trendsetting ad spendA recent study by Kantar Media examines ad spend in 2013, breaking it all down by medium and looking at which formats saw the biggest bumps in investment by US companies. There were some interesting numbers: ad spend on TV slots, for example, is growing faster than digital, with Spanish language TV ads growing 9.4%. Digital display advertising, however, is nothing to sneeze at: its growth is healthy at 4.1%. It’s worth mentioning that this study excludes mobile ads, which everyone knows is one of the fastest-growing formats in marketing.

When looking at trends like these, many marketers’ first impulse might be: “If TV ads are growing at such a healthy rate, that means I should be directing a chunk of my ad spend to TV ads too.” Pump the brakes. Before you start moving dollars around, consider this.

You Should Be Spending Money on Ads That Work

It seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many marketers justify their advertising decisions with “It seems like the right thing to do.” Just because paying for billboards or TV slots seems like a no-brainer that comes with the territory in advertising doesn’t mean that it is the direction you need to go with your ad spend. Tradition shouldn’t be what guides your budget: results are.

If you want to base your advertising efforts on a “trend,” let the trend be a trend you set yourself. Measure the success of your ads with tools like call tracking numbers to get concrete data on which of your ads are actually driving leads. It’s foolproof: if you place a unique call tracking number in your TV ad, your newspaper ad, and your digital display ad, you can easily tell from real-time reports which of those ad efforts are actually generating calls. No guesswork.

Every marketer has had that head-scratching moment where they think, “Well, I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I’m advertising on TV. I have an ad in the Trib. I even put an ad on the radio. Now what?” The “now what” action item shouldn’t be “Hope for the best.” The “now what” action item should be “See what works. Cut what doesn’t.”

TV advertising might be growing faster than digital, but that doesn’t mean your leads will grow faster than they would with digital. Before you follow a trend, first see if you can set one.

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