One question I see asked at least weekly about ad campaigns are what is the typical ad campaign duration they start to work?
I always think about it too and it should be your first question! If you’re spending money then it’s your right to have at least a basic understanding of how long you should expect to spend it. Every person selling advertising has told me that it takes time to work. That’s just it though, they’re selling advertising. The longer you advertise the more money they make.
I’ve heard that it takes time to work from both Google and especially Yelp. Yelp and I have a questionable history of advertising which of course you can read more about. They’ve made a lot of changes in the past 3 years but that’s something I can’t speak to. I’m not willing to spend the money to take that chance anymore.
To be fair, Google has told me that too. I’m sure if you could talk to a real human being that works at Facebook they would say the exact same thing. Does Facebook have real people working there?
The most important question aside from “will this work?” is “how long will this take to work?”
Advertisers will always give you a rosy picture with data and graphs that tell you how wonderful their advertising works. The problem is that what they’re showing you is absolute best case scenario. They cherry-pick their best case scenarios and only show you that data.
What Advertising Companies Tell You
Advertisers are always going to give you the best case scenario from their examples of success. Their case studies aren’t an accurate cross-section of advertisers. They’re usually the exception.
That means you’re only seeing a small piece of the picture. Ad companies intentionally filter all the bad out and show you the finite good.
Ad companies will always tell you that ad campaign duration should be longer. They’ll say you won’t see results in the first few weeks to a month. Of course they’ll tell you that, they’re paid to tell you that and their job relies on it.
There’s always a “ramp up” time according to the salespeople. And to a certain extent there is for complete results. It doesn’t take that long to see if campaigns are going to work, though.
If they tell you the best results come after weeks to six months and others say no, who do you listen to?
How Long Should An Ad Campaign Duration Be?
There are many variables when it comes to an ad campaign duration. That’s what makes it so difficult to give you an exact duration. Maybe difficult is too nice of a word, impossible is more like it.
The time it takes for an ad campaign to be successful varies depending on your industry, where you’re advertising, and your budget.
If you’re selling a $50,000 service then advertising isn’t going to work quickly. Advertising might only warm people up to your brand or warm them up to the idea. Your campaigns might be 6 months or more and it’ll be hard to pinpoint exactly how it helped.
If you own a restaurant and are catering to the lunchtime crowd, advertising could have a more immediate effect. Although the effectiveness of an ad would be hard to track you might see an overall increase in business.
Online stores could have an immediately trackable success in advertising. Because tracking is easy for an online store, you’ll be able to see if advertising is working within the first few days.
So, that doesn’t give you much of an answer for an exact duration.
For most campaigns, you’ll see something happening within a week. That means you should at least try for a week but my recommendation for most ad campaign durations is two weeks.
So, two weeks. Give any campaign at least two weeks to see if it’s going to work or not.
But (yes there’s a big but) you don’t want to allocate only $5 in a two-week span. A minimum of $10 per week should be allocated to trying for two weeks and that’s entirely dependent on what you’re advertising. Experiment a bit.
If it works then continue until it stops working. Even if it works at first it will likely stop at some point. Platforms change their algorithms often and ad fatigue is a real thing.
Now the challenge is understanding when an ad campaign is going to work or if it’s a failure.
When You Can Tell It Isn’t Going To Work
There’s usually a time that you can point to and say that an ad is either working or not. That is if you’re able to separate yourself from the investment you personally put in to get things running. If you can separate yourself from your hard work then you’ll be able to see the point of success or failure.
When I advertised with Yelp the time it took for me to realize it wasn’t going to do much was one month (it was a three-month contract).
When I run Google campaigns they should start showing some results within a week if you have enough budget ($5-$10 per day). Some campaigns will be an instant hit while others may take a week for Google to learn what works best.
If my click-through rate (CTR) is below 1% after a week or two then I ditch that campaign and try again.
Facebook is different. It takes a bit of time for Facebook to learn who to show ads to and what works best. The better your Facebook ad targeting is, the quicker it will start working (if it’s going to work).
I like to give Facebook ads a five day to one week span with a $10 budget to see how it does. That’s a good starting point for any ad campaign on Facebook.
Sometimes an ad will work out and perform great. That doesn’t mean it’ll continue to perform well forever though. There are many factors that play into an ads success or failure.
How Ad Fatigue Plays Into It
No matter how well your ad does in the beginning, it’ll eventually fade.
The biggest players in ad success fading?
Ad platform changes and ad fatigue.
Ad fatique is where people are seeing your ad so much they simply get tired of it. After someone sees your ad a few times they’re going to stop paying attention to it let alone clicking on it.
Most companies that sell advertising won’t tell you about ad fatigue. In fact, they’ll tell you that the longer you run an ad the better it will perform.
That’s a lie.
While ad companies will tell you that you won’t see results in the first month and the best results come after 6, don’t believe them.
A contract for 6 months will more than likely end up disappointing. It won’t fail for everyone which is why they will show you a few successful case studies.
Some will succeed, many won’t with a DIY ad solution. Just as DIY websites don’t often work without more in-depth knowledge, DIY advertising won’t either.
You’ll have to do some deep thinking and analysis to understand if an ad platform will work for your business.
Not only that but you have to run the right kind of ad campaign for what you’re trying to do. Selling an expensive business service on Facebook probably won’t work.
If you’re selling something cheap and you’re advertising to people searching for it on Google then there’s a good chance it will work well.
It’s not possible to eliminate all risk from advertising. There are simple ways you can approach advertising to make sure you’re not risking too much.
How You Should Approach Advertising
Take advertising nice and slow with plenty of planning and preparing. Advertising may not work immediately but it should never take months to ramp up.
Any time a salesperson tells you their advertisers see the best results after six months it should raise a red flag. That red flag should also be accompanied by a deafening alarm bell when they want you to sign a contract for those six months.
No campaign should be beholden to a six-month contract and it shouldn’t take six months to ramp up.
What to do:
- Know your audience thoroughly before doing anything.
- Pick the goal you are going for and follow a path that helps you reach that goal.
- Pick the campaign type and network that best fits your goals. It’s all about the right strategy, especially on Facebook.
- Target in the right place for your audience.
- Plan your campaign thoroughly through the entire customer journey (including a great landing page).
- Invest enough in your budget but monitor your campaigns closely.
- Give your ads time but understand when they’re not meeting your goals.
If you do all of these things then you are more likely to have a successful campaign or at least know when it’s time to cut your losses.
An ad campaign duration is highly dependent on many factors. No matter what the factors are, monitor closely and make decisions weekly whether to keep going or stop.
Your industry and specific business will determine a lot about how you should approach advertising. You’ve been given general guidelines but specifics are hard to write about.
What it all comes down to is that you need to approach advertising carefully. It’s not always about the ads, either. Sometimes it’s just as important to have a professional website as it is to have good ad copy.
What’s your experience on when to keep going or quite an ad campaign? Let me know in the comments!