Flying Blind vs Flying With Instruments

I don’t fly airplanes. But I imagine that flying them without instruments would be challenging at best and terrifying at worst.

Some friends came to visit me the other day. They have recently bought a failed business and are going to relaunch it. The business had spent a small fortune on radio and TV advertising before it went under. They asked me if I thought they should return to the airwaves. I told them “hell no” and my reasoning was that you can’t measure it. It is like flying without instruments.

I suggested they only invest in advertising and marketing that they could test, measure, and then scale what works. And that is Internet advertising. Not just search, but the whole ball of wax. Search, display, video, social, affiliate, and of course, audio.

Speaking of audio, here is a short video created by our portfolio company Targetspot showing how Internet audio can be measured. If my friends do want to go back on the airwaves, I’ll make sure they watch this and buy internet audio versus old school radio.


Comments (Archived):

  1. baba12

    Do you believe in quality over quantity ( of advertising) especially given that advertising/marketing on the internet is fully measurable.

  2. kagilandam

    But why do people buy dead business? If it is for free or may be on revenue sharing … looks ok to me. Recently an Indian company bought Lycos for 36 million… what is your opinion ?Is the Indian company stupid ORIs the Indian company stupid?

    1. Senith statistics tutor

      I think the would try and use it to market their services (like Lenovo bought IBM’s deal). Everyone know Lycos but none (or few) know Ybrant Digital! $36 million is still a big marketing spend 🙂

  3. falicon

    hrm…Roy Williams ( of ) and a few decades of direct marketers would probably disagree that you can’t track radio advertising…maybe you can’t track it as well as digital, but I think you can track it.The bigger question to me is, why was the the business failing while spending a small fortune on advertising? Was the message wrong? The company operated incorrectly? The advertising mis-targeted? Or do they just have a product/service that really isn’t all that appealing to the general public?I think if you find the right message (and your product/service backs up your claims), advertising across all fronts will effective…and once you’ve found that ‘right message’, you should be getting it out there in all mediums that you can (because it’s like spending a $1 to make $2…and why wouldn’t you do that as much as you can or at least until the return goes down?)

    1. andyswan

      Exactly right. Ad channels are just levers. Each one will work (or won’t) to a different degree, and there are limits, but there’s no reason not to push the ones that work (until they don’t).The same innovations that make internet advertising so attractive are available offline. Now you can buy a $500 test run on radio and measure the impact. You can advertise to 30-45 year old women on TV during “real housewives”.The promise of the web as an advertising vehicle was not just track-ability, it was relevance. You didn’t waste money advertising to people that weren’t going to be interested. Now that cable TV and XM radio have massively expanded AND segmented audiences for you, the same is true there. Perhaps not to the needle-point level of targeting available online…but at some point you’ve “overfit” your strategy and you’re going to be missing out on huge opportunity because you didn’t know group B was interested.I’d challenge any of the “internet only advertising” folks on this thread to tell me exactly how they’d sell the shake-weight online. Or Pro-Activ cream to my aunt? Bottom line….different approaches will work for different businesses. Don’t rule anything out without good reason….certainly not because you ASSume you can’t segment/track the results.

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        Andy, I’m with you on that. Radio and TV do work. It all depends on your target, budget, available media… businesses don’t spend fortunes for decades without a reason.However, I must say that I’m surprised everyday by the customers we get from online ads in my business. Some of them are in their seventies and they find us on the internet! and I’m talking about Spain, where internet usage is much lower than in the US! Anyway, in autumn I’m planning a campaign to get more senior customers and radio will have a big role.

        1. RichardF

          silver surfers are a large and growing market. My dad’s 86 is fully “internet trained”, is waiting eagerly for his new kindle to be delivered and uses the internet to transact all the time. It makes his life easier as he is becoming less mobile (home shopping etc) and hard of hearing.

          1. Fernando Gutierrez

            Wow! All that at 86 is quite impressive!

      2. ShanaC

        One of the smartest comments I’ve ever heard- and it applies to any medium- no audience is that unique.And one of the things the internet proved was that direct ads can be measurable. It’s just what you are doing is different.They are now also being forced to get the same level of granularity.Further, you can advertise to some young women while watching “Gossip Girl” including in the online time. And that ad space is not being used effectively at all, no matter how many measurements are being applied to it. Creative on it is just god awful. Not memorable at all.

