Ads for things you can’t buy


In a large residential or office building, it’s not uncommon for the building management to sign exclusive deals with vendors. For instance, there may only be one cable or satellite TV company that has the right to provide service to the apartments or offices inside a given building.

Whether this is good or bad for consumers is a topic for another post. I’m actually more interested in the impact these exclusive deals have on advertising and marketing. In particular, how much advertising money is wasted on customers who can’t possibly buy the service, due to exclusive deals that are beyond their control?

This problem isn’t limited to telecommunications services, either. A doctor may be advertising to people who use an insurance plan that they don’t accept. A restaurant might send menus to people who live outside their delivery area. The list goes on and on.

In short, even with a compelling message and great creative, virtually every ad campaign is going to waste some number of impressions on people who can’t buy the product — no matter how much they might want to. You can reduce the magnitude of the problem with tighter targeting, but it will never go away entirely. That’s OK, though. Just keep these unreachable customers in mind when you look at your conversion rates and similar metrics. Otherwise, you may be blaming a low conversion rate on your message and offer, when the real culprit is an audience that simply can’t buy anything from you due to other factors.