What if performance advertising is just an analytics scam?
Modified behavior? Hmm. If Facebook and Google were really that effective at modifying behavior, wouldn't we all be Qanon cultists by now? If we can prove live TV ads have an elasticity of 0.1, why would we expect scroll-past-em-faster-than-they-load web ads to work differently? Here we come to the second-half of the performance advertising pitch: those perfectly-timed, perfectly-targeted ads will influence more people to buy your product that would have without them. Because the platforms have no incentive to make incrementality clear, ad buyers look at their analytics and think, "I should spend more on performance marketing!". Ads make CMOs, VPs of Marketing, agencies, consultants, and performance marketers look good: "Hey boss, we spent $50M and made $55M," goes down smooth. The brand marketers can say "4,219 tech CEOs saw our ads, and we're gaining mindshare." But, if I ever do convert, having this ad somewhere in my browsing history also makes their performance marketing team look like geniuses. In some sectors and with some brands, performance ads are super effective, adding massively to incremental sales. Similarly problematic for B2B, B2C, and DTC. But, no matter how sophisticated your analytics and testing methodology is, if you spend money on performance ads with the goal of boosting sales, this problem affects you.