  4. awaldstein

    Fred…I’m with you about measurable certainly.I work a lot with ecommerce models that have found markets but have reached plateaus or searching for the kick to accelerated growth.I recommend every item on the list except Internet radio at times. I get the measurable part but need some info and data on the market part…case studies, usage metrics. You have some investments here I believe. I respect your suggestion to take a look. Would appreciate some links or better yet, someone to talk to about the medium in detail.

    1. Daniel

      Hello Arnold,My name is Daniel, I’m responsible for TargetSpot’s Radio Advertising platform.I will more than happy to show you (and others) some metrics, tracking options and optimization tools which you can use with TargetSpot’s to get positive ROI on your performance.Please find below my [email protected]

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks for the quick response!I’ll ping you shortly.

  5. Senith statistics tutor

    Will try targetspot for our business! Measurably is key.

  6. David H Park

    “I imagine that flying them without instruments would be challenging at best and terrifying at worst.”Fred, you’re making an assumption here based on a “saying” (e.g. ‘flying blind’) which leads to an improper analogy re: flying with instruments (IFR).The reason why pilots train to fly IFR is so that they are not “flying blind”. More GA pilots get into trouble when they try to avoid going IFR and ‘scud run’ skipping along low ceilings. Additionally those VRF only pilots who gets into IMC without the training don’t last long (45 seconds to loss of control leading to death I think is the accident statistics these days). Even those with an IFR rating who don’t follow procedure (JFK Jr) or who other estimate their abilities have issues (JFK Jr). However pilots with IFR training who follow procedure and utilize the system and skill set with discipline have lower accident percentages. The system and methodology exists for a reason.So it’s not about “flying without instruments” being “challenging” (at best) or “terrifying” (at worst) if those instruments that you’re taking about are for IMC. There is also the possibility that you’re “partial panel” where one of your instruments even for VFR flight is not working. That’s not “flying blind” but flying with less instrumentation – again training and procedure exists to troubleshoot and give the pilot in command options to conduct safe flight within the rules (notwithstanding issues from mechanical/system failure).Not being able to measure return on advertisting isn’t IMHO “like flying without instruments”. It’s simply not the strongest analogy because of the broad nature of what “flying without instruments” can mean (are you talking partial panel? VFR into IMC – the instruments are there just lacking pilot rating/skill set). The public’s use of aviation terms has turned “flying blind” into such a general statement which has negative connotations on aviation training and safety and I think you’re continuing the misuse here in your statement.Not being able to measure something is not being able to measure it but to it pump it up as being “challenging at best” or “terrifying at worst” ala “flying without instruments” isn’t the right framing.David H. ParkManaging DirectorTadpole Ventures

    1. David

      typo corrections “VFR” (VRF) and “over estimate” (other estimate)sorry, somehow system won’t let me go back and edit.’best.David

    2. Druce

      used to fly planes …. instruments are important to have but cross-check everything. A good pilot in an airworthy plane should have no trouble if all instruments fail (well, if not in the clouds over the mountains at night). Even the best instruments fail, or are not properly set up. You should certainly acquire and act on the best available information but in the case of advertising effectiveness, measurement is imperfect compared to a properly functioning altimeter or GPS.

  7. andyswan

    I bet Rush Limbaugh has a few sales points on how you can track radio advertising. Just ask proflowers or lifelock.

    1. BmoreWire

      It’s actually amazing how much higher your conversion rate is if the host reads the commercial (even if recorded) versus if you just run it as a non-host read.

      1. Jared McKiernan

        Reminds me of Paul Harvey. Any product sounded important and trustworthy in his decadent radio voice.

  8. Deckerton

    Fred is obviously heavily influenced by my profile pic. Klout should factor that into their algorithm.

    1. Deckerton

      Oh, and Fred happens to be right. Advertising’s immeasurability makes no sense in the age of “click” customers. Its an outmoded model of new customer acquisition.

  9. Dave Pinsen

    Fred,There’s a very simple way of measuring radio or TV advertising, one Andy Swan alludes to elsewhere. The ad can say, “Say you heard about X on the Rush Limbaugh for a special gift/discount” (for people who call in orders) or “Enter promotional code “El Rushbo” (or whatever) for a special gift/discount” (for people who order online). Then advertisers can track how many people order after indicating that they heard about the product on a certain program. That general idea predates TV and radio advertising. Claude Hopkins wrote about it in 1923. Also, in the interests of full disclosure, you should note that Target Spot is one of your portfolio companies.

