It’s amazing how many marketers, journalists and business leaders have been duped into believing some of the biggest myths, mistruths and outright lies about marketing. Upon further reflection, it’s not that surprising. As human’s we’re genetically hardwired to be biased towards the new. So much so that we often discard the tried and true for the novel and unproven – even when the old stuff is proven to be vastly superior. And so it goes with marketing. Shiny new marketing tactics, technologies and theories become all the rage without a shred of evidence they work. Peddled by the marketing frauds and spread by the marketing naïve, dishonesty has become de rigueur and deceit has become dogma.


Armed with a healthy dose of skepticism, a ton of new evidence and a dash of common sense marketing mavericks like Les Binet, Peter Field, Bob Hoffman, Mark Ritson, Byron Sharp, Karen Nelson-Field are setting the record straight. In an effort to dispel and debunk some of the most egregious marketing caca making the rounds, I’ve shamelessly pilfered their findings and shared them here.


Advertising doesn’t work anymore.

Independent research firms, Ebiquity and Gain Theory recently analyzed over 2,000 ad campaigns across 11 categories to determine the impact ads had on both short and long-term profits. “Looking at total profit return on investment (ROI) over three years, the average campaign delivers a profit ROI of £3.24 per pound spent. This varies by channel, but all forms of advertising, except Online Display, deliver profitable returns when you look at their long-term impact.”

TV was found to be the safest ad investment a company can make with the highest likelihood of a profitable return. From safest to riskiest investment Print, online video, radio and out of home followed suit. Read more about the study here.


Online (digital) advertising is better than traditional.

Ebiquity recently conducted the most in depth study ever on the value of different media when it comes to advertising. They compared 10 different types of media to determine which ones were most effective based on the following 12 attributes: 

  • Targets the right people in the right time

  • Increases campaign ROI

  • Triggers a positive emotional response

  • Increases brand salience

  • Maximizes campaign reach

  • Gets your ads noticed

  • Low cost audience delivery

  • Builds campaign frequency

  • Guarantees a safe environment

  • Short-term sales response

  • Transparent third party audience measure

  • Low production

They then asked marketers to rank each of those media channels on the 12 attributes above. The results show a striking disconnect between what marketers perceive to be most effective media versus reality.

Social media, online video and online display are way less effective than marketers perceive them to be. See the full report here.


TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines are dead.

Despite the influx of thousands of new media channels, the old channels (traditional media) are thriving and evolving – becoming more important not less. That’s because traditional channels make online channels more efficient and effective. Offline, mass-market channels are better at growing brands and generating long-term growth. Online, targeted ads are more efficient at harvesting short-term sales. In other words, online advertising – for the most part – is direct marketing. Offline advertising – for the most part – is brand building advertising. Nothing really new here except the ways we can deliver direct marketing. The most successful campaigns maximize profits by investing in both. Unsuccessful campaigns put too much weight on one or the other.


In regards to ROI, traditional media is hardly dead. In fact TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines deliver a higher ROI than online channels. The smart money in marketing continues to invest their ad dollars into them. With all the data and targeting capabilities in the world online giants Google, Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon spend massive amounts on TV and other traditional media. For example, 80% of Google’s US advertising budget ($569 million) goes to TV. Why? Even with access to the best marketers, the deepest data and insights, and outstanding creative, you cannot achieve the same scale of consumer awareness via digital that you can with a significant investment in television and other traditional advertising.


Advertising is becoming more effective because of online search, targeting, re-targeting, tracking and attribution.

Actually advertising is becoming less effective because of the above. While search, targeting, measurement and tracking have certainly made advertising more efficient, they’ve also made it less effective. Here’s why. Most marketers are wasting money by spending way more than they should on short-term “sales activation” tactics (primarily online, direct sales) vs. long-term, mass-market brand-building ones. Instead of growing their brands and sales by reaching new people, they’re spending too much money reaching targeted people who probably would have purchased their products anyway. Attribution modeling favors online tactics resulting in more online spending. In Effectiveness In Context, world-renowned researcher Les Binet concludes that in order to maximize advertising return, marketers should be spending at least 60 - 75% of their budget on traditional brand-building tactics and no more than 25 - 40% on niche-targeted, online advertising. Unfortunately, most marketers are spending above 50% of their budgets on short-term online advertising. Read about Binet’s study here and an earlier study by the ARF that corroborates it here.

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The Sales Funnel is dead.

From a behavior standpoint, people still become aware of, get interested in, consider, buy, experience and re-purchase products like they always have. The only difference is, there are more tactical ways to connect with them along each of these steps (journey) than ever before. As Mark Ritson points out, “if you think the sales funnel is dead you’ve mistaken tactics (search, online banners, direct mail, etc.) for strategy

(sales funnel)”. Read Professor Ritson’s colorful takedown of this myth here.


Creativity in advertising is overrated.

Oh boy. I find those who are not so hot at creating great ads tend to spread this whopper. Here are the facts:


Total E-commerce sales are bigger than total bricks and mortar retail sales.

Nope not even close. E-commerce accounts for less than 10% of total retail sales. However, it's important to note that "total retail sales" also includes motor vehicle sales, gas stations, groceries, and other categories that aren't as affected by E-commerce as clothing or office supplies. Without them, the share of E-commerce spending would be more like 20%, according to market research firm comScore, which is still considerably low. By 2020 total E-commerce sales are projected to rise to 12%.


People over 50 aren’t worth marketing to.

