I had the baffling experience today of asking an agency to clarify if there were any changes to media placement from Q2 to Q3 in a specific campaign and getting a very vague response which amounted to, “”Yes, we definitely optimize our campaign for media performance.”
Let me clarify that I was in a unique position of not actually being the media planner for the campaign, but rather, I was acting as the analyst for my client. I was tasked with reviewing quarterly performance for a long-term e-mail marketing program that gets its e-mail subscribers (enrollments) primarily via online media.
This is an odd perspective for me. I’m usually in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting leads, and not in a position of analyzing overall performance results on a campaign that I had absolutely nothing to do with planning or implementing.
It surprised me that the only response to my inquiry about optimization was a, ”Yep, we optimize the media and reallocate budgets according to what vendor performs best.” In reviewing the stats, it appeared otherwise. I saw that enrollments from all paid media sources had actually decreased from Q2 to Q3 (except for one vendor which was added in the middle of Q3). So my reaction was…”huh?”
The plot thickens
The agency said they optimize the media, but the media performance proved otherwise. Not only did enrollments coming in from paid media sources consistently decline from Q2 to Q3, the the number of search enrollments was decreasing steadily going as far back as Q1. Now, there could be some valid reasons for this that have nothing to do with optimization (or lack thereof) and these include:
- The media budget was reduced from Q2 to Q3
- There was some type of change on the vendor side (e.g., a CPA network lost a major publisher, an e-mail list was not used from one month to the next, etc.)
- The creative changed drastically and tanked OR the same creative was used for the same list/site/channel for too long and thus lost its dazzle (ad burnout)
- Mars and Saturn were not perfectly aligned in their orbits
But seriously, even if the budget was reduced and/or a combination of the above contributed to the overall poor performance from Q2 to Q3, it is the responsibitility of the media agency to figure out (to the best of their ability) what happened to cause the campaign to perform poorly and what could be done to improve performance.
If it’s something very simple, e.g., a budget reduction, then the next thing they should be looking at is the total number of leads compared with the total budget. For example, did leads decrease comparatively to the budget decrease or did they decrease at a lower rate than the percentage the budget was decreased (e.g., if you decrease your budget by 40% but your leads/sales only decrease by 15% then you’re doing something right). If you’re doing something right, you then need to figure out what it is so you can reproduce that media magic throughout Q4 and beyond.
Don’t accept, “we optimize your media for performance” as a good answer. Make your agency go deeper than that with details about what they think is actually working (or not) based on the actual performance metrics.
A line graph that shows your conversions going down down down from quarter to quarter needs some supporting insights about why this is happening and some actionable recommendations about what should be done to change the direction of that trend.