    1. Deckerton

      Depending on customers to remember a code to help you track advertising is like depending on a passenger in seat 3A to tell you your altitude and offering free peanuts as an incentive. Instead, we should use an altimeter.

      1. andyswan

        No, actually it’s not at all like that. The analogy would be more accurate if you said it’s like depending on the passenger in seat 3A to tell the attendant “DECKERTON” and offering a $20 credit on the flight as incentive.Yes, there will be slippage….but that too is measurable and predictable. How else do these kings of radio keep businesses like proflowers and lifelock (who KNOW their acquisition costs and lifetime value like no other companies on earth) paying millions per month?

        1. Deckerton

          Companies continue to pay for advertising for the same reason they continue to pay for on-premise software. Bad habits die hard. Fortunately, a new era is dawning.

          1. andyswan

            That’s just misleading or willfully ignorant. I’m referring to NEW companies. Lifelock and proflowers literally built their 9 figure businesses on the back of radio ads. These aren’t “bad habits”.Do you really think Rush Limbaugh makes $40m/year on AM radio because advertising with him doesn’t make the phone ring?Do you really think Carbonite, founded in 2005, is renewing million dollar radio ad spends out of old habits? Wow.

          2. PhilipSugar

            A little harsh, but right on the money, actually scary accurate because we were thinking the exact same thing.

          3. PhilipSugar

            Add StubHub to the list. Built totally with radio ads….sold to eBay for $310M…..that doesn’t suck.

          4. andyswan

            How….HOW have we commented on all of these posts without mentioning BILLY MAYS HERE!The man sold more product than all of these….ehhhh…nevermind

          5. Dan T

            can’t help but pile on here . .another amazing business local to Philly – nutrisystems – reemerged from near death with tv, radio, newspaper and internet ads focused on before and after pictures. internet was a small piece of the puzzle and they had an amazing grasp of cost of acquistion, return on investment and churn. Radio does pay for some businesses.

          6. Alex Murphy

            There could be a great pile on for this, but how about Free Credit Report … anybody hear the jingle in their head or see the band in the basement?

          7. Dave Pinsen

            What Andy said. I happen to be typing this comment from seat 4A right now, where I paid $13 for in-flight WiFi. If the flight attendant told me to enter “DECKERTON” in a website to get reimbursed for that $13, you can bet I’d remember it. Customers love saving money, which gives them an incentive to remember where they heard about a deal. You’re right that there are more accurate “altimeters” elsewhere, but higher levels of accuracy don’t always translate into better advertising. An example of that, I think, is Google Adwords, which has comprehensive analytics, but as far as I can tell seems to be a much better deal for Google than for its advertisers.

    2. andyswan

      Funny thing is….after all the convoluted b-plans I’ve seen, and my own experience…..I’ve made it a goal of mine that the next business I start will have a “product or service that Rush Limbaugh can sell in 30 seconds.”That’s the kind of simplicity, scale and profitability I’m after next at-bat 🙂

      1. Dave Pinsen


    3. fredwilson

      sure, that’s the old wayit’s not as good as the new way

  10. Mark Essel

    As a recent customer of TargetSpot I give them a 10/10 for service which helped me get less expensive clicks compared to Google AdWords and Facebook. Wrote about it in today’s post. Special thanks to Daniel Razumov.Appreciate the tip about your portfolio company, TargetSpot has great potential.

    1. awaldstein

      Hey MarkService, cost and reporting are all important. Most pertinent though is results…which are measured simply by whether your market is there and how easy target them and did they convert.Did radio through TargetSpot do that for you.Surfing over to your post to see if those are answered.

      1. Mark Essel

        I haven’t closed the loop from advertising to actions (subscription/advertising through us). We do know where visitors are referred from with analytics. Right now my only goal is determine if there’s significant market interest in such an event based location tool by building subscribers in a dedicated area. So far it’s slow going, we’ll see how integrated maps affect performance. Personal feedback from friends have suggested high value in such an addition.

