The Leading Cause of Death in New Media Tests (and How to Prevent it) Part I

Your spouse needs you to call the contractor but doesn’t mention your bill is going to double if you don’t call today.

The principal leaves you a voicemail and fails to mention they are deciding if they will expel your kid or not in the next hour.

Your boss wants to see you but didn’t mention your job is on the line, and the longer you wait, the less likely you are to keep it.


These are examples of situations where it would have been nice to know the stakes were about to change drastically, if you miss a deadline.

Of course, no one would really let something this important go without stating what was on the line was time-sensitive.

Except for you and 99% of the professional marketers I’ve met in my career.


This is a rookie move made by professional performance marketers time after time, and nobody talks about it. Brand new marketers come to offline and hope that it works like digital – turn it on and off on a moment’s notice. Or they think they’re taking a big step by running a two-week test. Sometimes, the more seasoned will run a 90-day program. But over and over again, advertisers enter into demand generation channels like Podcast, Radio, and TV with a limited budget, over a fixed period of time, with the intention of measuring results and then continuing, only if it works. But they neglect to match the deadline for a special offer on the channel to the scheduled end date of their time-sensitive media commitment.

It’s like they’re keeping it a secret.

But sadly, this move isn’t limited to rookies. This article is as much a confession as anything as I have experienced and battled the issue with advertisers who just finished their Series A, all the way through publicly traded companies and Unicorns who are looking to expand their marketing mix. It’s a constant struggle for anyone trying to balance performance and scale.

No one is talking about it, and it’s making me crazy. So rather than skirt the issue, let’s address it head-on.

This is not about hunting for the next great media bargain. It’s about making more new channels perform like the last great bargain you found, even if they are not.

That’s the mission of Oxford Road – best-in-market performance at maximum viable scale.

Let’s get some nuance out of the way:

1. Purchase Cycle: If you’re selling a B2B software solution with multi-year contracts, your approach and expectations should be wildly different than if you’re selling pizza.
2. Historical Buying Patterns: The market behaves differently toward Floral delivery around Mother’s Day than it does homeowners insurance in June. There’s a reason that before bed-in-a-box companies started getting all the attention your local mattress retailer made a big deal out of Labor Day. And there’s a reason that even Jon Hamm selling Mercedes-Benz still throws in a tag about the manufacturer’s latest promotion. The market has been trained, over the course of decades, that there are specific time periods to make certain types of purchases. Whether it was the marketer or the market who started those patterns doesn’t even matter. They are there, and they are real.

Questions to ask yourself when setting expectations around a new test:

1. What is the date that you will determine your campaign was successful or not?
2. What is the date that the audience is incentivized to respond by?
3. What are we willing to do to bridge the gap between the two? (Let’s assume your media test is going to run for 30-90 days)

Now pause to consider the insanity of expecting performance of your typical 30, 60, or 90-day media test to drive peak performance within that window. We typically slap on an offer code at the end of a spot but give no reason for the sale, no deadline, no urgency whatsoever.

I get it, you don’t want to be a hype machine, with the whole “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” bit. You’ve got a brand to nurture. But if you don’t have the money to budget specifically toward brand building, and this is really about executing a performance strategy in a way that you can stomach, you’ve got to look seriously at your options.

If you’re going to run media tests for a fixed period of time, you need to synchronize your flight dates with your execution strategy so that the audience knows what time you turn into a pumpkin.

Running for 60 days, wasting a bunch of money, then retreating because your evergreen message didn’t pull within the timeframe. Tragedy. Do you know how many TV and Radio programs never survived the first test or scaled because they got stuck in the evergreen-promotional strategy conundrum? It’s sickening.

“OK,” you say. “But what about the tests we’ve run that were successful right out of the gate and have now become a core part of our marketing portfolio? And what of all those brands who don’t deal in time-sensitive promotions, but seem to be doing just fine?”

Here are the possible reasons:

A. The product is so good that people will literally drop everything and try it now, even if they’re not currently looking for that type of solution.

B. It’s not working as well as you think, or nearly as well as it could. Let’s check back six months into the next recession or when the board starts pushing much more aggressive CAC goals.

C. You (or they) have built a marketing program on a foundation of highly exceptional media assets. In other words, just because you listen to podcasts and have seen success for yourself or other brands, it’s a TINY market. True performance marketers can only spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per month against a reasonable KPI if we’re using Podcast as the example.          That’s because the market demand hasn’t driven pricing up to its potential value, YET. Or you’re advertising on conservative programs where most big brands won’t go. But wait until you try to push those metrics into mainstream media. Wait till you’re spending millions or tens of millions of dollars per month on television and see how those metrics hold up on a channel-by-channel basis.

There are a lot of great performance channels that give you an illusion of how media behaves for a company. But at some point, the next phase of growth becomes much more difficult to achieve, and everything starts to feel more difficult.

This is Part I of a two-part series. See Part II in next week’s issue of “The Influencer”

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