The following facts were shamelessly lifted from Bob Hoffman’s blog The Ad Contrarian. Check it out here.

  • If Americans over 50 were their own country, they'd be the third largest economy in the world -- larger than the entire economies of Germany, Japan, or India

  • They possess 70% of all the wealth in the country

  • They are responsible for about half of all consumer spending

  • They buy 62% of all new cars

  • Despite the fact that many are retired, they still have 55% higher annual income than some other adult demo groups

  • And on average they have a net worth about 3 times that of the rest of the people

  • They dominate 94% of CPG categories

  • They are the Internet’s largest demographic constituency

  • They are much easier and much cheaper to reach than any other demographic group

  • Between now and 2030 they will grow at almost 3 times the rate of adults under 50.

Yet, According to a 2016 report by Nielsen, less than 5% of advertising is targeted to them.


Shorter headlines, body copy and videos are always better than longer ones.

The only thing absolute in advertising is that there absolutely are no absolutes. So the statement above can be and often is true but certainly isn’t always true. The most effective headlines, body copy and videos are ones that people find interesting. People will read or watch anything – even advertising – as long as they find it worthy of their time. Length has nothing to do with it.


Ads viewed on Facebook and YouTube are just as impactful as ads viewed on TV.

In an average second, TV commands more attention than YouTube or Facebook. And while attention is a combination of active and passive viewing, looking at active viewing alone, TV has nearly twice that of YouTube and 15 times that of Facebook. Read a summary of the study by Karen Nelson-Field here.


Mass marketing is dead. Niche targeting is the way to go.

Despite what you’ve heard, niche targeting can actually stunt growth. Here’s why. By targeting only those who have purchased your brand and/or shown an interest in purchasing a product or service like yours, you are missing out on reaching the biggest source of company growth. For most companies, 50% of growth comes from new and infrequent purchasers. This is in direct conflict with Pareto’s law which states 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. In How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp presents data that unequivocally shows growth is directly correlated with increasing the reach of your advertising and penetration of your product. To maximize growth, you should concentrate your marketing efforts on customer acquisition – not retention. To do this, your advertising should reach everyone in your market your budget will allow. Every marketing tactic and every media placement should be analyzed and justified by its actual reach. Every division ad should reach as many customers and end-users as possible. Every brand ad should reach as many potential buyers as possible across all consumer and professional divisions.


Long-term campaigns and big ideas are dead.

Different messages executed inconsistently with inconsistent brand imagery and tonality are bad business. In fact, ads for the same brand with varied creative strategies and inconsistent brand design can actually cancel each other out – making the ads and brand less memorable. On the other hand, having a big idea with a consistent brand message, look and tonality integrated across multiple media channels can increase ROI by 57%.

But most companies only run their ads on one or two channels. Each additional channel increases ROI – for up to 5 different channels in total. Seeing a brand advertised on different media triggers long-term memorability. Five channel campaigns are ideal with a 35% higher ROI than one channel campaigns.

And finally, long-term campaigns outperform short-term ones. Research by Les Binet & Peter Field proves that relying on short-term advertising strategies, tactics and campaigns will leave you massively short-changed. Campaigns that run for at least six months generate much higher growth than those that run for less than 6 months. Mediacom concludes that brand consideration will begin to drop at a rate of 15% per week and will revert to pre-campaign levels after only four months.

People want more personalized ads.

No they don’t. Personalized ads cannot be made without personal data. And people definitely do not believe sharing their personal data to get more relevant and personal advertising is worth the trade off. In fact, in a Pew research study 68% of people viewed targeted ads negatively and around 75% said collecting user information to personalize search results is not ok. Read about the study here. The only people who really think collecting user data to create personalized advertising are martech companies.

Want to keep up with the latest evidence-based marketing thinking?
Here’s a list of links to the marketing experts I follow:

Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian

Mark Ritson

Byron Sharp

Dave Trott

Les Binet & Peter Field (Effectiveness In Context - Video)

Karen Nelson-Field (A non-biased look at the impact of modern advertising - Video)

The Confessions – Digiday’s anonymous confessions of marketing pros

Rory SutherlandLife Lessons From An Ad Man – Ted Talk

Sir John Hegarty

Dr. Augustine Fou

Samuel Scott

Ehrenberg-Bass Institute


WARC (World Advertising Research Center)

ARF (Advertising Research Foundation)

Eternally Yours,


David Smith | Founder & Creative Leader
919.667.3717: c | 919.969.7500 ext. 3717: o

About Immortology

Immortology is a full-service agency specializing in creating legendary creative and strategic solutions that help our clients outsmart, outdo and outlast – not outspend – their competitors. Our secret? We help companies find their true calling and align it with their customers’ true wants and needs in ways their rivals can’t or won’t. Then we unleash it through unforgettable brand experiences that interest and entertain their customers, rally their employees and strike fear into the hearts of their enemies for years to come.

About David Smith

Over the past two decades, David has been the creative force behind some of the world’s most memorable and successful ads. His campaigns have been covered by the NY Times, Adweek, Ad Age, Time, The Wall Street Journal, LA Times and Media Week. Shows such as Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Inside Edition, CMT and CNN/FN have featured his work. The 4A’s recognized his movement, “Stop The Adness” as the “most transformative idea of 2011”. His campaign for Smirnoff Ice was the most successful product launch in United Distillers and Vintners’ history and his Lipton Brisk campaign has been included in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. Over 60 million people have viewed his videos for Triumph Boats worldwide.