        1. awaldstein

          This is a great topic…and would be a good one for actually.Adopters and market understanding is a necessary and measurable goal. Advertising for them is a usually inefficient method…but I’d love to be proven wrong.For Facebook specifically, where you can deeply target your targets, it can work but it works better as an event recruiter…target ads for something for your Facebook community, build something on the page that has value. Kinda priming the pump for a valuable social experience.If you want to share your results with me, I’ll give you my take.

          1. Mark Essel

            I guess the tried and true way of word of mouth is the most practical way to spawn a successful product. If it doesn’t spread on its own, tweak it till it does, or let it die.

          2. awaldstein

            The longer I do this the more I believe that each company and product is unique.Sure…lot’s of tools but let’s not confuse the tools with the message or the platform with the brand.Some of those channels might work Mark, just keep focusing on the core value of your product and creative thinking in connecting that value to early adopters.

        2. Alex Murphy

          Mark, You should consider putting together an affiliate program where you pay per subscriber and see if you can get some super affliliates to drive new users to your platform. It is a great way to see if there is a market fit.

          1. Mark Essel

            Hadn’t considered that route thanks Alex

    2. fredwilson

      great post. i was really happy to see you got a 50 cent cost per click with internet radio

  11. Andrew Ice

    I tend to disagree on this strategy in general. Yes internet advertising is more measurable than traditional mediums. And outside of some keywords on Google search, its also infinitely cheaper as well.But there is a reason for this. I’m a big believer over time in price being reflective of value created and most internet advertising is still extremely cheap precisely because it is creating very little value. Ever wonder why you still get all those advertisements in the mail? Because it STILL works.I think the the future of advertising in the long run looks great for the internet, but its not there yet. Moving away from CPM and CPC models to CPA is the right path, but I wouldn’t abandon other forms (including direct mail depending on the type of business) in the near term.

  12. D. Lambert

    It’s true that traditional media advertising can’t be measured precisely, but there are ways to get in the ballpark. I did some CRM work for some folks that wanted to track leads based on media campaigns. To begin with, they used a different 800 number for different campaigns to try to track lead sources. They also tried to time media exposures so that incoming calls for some period of time (a week or two, perhaps) could reasonably be attributed to the most recently-run campaign.As others have pointed out, there’s certainly leakage here, but I don’t think the situation is quite as dire as having no clue whatsoever.

    1. PeterisP

      Different 800 numbers may work, but a very significant error factor in this way still is that in the ‘connected’ demographic people react to radio and TV ads by looking up the company or product name through google instead of trying to write down a phone number while the ad is running.If the media exposures are rare and can be timed for some separation, then you can attribute this, but if you have continuous ‘branding’ ads going on through long-term outdoors advertising, sports sponsorship agreements, etc, then it’s quite hard to separate the effects of each campaign.May be industry specific though, I’m talking from experiences in retail banking for private individuals here.

  13. Deckerton

    It should also be noted that measurability isn’t the only way that advertising is failing. Its also the high complexity of managing and tracking ad campaigns that will make it a thing of the past.

  14. paulmunsch

    I think the real question is here is if TV and Radio are efficient and targeted enough for the business. There are a few different ways to measure broadcast media but it takes an extra step and additional resource to happen.

  15. PhilipSugar

    I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. Privately I can email you a CEO who has raised well over $50M from top tier VC’s and closed a big Mezzanine round this year. He spends millions on radio and he knows exactly what works and what does not.Understand my business directly benefits from the decline of mass media (let your customers control their relationship with you versus you trying to control something you can’t)However, I would not say radio is dead.

  16. pgombert

    Fred -I generally agree with your opinion, but you missed by a wide margin on this one. I am the CEO of a local marketing platform called Balihoo and we work with nearly 30,000 local businesses to make their marketing both more efficient and effective, so we deal with this particular issue on a daily basis. The single biggest reason for failed local marketing is lack of strategy, not lack of measurable results.As some of the commenter’s above allude to you certainly can measure (albeit not quite as accurately) the effectiveness of traditional media, but that is not the point. The fact of the matter is that digital, traditional, social, PR and networking all work together to produce a cohesive front for marketing a local business.Some tactics/mediums (print, digital, tv, radio,etc) work better for some businesses than others and to discover which apply to your business takes trial and error, but failing to have a marketing strategy that is well executed and continually refined is the single largest inhibitor to local marketing success.The options today for local marketers are endless and more complicated than ever and without a strategy local marketers are generally pissing their money away, whether it is on digital or traditional media.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Appreciate that you mention marketing strategy because this was a burning thought for me as I read through some of the comments — wondering how much the effectiveness of advertising is influenced by the other elements of marketing that surround it and the overall marketing strategy it is a part of. As I understand Fred’s post, he was talking about “measurability” rather than “effectiveness” per se, but it is understandable that some of the comments turned in this direction.

