify cleverly built off its annual campaign by pairing it with a billboard campaign. And it caught the eyes of everyone, even those not using its services. Spotify crunched the numbers to discover fun trends listening behavior and conveyed the info in a fun way.

Offline Advertising: Ed Sheeran Billboard

This campaign turned anonymous listener data into a talking point. Subscribers and non-subscribers alike could enjoy and relate to the quirky insights plucked from the massive pool of 2018 listening data. When the campaign concluded, Spotify surpassed 100 million premium subscribers.  Additionally, it grew Monthly Active Users (MAU) from 207 million in Q4 of 2018 to 217 million by the end of the first quarter of 2019.

Offline Advertising: Kendrick Lamar Billboard

Nebraska “Honestly It’s Not For Everyone” Campaign

Imagine you are planning your next vacation. What destinations come to mind? Someplace warm near the ocean? Maybe a cabin tucked away in the woods near towering mountains? Regardless, chances are pretty low that the state of Nebraska exists on this mental list of vacation spots. The Nebraska Tourism Commission tackled this problem in a creative way.

Billboard in Nebraska


Enter the “Honestly It’s Not For Everyone” campaign. They took a raw, bold stance to promote the state. Specifically, went with a self-deprecating type of humor with the offline campaign instead of the “Nebraska Nice” messaging. The “Honestly It’s Not For Everyone” campaign ran in print and on billboards. It paired statements — collected from both Nebraskans and neighboring states in a poll about their opinions of Nebraska tourism – with contrasting images. The result was a campaign with a playful tone. 

Like Spotify, these billboards stood out and sparked a viral reaction online. The campaign drove an increase in website traffic, tax collection and requests for travel guides. As of summer 2019, the campaign continues to run in out of state markets.

Nebraska Billboard

When it comes to choosing what channel to run campaigns on, it is important to select the traction channel that makes sense for your client. While it’s easy to blast your message across digital channels, offline has its advantages!

For more content on offline marketing, check out our podcast on Billboards, Buses and Coasters and this video on managing and tracking your offline ads.

Creating Compelling Content for Your Ads

Man scootering at high speed.

Just like unconventional PR and search engine marketing, social and display ads are one of the 19 traction channels recognized by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares in their book Traction. Basically, these are any advertisements you see on social media or around your computer screen as you surf the internet. Chances are, you have already seen multiple social and display ads today. Do you remember any of them? Better yet, did you click on any of them?  

As you are deciding to run social and display ads for your own business you want to make sure your ads have the ability to cut through the noise and be remembered (and clicked on) by your potential customers. There are many ways to create an effective ad, but sometimes it can be really challenging to know where to start, and once the ad is created, it can be difficult to know where to go from there. Here are some of the tricks we use to create effective digital advertisements that lead to effective landing pages.

Special Deal Creative

Ad Assets

An effective ad starts with a design that catches the viewer’s attention. Many attractive ads include three main pieces of information: the company’s logo, its value proposition, and a call to action. These three pieces of information help the viewer understand who the ad is from, why it is important to them, and what steps they should take next if they want to participate with the brand. Once you have your logo, value, and call to action figured out it is time to design what the ad will look like to the viewer. If you do not have design skills, we would recommend outsourcing this small project to a graphic designer. While this might be more expensive, in many cases, having an effective and attention-grabbing ad will be worth your spend. Regardless of whether you design the ad or pay a designer to do it, make sure it is the correct dimensions and easy to read right away.

Graphic Design 

Ad Assets Quick Tips: 

    • Include a logo, value proposition, and a call to action
    • Work with a designer to create an eye-grabbing ad
    • Keep it easy to read and nice to look at
    • Remember to use the correct dimensions when designing your ad
Landing Pages

Once you create an attractive ad that people want to click on you need somewhere to take them, and a landing page is one great option. The point of your landing page is to supply relevant and desired information to the viewer so they either visit another page of your site, sign up for your email list, make a purchase, or complete whatever your goal may be. In order for your landing page to complete your desired goal, you need to understand your audience and what they are looking for when they visit this page. Try to understand their current emotions, needs and frustrations and play to those within the landing page copy and design. An effective landing page is straight forward, attractive, easy to look at and mobile-friendly. Make sure your landing page supplies the offer or content that the ad that brought them there promised.

