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Why we care about advertising: A marketer’s guide



GumGum introduces a personal data-free approach to digital advertising

With digital transformation, advertising isn’t just about growing brand awareness or planting a seed. Advertisers and their adtech partners can reach audiences big and small at any stage of the funnel, delivering cross-channel ads across multiple touchpoints. And they aren’t just using traditional demographics and ratings, they’re leveraging device-level or user-specific data, as well as contextual insights, to serve the right message to the right customer at the right time.

Advertising is deeply impacted by emerging tech platforms and social media trends, making it susceptible to constant disruptions. As marketers, you have to stay on top of your game by keeping up to date with industry trends.

As consumers have shifted their attention from traditional advertising to digital channels, it has become crucial for marketers to pivot. When this is studied within the context of an annual increase of 10.3% in the overall marketing budget and a 16.2% increase in digital marketing spending, we can see a trend of increasing reliance on digital advertising channels over traditional advertising options. 

This data highlights the ever-evolving nature of advertising and underscores the importance of adopting relevant marketing strategies. It is only by understanding how customer preferences change over time that you can devise an effective advertising campaign.

This article covers the following key points:

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

What are the best advertising practices?

The best advertising tactics are contextual and continue to evolve. Here are some guiding principles that can help with your advertising strategy.


Be adaptive. As marketers, you have to be able to keep up with the shifting landscape. After identifying what platforms drive the most traffic and are the most popular with your target group, you have to quickly learn and adapt to the platform’s features and algorithms. For example, TikTok’s popularity has grown exponentially; it had 1.2 billion monthly active users in Q4, 2021, up from 381 million in 2019. Additionally, the platform has repeatedly proven itself as a strong conversion channel, driving 155% more clicks than Instagram and Facebook ads for a Jungle Topp Media experiment.

Incorporate feedback. Your advertising methodology needs to have a built-in feedback loop to collect crucial performance data and incorporate it into your ongoing campaign. Create new content, release it, track metrics, collect feedback, and use it to design future campaigns. One of the biggest benefits of non-traditional marketing tools, such as social media, is that they generate actionable data that reveal insights. This makes assessing the impact of your campaigns easier than ever before.

For example, Instagram offers engagement insights for Reels and live broadcasts. For Reels, Instagram provides data on total plays, accounts reached, likes, comments, saves and shares. For live broadcasts, there is data on accounts reached, peak concurrent viewers, comments and shares. This is extremely valuable feedback that captures your current content’s effectiveness and engagement level, allowing you to tweak your future content accordingly.

Consider employing outside help. The best advertising practices are efficient. However, you have to be aware of the capacity of your business to use these tools effectively. Do you have the right team to produce content on emerging platforms? Does your team understand data and analytics? Using external vendors to optimize your advertising can give your business a competitive edge.

The most significant advantage of effective advertising is that it engages your audience. An engaged audience is more likely to purchase your products and refer your brand to other people through word of mouth. Specifically, advertising leads to audience development, and these are the benefits it offers:

  • Customer acquisition: A burgeoning customer base is vital for your long-term revenue growth. To access new customer segments and markets, it is vital to make your brand visible and relatable. Advertising is that mechanism that fills the gap between your brand and potential customers.
  • Customer retention: Since customer acquisition cost is often cited to be 5x the cost of customer retention, it is wise to increase your focus on building customer loyalty. Understanding customer feedback and implementing that into your campaign is essential for long-term relationship development.
customer lifetime value compared to customer acquisition cost in advertising
Source: Taylor Peterson

Changes in the advertising landscape today

While the changing landscape driven by the amalgamation of tech and advertising is sure to bring multiple opportunities to marketers, it also imposes certain restrictions. Navigating this space can be challenging for the following reasons.

Standing out from the clutter. Advertising is omnipresent on the web today. Whether a customer is browsing on Google, reading an article, or watching a video on YouTube, they will see promotions and ads everywhere.

The sheer volume of advertising has made people increasingly numb to conventional digital advertising techniques. Marketers using digital advertising face more pressure than ever to stand out from the clutter and produce engaging content.

graphc showing percentage of survey participants who disklike or don't watch adsgraphc showing percentage of survey participants who disklike or don't watch ads

The decline of third-party cookies. Marketers have counted on third-party cookies for decades to track website visitors and collect consumer data online. This data is critical to improving user experience and generating targeted ads. However, data protection and privacy issues have now come to the forefront, bringing increased scrutiny to companies’ data practices and giving rise to regulatory frameworks to curb privacy violations.

Apple has implemented changes to its iOS14 operating system using Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). Firefox also offers Enhanced Tracking Protection that blocks third-party cookies by default. Google controls over 63% of the browser market and plans to phase out third-party cookies by 2023. Marketers will no longer be able to rely on these cookies to generate consumer-level data, which will hamper their ability to create targeted ads.


Adapting to industry changes

The message is clear – advertising, in the years to come, can’t be based on privacy breaches or manipulative tactics. Instead, successful advertisers will have to produce transparent, ethical ads that speak to consumers authentically.

Know your audience. Different tech platforms and social media channels cater to different audiences. As a marketer, you need to understand which platforms are most widely used by your customers and make your ads compatible with the platform you’re using to advertise. Unwanted ads drive 84% of consumers away from the platform, with approximately 40% of baby boomers paying for premium subscriptions to avoid them. 

Platforms like TikTok and tools like Instagram Reels have incorporated ads into the content itself. Unlike YouTube, TikTok and Instagram ads are not disconnected from the underlying video content; rather, they assimilate the ads into the content itself. This kind of organic and informal approach to advertising is a better way to engage consumers. 

Contextual advertising. Unlike targeted advertising, contextual advertising does not rely on third-party cookies. It involves matching the content of a webpage with the content of your ad. This model is able to influence consumers’ purchase decisions by taking into account the interests that drew them to that webpage while respecting their privacy. 

Applications of machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) in advertising have provided marketers with numerous opportunities. It is these capabilities that enable the “reading” of webpage content for effective contextual advertising. A recent study by GumGum, a contextual advertising company, and SPARK Neuro, a neuro analytics company, found that ads that match the underlying page’s content generate 43% more neural engagement and 2.2 times better ad recall. Contextual advertising can mitigate the impact of declining third-party cookies and provide a potent alternative for marketers.

Keys to successful advertising

The digital transformation of the advertising industry has provided multiple opportunities and challenges. While it is easier today than ever before to reach a larger audience through multiple platforms, growing content competition and rising privacy concerns have required marketers to be more creative.

At its core, successful advertising involves knowing your audience and identifying the most effective platform to deliver high-impact ads to your specific target group.

Resources for learning more about advertising

The advertising landscape is constantly changing, so brands need to develop new methods of audience engagement on a regular basis.


Here are some helpful advertising resources to help improve your strategies:

About The Author

Akshat Biyani is a Contributing Editor to MarTech, a former analyst who has a strong interest in writing about technology and its effect on marketing.

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them



8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.


As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.


Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”


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