      1. pgombert

        Thanks Donna. I completely understand that Fred was talking about measurability vs effectiveness and that was my point. To blindly dismiss traditional radio, tv or even newspaper simply because digital is more measurable, is irresponsible and not at all the right approach.Being able to measure results is very important, because you can’t manage what you can’t measure, but it is only one component of overall marketing success and to base an investment on how well you can measure the results is foolish.The equivalent in my mind is telling Fred not to invest in early stage companies because you can’t measure their value as well as you can measure the value of a public company. He knows quite well that there are ways to value early stage and even seed deals and that they play an important part in the overall portfolio – the same is true for an integrated marketing mix.

  17. BmoreWire

    I think Radio and TV DR advertising are ripe to pave the way for big brand (much like it did on internet). People with large DR budgets like myself are starting to tap out channels like search as specific keywords get more and more competitive and good optimization technology gets more and more accessible to all advertisers.This is making me push more money into display and spend my way into figuring out display channels. And that is leading to discussions with cable TV networks for DR testing. A pretty useful company called Ring Revenue helps with call tracking and basically acts as an adserver for TV/Radio/online inbound calls which is helping us DR advertisers who have spend the past few years online go back into offline channels. So I guess it’s a set of instruments to let you try flying offline again on your own.

  18. PhilipSugar

    JLM what do you think? Some of the most enjoyable hours I’ve logged have been in a Steerman and a Cub. Basically no instruments…Sorry Fred, I just had to pile on a bit….I don’t know why I seem to be humming “The Bug” from Dire Straits 🙂

  19. Daniel

    Hi again, it’s Daniel from TargetSpot.By the way, we do have a tracking pixel/conversion tracking code (works exactly as Google’s AdWords analytics)so you can easily see your ECPA and to optimize your campaign accordingly.for any questions please feel free to reach me by my email: [email protected] direct phone: 2126310500×411

    1. Mark Essel

      Great to see you commenting here Daniel.

  20. William Carleton

    Fred, this comment is self-interested because I am a friend of the founder and I represent his startup, Quu, Inc., but Quu has built a platform that that lets traditional radio stations offer their advertisers a way to track the effectiveness of their ads, to offer coupons, even to reach a station’s listeners (those who opt in) directly. Remains to be seen if legacy radio will get it or let themselves be disintermediated, but Quu may give the legacy radio business new life.

  21. Morgan Warstler

    You kinda screwed your friends. Hopefully, they’ll read this.The Internet has it’s place, but I can say generally for anything DR – TV and Radio is far better – you only pay on sale, and the audience is far bigger.Maybe you are unaware of this? PPC is becoming a huge part of TV and Radio. Essentially you only pay to test an ad, until you have a winner – one that works, after that it runs on the come. No media costs.I can also say, TV is definitely a play for BRANDS as long as they can add-in a response mechanism. That’s where SMS and mobile Internet comes in… and now EBIF on cable, which is even better.Making use of any kind of response, the metrics are just as good, if not better, and the audience so much bigger. Ad Men aren’t dumb Fred, there’s a reason TV rates are going up, and Internet rates are well sitting there.—-Finally, I’m not as convinced as above, but some straight old school Madison Avenue brand guys have some pretty solid arguments about the effectiveness of TV.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t think so Morgani’ve seen so much money wasted on TV and Radio over the yearsthat advice was costly for me to learn

      1. Morgan Warstler

        Fred, the numbers don’t lie. TV is growing. More importantly, if you ran TV with a response (call or sms), then there is no way you intelligently lost money. It is as quantifiable as anything online.Maybe you could elaborate between your experience and these basic facts?