Mobile Friendly

Ad Landing Page Tips: 

    • Really understand your audience
    • Keep it straightforward, attractive, and easy to read
    • Make it mobile friendly
    • Supply relevant and desired information or offers
    • Use a low-barrier, relevant call to action

For more information on social and display ads and the other 18 traction channels, check out Pintler Group’s new podcast, Cutting Through The Noise, our YouTube channel and this video.

Programmatic Advertising? Maybe Not For You.

Wrong way construction sign

This article explores the business model of display and programmatic companies. As our team executes digital campaigns, it became clear there was a growing and lucrative vertical that we wanted to learn more about. And so did potential clients. A question we get quite often is, what is programmatic advertising and does it make sense for my business? 

If you want the answer now to save some time: probably not.

First: What is Programmatic Advertising:

Defined by the Display Trading Council as “the use of automation in buying and selling of media”.

Is Programmatic Display and Bid Management Right for My Business?

The root of the question is this: will I get a return on my investment in targeted display ads? To answer that, you want to understand (quickly) how online ads are bought and sold. You also want to identify what’s really going on behind the fancy diagrams, flashy websites and “superior value”. 

The language on ad-tech and programmatic company websites is confusing at best and deceiving at worst. In writing this article, we found a lot of strange ambiguity and “behind the curtain” terms that, coming from a background in digital marketing, didn’t add up. Most of the programmatic advertising websites we visited  had confusing visuals like the ones below to try and represent what they do.


The above diagrams look like something out of the Da Vinci Code. The left is programmatic ad delivery company Amobee and the right is AdTaxi. We’ll break down what the terms in the diagram mean in a minute.  

How Much Do Display Ads Cost? You Should Know:

In the movie “The Big Short” the character played by Ryan Gosling is a lovable blood-thirsty capitalist. Basically, his firm offers swaps which is insurance on insurance on … well, it’s confusing. When asked what he gets out of offering this special mortgage swap to potential buyers, Gosling replies “Sure – swaps are a dark market so … I set the price, whatever price I want.” It seems that when working with programmatic bid management companies,  the cost of online advertising is a dark market, and programmatic ad-exchanges are setting the price: whatever they want. 

If you don’t know what a “fair” price is to pay for online ads, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, most programmatic ad-tech company employees don’t have a straight answer to this question . It’s nobody’s fault, but putting a benchmark in place will allow you to make a more informed decision.

Some Quick Definitions Before Diving in Head First:

Bid Management: When purchasing ads online, it’s the automated system set up to win the bid depending on the ad placement in the digital marketing campaign.

Cost Per Thousand Impressions: CPM: A standard measurement for how much online advertising costs. How much will it cost to show your ad to 1,000 people? You can easily break down your ad spend.

Display Ads: The ads you either see next to the article on your favorite newspaper website, or the ads you need to find the “x” to get out of.

DSP: Domain Side Platform: An automated buying platform used by programmatic ad-tech companies. This is the platform the company uses to purchase display ads from publishers (Google, Bing, third party). Banner ads = ads on websites, mobile ads on apps and mobile web and in-stream video.

Inventory: Total impressions online. Think of inventory like a billboard for a website. Your business can purchase 10,000 eyeballs. Once those are used up, the billboard changes to someone else’s message. How you select those 10,000 eyeballs is up to you. Perhaps you want your ad to appear in inventory only targeting males, ages 35-45 that are interested in tennis.

Questions To Ask of Programmatic Companies:

What should 1,000 impressions online cost? 

According to HubSpot: the average cost for 1,000 impressions on display (if you see an ad, or an ad loads on your screen even if you don’t see it: that’s an impression), is $2.25. We’ve seen ad-tech companies charge anywhere from $15-$20 CPM. The next question you need to ask, is it worth it?

The $1,000 challenge: Would would happen if you bought direct? That means if you buy direct or through an agency that purchases direct and spend $1,000, you’ll deliver your ad  444,000 times. Let’s say you spent that same $1,000 with an ad-tech company, your ad would be served only 66,000 times. That’s a difference of 378,000 impressions. Is programmatic worth the cost?

