Study Shows Facebook Ad Work Best With A Little Foreplay

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There’s a famous saying that half of the money spent on advertising is wasted, but the trouble is figuring out which half. In theory, the internet solved that problem by allowing marketers to see exactly which of their ads generate clicks and sales. That lets them run more of the ads that work and fewer of the ones that don’t.

But the even better tracking made possible by Facebook shows it’s not that simple. Advertising that may look like it’s doing nothing may actually be softening up consumers for the hard sell, while campaigns that only focus on results sacrifice effectiveness.

That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by Adaptly, the social ad tech firm, in conjunction with Refinery29 and Facebook. The goal of the study was to determine whether an ad campaign designed along traditional lines — one that guides the consumer gradually from brand awareness to product consideration to decision — is any more or less effective than one that consists exclusively of calls to action.

“There’s sort of an unanswered question in the world of advertising and media about the effects of delivering messages in a sequence as a way to bring a consumer through the classic purchase funnel,” says Sean O’Neal, Adaptly’s president. “Intuitively, a lot of advertisers say, ‘Let’s just skip the first two steps and go straight to the call to action.’”

Answering the question definitively through a controlled study required knowing precisely at what point each trial participant was exposed to each message in the sequence. Before Facebook, that was basically impossible. Even on websites that require log-in, passwords may be shared, leaving advertisers to guess at exactly who is seeing their messages. “An ID is one thing; a true identity is another,” says O’Neal.

For its study, Adaptly created a custom Facebook audience of more than 2 million people chosen to resemble Refinery29′s core customers. These users were divided into two experimental groups — one exposed to the three-part sequence, one only to calls to action (CTA) — plus a control group shown no ads.

The original article can be found on Forbes.