        1. fredwilson

          that’s not what the company my friend’s bought didnor was it what the companies i invested in didif you can buy DR TV and pair it with sms or ivr, then i think you may havea model that does work

          1. Morgan Warstler

            My point is Fred, that THE INTERNET is the response mechanism that makes TV so much better.Think of it this way – SMS outperforms and 800# by a factor of 4. You don’t have to talk to anybody, you just send a text message. And EBIF is even better than SMS. I’m sure Dave Morgan at Simulmedia will back all this up.Ask him. Just on say DirecTV, new shows are now running “click here to record” over their promotions and in the OnScreen Guides to increase viewership, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Soon, it will be click here for your phone to ring and have the Dominoes Pizza lady take your order and give you $5 off.In other ways right now – every brand now has an incredibly expensive web site that gets very little traffic (comparatively) – it is dumb not to run SMS call outs at the bottom of the screen, even for market wide ads and capture build a list of users you can text and send a link to your mobile application, or send them a text and drive them to your web site, capture their email, and on and on.Ultimately it comes down to cost of customer acquisition and lifetime value of customer. And TV is kind of the backbone for all these other things. Like robbing banks, that’s where the eyeballs are.

    2. Jared McKiernan

      While TV is certainly effective on wide audience products, I’m not sure if it’s being used ideally by most of the big spenders which drive the cost of advertising. I’d love to see some of the figures behind these Madison ave arguments, but I would be surprised if the primary driver behind the size of ad buys is the same as it’s been for years: your competitors are doing it, you don’t want to be left behind, do you?

  22. Mark Stansbury

    Internet radio is ripe for some location-based advertising. Pandora keeps pushing KFC on me. Not only would I never eat a meat-meat-meat sandwich, but I don’t even know where a KFC is. So it’s a double fail. But if they started pushing the record shop two blocks away (buy this music here) or a nearby restaurant running a special (where to go for today’s lunch) … now that’s advertising!

    1. fredwilson

      that’s why targetspot has the word target in its name

  23. Alex Murphy

    Offline advertising can be measured. It is not as precise as say a Paid Search campaign on Google, but you can certainly measure lift, conversion, customer attribution etc.There is a key difference between market creation and market execution. If a potential user “knows” what they are looking for, then they will go to Google and search for something like it and you can execute on converting that user into a customer. That is market execution. Alternatively, if a potential user is a good match for the product but doesn’t know that the product exists, using offline advertising is going to be one of the best and most cost effective ways to make the user aware that it exists, this is Market Creation. Some online mediums do a little bit of both, for example Display. Display can often be targeted to an Audience segment to do more Market Creation or to a retargeting campaign to do more Market Execution. Display campaigns focused on Market Creation are just as expensive as TV and Radio campaigns in terms of cost per X impressions. The difference is that there is a much lower barrier to entry.Early on, focusing on the Direct Response mechanisms is going to be the best way to go until you need to increase the size of the pie.

  24. Darren Herman

    Fred, I think you nailed it in the post title: Flying Blind vs. Flying with Instruments. If I found out that my pilots didn’t have the proper instrumentation and I was 30k feet in the air, I would be searching for the parachute and hopping out of the plane!I spent the past 10 years building digital media companies and was really focused on early stage startups (up to Series B). We lacked instrumentation to properly measure all media channels so we gravitated towards DR-mediums that we can directly measure… and look for correlations/causations between the DR-mediums in a very simplistic way.After spending nearly 3 years on the agency side, specifically within media…. we were flying blind within the startups. The tools and resource that we (and other agencies) provide to our clients who are investing large sums of money into customer acquisition are quite extraordinary. As a startup, we didn’t have access to these tools as we didn’t have an ad agency working with us AND we weren’t spending enough to justify the use of these tools.Most tools are built on models – and as we all know, fantastic models have access to lots of data. Generally, the more data you receive is based on the more money you spend/invest in customer acquisition. For many early stage startups, this is a problem – as testing the media mix across many channels and weight levels is hard to do with a $10k/mo media spend.For startups, I can relate to your post about flying blind… and I think that most of this is due to the lack of data to create statistically valid models off of…and additionally, the media research people within startups to help with this (market weight mix models, etc). Before I joined the agency world, I thought print, radio, television, OOH (out of home) and other channels were dead. If you read techcrunch and other similar blogs/news outlets, then of course you would think that.After 3 years agency side – those channels aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t going anywhere because they actually work – though just like anything else in life, they will evolve (and I’d argue they are all getting digital backbones). Knowing how to go beyond DR-tv and use national or even prime is an art & science and that’s why we see many large companies investing in this manner… they know the right amount of GRPs/TRPs that can move “product” within a given market along with all the other media channels that are working for them.Where advertising gets a bad rep is around “Brand Advertising.” WTF is that? All pieces of communications should lead to an action… not just stop on the company slogan. If you want to close a deal or sell a product, don’t you ask your prospect a direct question? The answer is yes, so why not use this within the creative. The most measurable creative are the ones that use a call to action with a strong reason to believe (RTB). Sorry for my ad rant, but as you can tell, I see a huge opportunity to help startups successfully deliver ad campaigns leveraging the scale of agencies.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Darrenyou are way closer to all of this than i am and i appreciate you taking the time to share with us your perspective

