11 Ways Your Paid Media Campaign Could Go Wrong

11 Ways Your Paid Media Campaign Could Go Wrong

By Jackie Van MeterSep 14 /2016

paid-media-campaign-gone-wrong.jpgPaid media is an important source of traffic, especially when you’re looking to stand out in an increasingly noisy online world.

But this doesn’t mean you can launch a campaign without any forethought and see instant results. You need to put strategy behind it.

Here are 11 ways your paid media campaign could go wrong. Learn from the following examples and common mistakes.

1. Misunderstood Messaging

You’ve probably heard of social media campaigns going wrong. For example, in August 2015, ballpoint pen manufacturer Bic shared an image on Facebook on National Women’s Day that read, “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss.” That didn’t go over well—especially the “think like a man” part.


Image source: The Guardian

So don’t make the same mistake with your paid media: Avoid potentially ambiguous, offensive or easily misunderstood messaging.

2. Failing to Try Different Channels

Unfortunately, you don’t really know what’s going to work for your particular audience and niche without trying. You should still make your best guesses about which platforms are going to perform best—whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google AdWords—and start with those, but don’t limit yourself to just one advertising platform. You may discover that your lackluster results are tied to the mismatched service you’re currently using to host your ads. You also may find that there’s a limit to the number of people you can reach with a particular service.

3. Poor Quality Imagery

Do your images look like they were designed by a kindergartner? Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to help with generating quality leads. Even if you’re working with a small team and don’t have anyone who can design graphics, you can always hire a freelancer using a service like Upwork. First impressions do matter, so don’t bet on poorly designed images with your next paid media campaign.


NatureBox uses a visually appealing, relevant image to entice the purchase of healthy snacks. (Source: HubSpot)

4. Failing to Test Your Images

This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. With paid media, your images are the first things people will see, so they will have a huge impact on whether or not they choose to click through.

Try testing your images with your audience before you initiate your campaign. Present them with several images, and see which ones they gravitate toward. This should give you a better idea of what images are likely to appeal to your buyer persona.

Many paid media services give you the ability to split test your campaigns. Use this feature if it’s available.

5. Failing to Optimize Your Ads

While paid media can help you reach your target audience, the self-service platforms aren’t necessarily designed to save you money. They want you to spend as much as possible. There are basically three elements within your control—targeting (who sees your ad), messaging (the text and image of your ad) and budget (how much you spend). Tweak these variables to keep optimizing ad performance.

6. Failing to Track Your ROI

Tracking and measuring the performance of a particular activity is fundamental to the success of your marketing. But you’d be surprised how many marketers don’t actually track and measure. First, you need to decide what to track with your ad campaigns. More than likely, it will be your conversions, whether email subscribers or customers. Then, you need to find and use the right tools to help you track results, like Google Analytics and UTM codes for tracking URLs.

7. Failing to Scale Your Campaigns

What’s the goal of experimenting and testing different platforms if not for determining which campaigns are winners and which are not performing as expected? To maximize results, you need to increase your spend in ads that are working, and decrease or eliminate spend on ads that just aren’t producing the expected results.

By scaling up your best-performing ads, you can amplify conversions and get more bang for your buck.

8. Sending People to Your Home Page Instead of a Landing Page

With an inbound methodology, the idea isn’t just to get people to click on your ads. You want to send them to a page where they can gather more information about your offer. You can increase conversions by adding value to them throughout this process.

There is nothing wrong with using ads to amplify content that’s already doing well. But you should avoid sending people to your home page, or to content that’s littered with distracting banners, ads and the like. A landing page serves one purpose: to convert. Use landing pages well, and you will see better ROI on your paid media.


Study effective landing pages, such as this one by Wistia. Choose a format that’s right for your audience.

9. Not Budgeting Enough

It may be necessary to launch a campaign with a smaller spend to assess its overall effectiveness, especially on a new platform. But committing to a smaller budget could be a mistake. There’s nothing that holds back a campaign like a small budget.

Think of retargeting campaigns. The whole idea is to get in front of your audience more often, and to encourage sales through repeat exposure. But there will be a limit to the number of times you can get in front of your audience if your budget isn’t correctly aligned.

10. Failing to Answer “Why?”

Traditionally, marketing focused on the features of a product. But if you were to walk into a car dealership today, for instance, you might actually have a better idea of the car’s specs than the salesperson. This is because smart sales teams know they can’t sell you on the features anymore.

As marketers, we need to become experts at answering, “Why?” We need to talk about the benefits of the products instead of the features. We need to explain what’s in it for them.

11. Launching Without Any Goals

What’s a surefire way to fail? To not know what your goals are!

When your goals are murky, your results will be, too. You need to decide in advance what results and key performance indicators to track.

When your objectives are clear, you can easily measure them against campaign data.

Final Thoughts: Launching With Confidence

Mistakes don’t typically lead to inevitable failure, so don’t try to be perfect. You may make some mistakes with your paid media, and that’s all a part of the learning process. Keep the bigger vision in mind. With practice and perseverance, your paid media strategy could quickly develop into one of the most valuable marketing activities in your organization.

Get your copy of the Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Paid Media to further develop your paid strategy.

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The Author

Jackie Van Meter

Jackie is a seasoned media executive with 17 years of advertising sales, online media and event marketing experience. Jackie has helped to launch four magazines and their corresponding websites and apps, ranging from technical trade titles to local glossy tabloids. Working with national and local brands, Jackie has a proven track record of offering her clients earned, owned and paid media to grow their bottom line.