What’s your cost-per-thousand-impressions online?

Again, CPM = what it costs you to show your display ad to 1,000 people online. After their surprise that you know what CPM is, they should give you a straightforward answer. If they don’t, be cautious. Programmatic advertising companies make it simple to bundle all of your advertising under one roof. Spoiler alert: it’s a very expensive roof. If the metric is readily available on their website, it’s a good sign of a transparent business model. If the number is not: you should find out what it is.

Purchasing direct (in-house) or with a digital marketing expert will cost around $2.25 per thousand impressions. Programmatic costs $15 per thousand impressions. About an 800% mark-up.

How do Programmatic Advertising Companies Make Money?

They charge a $15.00 CPM for for inventory they get at a discount. It’s a highly lucrative business model. It works because there’s not a lot of knowledge on exactly how much an online impression is worth. 

Educate yourself: how much of a markup am I paying programmatic vs. buying direct through a marketing expert or through Google Ads? Or not using display ads at all? If you’re aware of the upcharge and it makes sense for your business: great.

Understand how much you’re willing to pay for 1,000 impressions and you’ll become a smart digital ad buyer. And no, Google Ads doesn’t own all the online inventory on the internet, but they can serve billions of impressions a day if you want them to. 

Many programmatic advertisers are buzz-word heavy and marketing tactic poor. Words like “Premium Inventory” or “Ad Exchange Platform” are using inventory in platforms you can purchase direct like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube and Bing. Put the reporting in one place using Google Data Studio and you’ve potentially just saved tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Programmatic Ad Tech Business Model: Spend More Money.

Programmatic advertising companies make money when they sell more of their display, search, video and social ads at $15 CPM. If your YouTube ads are costing you $5 CPM direct, bundling that under the programmatic umbrella just bumped it up to $15. Is the “cross channel optimization” worth the mark-up?

The more CPMs they sell, the more money they make. The incentives for this model are so clearly backwards. The recommendation will always be to spend more money.

If you’re working with a team of marketing experts in a performance marketing firm, their answer to more sales, more inbound and more website visitors might not be more ad-spend. It might be public relations, content marketing or any of the other marketing traction channels that might yield higher results.

Below: Order for 334,000 programmatic display ad impressions at $4,850. The result, lots of impressions, zero landing page leads. Purchasing the same 334,000 through Google Ads would cost around $1,000.

programmatic advertising costs

Is My Programmatic Ad Team Also My Marketing Team?

No. Programmatic display ad firms are not marketing agencies: The individual managing your bid (where your ad is served) automation isn’t a trained marketing expert. Think of an Ad-Tech company the same way you’d think of the local television network selling you ad-space. You purchase a commercial, they deploy it strategically during shows and times they see valuable. If you bought a newspaper ad, would you say the newspaper ad salesman and the publisher handles your marketing? Programmatic tackles one small vertical of digital marketing: display.

Does Programmatic Advertising Work?

You’re going to be hard pressed to see a transparent return on ad-spend. Though, this is a question best answered by results and one you should be monitoring if you’re currently paying $15 CPMs. If you’re paying for programmatic and not measuring conversions. Stop. You’re donating money. Google announced Custom Intent Audiences at the end of 2017. As far as we’re concerned, this gives companies all the targeting capabilities they could ever need.

We’ve tested programmatic advertising at a cost of $15 CPM driving traffic to a landing page. The result? Programmatic spent $5,000 in automated display ads without a single form-completion while in-house paid social and paid search drove leads at around $11 cost-per-acquisition.

Here’s an article published by the Wall-Street-Journal describing a case-study with Proctor and Gamble. They cut millions of dollars from their programmatic budget. The result? “Little impact on its business, proving that those digital ads were largely ineffective.” Check out the article below:

“P&G Cuts More Than $100 Million In Largely Ineffective Ads”

“Proctor and Gamble, one of the largest advertisers in the country said that its move to cut more than $100 million in digital marketing spend in the June quarter (2017) had little impact on its business, proving that those digital ads were largely ineffective.