  25. jonathanmendez

    “The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers, and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.”- David Ogilvy

  26. Mike Duda

    Annointing one means of advertising as an absolute and only means to do ANY advertising is the equivalent of anointing a sole winner of the lean-versus-startup debate. It’s wrongly dismissive towards whatever the individual situation might be which could be PR as much as broadcast television.

  27. Donna Brewington White

  28. Donna Brewington White

    Fred — are you saying that internet advertising is preferable simply because it is more measurable, or are you also suggesting that it is more effective?

  29. Chris Voss

    Awesome post Fred! Its so true, one of the failure examples I tend to notice is people restarting failed restaurants over and over in usually what I call “location locked” properties that cause them to fail. Real estate is location, location, location. I seen 4-5 restarts at the same location and I’m sure the draw is the property has a kitchen already etc. In the end the location sucks and business’ continue to fail there, usually until someone changes it application.In business it does amaze me how people will do the same things that fail. When I would buy companies that were failing because of the entrepreneurs failed strategy, the entrepreneur would be usually insulted by our offer and decide to “amp” it up because we saw opportunity there. So usually after giving us a first right of option to buy agreement, they would amp up the failing techniques in their plan and go out of business quicker. We found we had to call them often to check in otherwise they would call us a week before bankruptcy court to get the money to save the company.Its silly what people will do and keep doing the stupidest things over and over. Action is not progress or innovation, sometimes its just masturbation.Chris

  30. jehutson

    Just as an aside, anyone getting their pilots license is forced to do an exercise (and pass the exercise) called “Flying Bling”. In this exercise you are forced to fly the plane with ZERO instruments. You must then land the plane with ZERO instruments. The purpose of this exercise is to make sure that you can feel the plane and learn to fly it if something goes wrong with your instruments.So to elaborate on your analogy here, Flying Blind is not as safe or easy as flying with Instruments – but you can still use those “old fashioned” approaches of talking to your customers, getting feedback from them and measuring how and where you product is or is not moving. Particularly if you are using a medium that is not the internet, measuring things that are not direct isn’t easy but it can be done.Nice to see you putting yourself out there Fred and getting somewhat flogged here 🙂

  31. Josh Gordon

    Fred, your take on this one took me so much by surprise that I had to take a minute off to write! Yours is one of only daily posts I religiously read every day, and I agree with most of what you write, but couldn’t disagree more here. My business (brick-and mortar, different than most people here I presume) is being built off un-measurable advertisement. One of the major sources of our clients is Adwords – people see our ads, click, visit our website, then decide to come in (or not). When they come in, we ask them where they heard about us from, they say google, yelp, friend, etc, and then we do conversion and ROI estimates. It’s different than our online retail store, where we can measure strict conversion ratios.I’m not inventing the wheel, but here are two examples of how to get measurable results from “un-measurable” avenues: The first comes from the world of science. You hold all advertising channels stable and start advertising in a new medium and then measure how business grows (or doesn’t). Is it 100% perfect? No. But it’s good enough in the world of science (this is how medical experiments are conducted!), and it’s certainly good enough for us. The other way is to include promo codes, such as in the way Go to Meeting advertises on FX television (i.e. enter promo code FX to get XYZ special offer).Bottom line, the company you’re invested in, which produces measurable results, is great; perfectly measurable results are no doubt better than estimates. But different advertising channels work for different businesses – and each case needs to be judged individually.CheersJosh