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    Ash Dharan: Performance marketing is both an art and a science

    By Ash Dharan, head of paid media, NP Digital

    If you think back to your childhood, or even a few decades ago, I’ll bet there are some distinctive ads that you remember. The ones that made you laugh, think, or had a jingle you just couldn’t get out of your head. 

    For me it was Emirates’ Keep Discovering from 2004, which featured a range of nationalities (unusual for the time) and a brilliant rallying call: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

    There’s a reason why ads like this cut through – they make a genuine emotional impact. By contrast, when was the last time you saw an ad on TikTok or Facebook you remember?


    Okay, a quick caveat, I’m not here to bash all short-form digital advertising. It certainly has its place, but my question remains: in 20 years do you think any of them will still be in your head?

    Advertising in the modern age is certainly a different proposition. People consume content at warp speed and almost entirely via mobile. So yes, I appreciate the old 30 second TVC isn’t the undisputed medium of choice it used to be.

    But some truths are universal and many of the key elements that made those unforgettable long-form ads apply in other ways. Chiefly, you need to treat your customers like human beings to be wooed, not an advertising target to shout at, which is what performance advertising routinely does (in 30 characters or fewer).

    Because ultimately, human beings don’t buy products, they buy the transformation the product promises – they are interested in what the product can do for them and how it will help them achieve the ideal after-state.

    That’s why it’s key to form a relationship with your customer, so when they get to the moment of action, you’re the only one left standing. As Rick Willis from Wizard of Ads says, “Google Ads is the tax you pay for not having a strong brand.”

    To be the last brand standing, it is vital your audience planning is up to par. The starting point for any performance campaign is to profile your customer and understand these avatars inside and out.

    Once you have mapped their desires and objections, you can create ad copy and design creative that directly addresses their pain points and shows them how you can get them to their happy place. This makes your pitch much more compelling, because you demonstrate that you really ‘get’ them.

    And that’s what we need to convey in our advertising. That we understand the customer’s needs and are there to provide solutions for them, because doing so builds trust and increases brand strength.

    This element is really the art. But there are few more scientific elements that are required to ensure your advertising is working as well as possible for you.

    When we are getting scientific, the best place to start is with an understanding of your business numbers. This means analysing how much you can afford to pay for a customer and crafting offers to keep them coming back for more. It also means avoiding paying over and over again to acquire the same customers – a trap performance marketers fall into regularly.

    In your quest to do these things you may encounter people who will tell you they’ve found the silver bullet for lead generation or sales – that they’ve mastered the art and the science forever more. I think that sentiment is highly questionable, given the constant change we are faced with in the digital space.

    I doubt you will ever find perfection, but if you want to be successful on a consistent basis, you have to continually get the basics right. And it doesn’t hurt to learn from those with those who live this philosophy either.

    If you’re working with a partner to sharpen up your performance advertising, here’s what you should be looking for. For starters, they will understand the importance of getting the art and science right – that’s all those elements above.

    They will also look at things in a holistic way. For example, they won’t think only of leads but the actual sale. It’s little things like ensuring form submission confirmation emails have a calendar link to book a call with your sales team, or an opt-in confirmation email with a couple of basic questions to help segment your CRM list. A good performance marketer knows the job is not done even when the conversion is complete.

    A thorough partner will share information, insights and their proprietary tech, building a genuine relationship, rather than gatekeeping assets.

    And they will also advocate to have a seat at the marketing table – yes, they perhaps aren’t your classic marketers, but they have the tools to amplify your message exponentially, so it is in your interest to give them the full business picture.

    So remember, gone are the days you could throw a few thousand dollars on Google and Facebook and expect magic to follow. My advice for the 2024 advertising landscape is to stop relying on big tech platforms and go back to marketing basics. Lock in your art, science and preferred partners, and the results invariably will follow.

    Top image: Ash Dharan

    The post Ash Dharan: Performance marketing is both an art and a science appeared first on Mediaweek.

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