Chief Executive David Taylor said in an interview that the digital spending cuts are part of a bigger push by the company to more quickly halt spending on items — from ad campaigns to product development programs — that aren’t working.

“We shut it down. We’re not going to follow a formula of how much you spend or share of voice. We want every dollar to add value for the consumer or add value for our stakeholders.”

Bid Management Tools:

Programmatic Ad Tech companies will talk extensively about bid management and real-time bidding. These tactics haven’t proven (at least in tests we’ve done) to be more or less impactful for generating leads or sales. You may have heard of Marin Software. They are a bid management tool that claims to have cross channel premium inventory for advertisers to purchase. Here’s a look at their video:

Below: Display bid-management companies and ad-tech companies have a way of making bid management seem just ambiguous enough to work.


But … Marin Display Bid Management Stock: Yikes.

Display Dismay:

At the core of programmatic is display advertising. Banner ads, in-stream video and in-app advertisements. Do they actually result in sales? According to HubSpot, the average click-through-rate for a display ad is .35%. That means if 100 people in your hyper-targeted audience see your ad, you’re doing exceptionally well if you can get one person to show interest and click. Spending money on display if you have a fixed or performance based marketing budget is not where we would start.   

I’m a Marketing Agency, Should I Partner With Programmatic Advertising Companies?

If you want full control over your ad message, landing page content and analytics, we’d strive for in-house management. Get familiar with purchasing direct and then decide if programmatic is something you want to explore. Plus having the in-house expertise to manage, contribute and grow your online acquisition channels would be highly valuable.

Run a Simple Test:

The easiest way to see if your programmatic partner is worth the high margins on ad-inventory is to test. Spend $5k in programmatic and run a $5k campaign internally. See what the cost-per-lead comes out to be. See how they track conversions and see the return. Does the money deployed toward hiring marketing professionals outperform the money deployed programmatically?

Below: DIY Google Ads makes it simple to deploy highly targeted display ads.

Who Makes Money on Display Ads?

Google AdSense is a pretty straightforward exchange. Let’s pretend you have a blog. You write content about roasting your own coffee beans. 1,000 people per day visit your website. You decide to rent a banner ad (inventory) from Google. You tell Google what your website is about. Google turns around and sells that banner ad space to advertisers. Starbucks, your local coffee shop and Folgers all want to show ads on websites for people interested in coffee. The blogger (you!) gets some money every time your ad is shown, and every time your ad is clicked.

That’s Google’s inventory, you can log-in to Google Ads or hire an expert in paid search to help build those campaigns. Programmatic Advertisers use a few different ad-exchanges, not just Google, to purchase ad-inventory and bid on when your ad appears. But as mentioned earlier, Google has a huge market share of ad inventory and an 800% mark-up to reach the remaining display ad placements and publishers is likely not worth it for your business. 

Test Direct Vs. Programmatic Bid Management:

It could potentially save you thousands of dollars a month. Talk with a marketing agency and see how they would approach spending ad dollars: here’s a quick presentation I gave as part of an opening class to 50 seniors this spring at the University of Montana Marketing Analytics 440.

Testing Traction Channels > Programmatic Display

Below are the the 19 traction channels as described in the book “Traction” by Gabriele Weinberg. When working with a talented marketing agency, the goal is going to be testing traction channels. The incentive is to reach your goal, whether that’s through display ads or through blog and influencer outreach.

Programmatic Advertising lives in the display traction chanel: (No. 5 above). But that leaves a lot of other channels and gaps to test. 

What Should We Do?

If you’re a small or mid-level business, we would not recommend your introduction to online advertising be with programmatic display. Paying for advanced bid-management tools is going to burn your potential marketing spend early. There are performance-based marketing firms you can hire that will help identify the three traction channels to focus on. If display ads are one of them, it might be time to entertain a conversation with programmatic. Perhaps there’s on-page website personalization to turn visitors into leads that might be more worth your time. Start at the center of your bullseye and figure out where your existing happy customers came from.

Hopefully after reading this article, you recognize the costs, the opportunity, and the risks of using programmatic ad-tech companies and also how to spot large CPMs behind ambiguous ad-tech diagrams.