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Bryan Armstrong

Bryan Armstrong e-Commerce Director

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Advertising-What works and how you can know


             I heard a quote from a Dealer friend of mine the other day which struck me as sad “I spend $100,000 a month on advertising and only half of it works, the problem is I don’t know which half.” The funny thing is in many dealerships the G.M. or Dealer Principal may control or outsource the majority of the ad budget, yet the only Department held accountable to any sort of ROI standard is inevitably the internet. Why should this be? Agencies and Reps. spend huge amounts of time and money investing in building relationships with Senior Management, and are seldom held accountable to the produced results. Perhaps this is because it would reflect on them or on the Owner/GM negatively, because they can claim vague traceability or because the vendor in question once had a glorious track record of produced results.

                Whether it is ego or familiarity that feeds this folly there are plenty of tools that allow for better tracking on all mediums. Custom landing pages, whether it is radio or print all creative should direct traffic to a touch point inside your website where analytics can measure traffic and conversion rates. Also the use of unique call tracking phone numbers (I use CallSource for everything) will also give a clearer picture. I have gone so far as to ensure that every creative in every medium receives its own unique number. This allows me to see, though the consumer may have seen or heard multiple ads, which one inspired the all important click or call. The Custom pages I can do myself now in Cobalt and CallSource the only company I’m aware of that will, for less than $500 a month, provide self-provisioning, unlimited toll free or local tracking numbers that can be pointed anywhere I choose. You can even bounce that or Autotrader number to your own CallSource number, thus allowing instant reporting and recording of every phone call.

                In speaking with an e-Commerce Director over a large group, I was amazed at how small a sum of the total ad budget was under his direct control. Yet monthly he, as we all are, is held accountable to the sales produced by the total budget expended. This is equal to taxation without representation. Any Director worth their title is not just a student of the Digital Market but of Consumer behavior and has a responsibility to ensure the highest possible return on every ad dollar spent.

                So rather than sit and whine that too much is out of your hands, enact traceable means of measuring effectiveness. You will receive push back, as your radio and newspaper rep may say that multiple numbers will dilute your branding and confuse your consumer. This is a weak argument designed to dodge accountability. If consumer “A” has this week’s ad in front of them and your mailer, they will call the number off the creative that sparked their interest not sit and ponder why you have two different numbers.

Hold yourself accountable above all, if you made a mistake in your choice of ads/creative/delivery medium admit it. Everyone knows it flopped anyway. The upside is by providing clear concise reporting, you may end up with a greater voice in determining where next month’s budget is spent and an increased allocation (and hence reach and traffic) to programs that are working.

                Media is media and continuing to make a distinction between “new” and “traditional” is as my friend Ralph Paglia pointed out in this excellent “5 lies” post, pure folly.

*Disclaimer-Though I normally post every Tuesday, I had a learning moment on Sunday which led me to two revelations:

1. Sparklers should be lit one at a time, not grasped by hand in a bundle of six.

2. Emergency Rooms are quite busy at Midnight on Holidays involving fireworks.             

Bryan Armstrong

Twitter: @bryancarguy 


For more info or to discuss this article you can call me at 801-503-9535. It will ring right to my cell phone, you won’t have my “real” number and I’ll have a record of our entire conversation. I know there are many Companies that offer similar services, I am simply speaking of the one I chose and have had great success with. Should you choose to check out CallSource, the gentleman I have worked with at CallSource for years is:

Jeff Ward

Regional Sales Manager

888-496-1162 toll-free

Tell him you read about it here as self-provisioning accounts are NOT the norm any longer, but I’m sure he would work with you.


Good Luck!

Jim Bell
Great post as usual Bryan with great points. If you can't track the dollars your are spending, why spend them? I think a lot of dealers out there have an ego and want to see themselves on TV and it is darn near impossible to track TV and radio spend. Yes, you can throw a phone number out there on the tail of the commercial, but do people really pause their TV with the DVR to write that number down? I doubt it. I track every dollar spent and figure ROI on every penny spent. It needs to be done, or you just may be flushing money down the toilet.
Bryan Armstrong
Thanks Jim. I KNOW you "get it". Think of it as split-testing on a whole new level.
Stephen Brown
I have always had control over my ad spend, I've just always been shorthanded with a limited budget. It has forced me to abandon all forms of traditional media in favor of an online only lead source mix. What are some industry standards for calculating what a marketing budget should be?
Bryan Armstrong
"What are some industry standards for calculating what a marketing budget should be?" I've always tried to stick to the principle of 10% Meaning whatever GROSS is generated or expected to generate from any expenditure should yeild x10.
Jeff Cryder
I love this quote "Sparklers should be lit one at a time, not grasped by hand in a bundle of six". Spot on.

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