800#s Don’t Deliver Attribution - They Distort It!
Direct Response marketers have used unique toll-free numbers for decades, based on the idea that they provide perfect sourcing, or attribution to the media that delivered the call – but for broadcast media (Radio & TV) this is a fallacy!
Certainly, attribution is key to efficient media spending. It allows marketers to know which channels or creative executions are working, and which are not, so as to guide reallocation of advertising spend. And for those consumers who are able to remember or write down the advertiser’s phone number and dial it, it does provide perfect attribution. But as our previous articles have pointed out, most consumers who hear/see the phone number in an ad are incapable of remembering a 10-digit number that is only briefly available. This obstacle to response means that inbound call volume is suppressed, and an interested consumer’s only backup option is to Google the advertiser later (and of course, further attrition of interest occurs between this intention and actually getting around to it).
Rule 1: Hard-to-remember 10-digit phone numbers instantly cause attrition in your prospect pool (many who are interested cannot respond)
Rule 2: If most consumers exposed to your ads cannot remember & dial 800#s, these numbers cannot possibly provide a complete attribution picture
Let’s say our consumer is intrepid however, and despite the distractions of traffic and work commitments and spousal requests, they make it to their web browser. Ironically, even when consumers know the URL of an advertiser, they enter it into Google, rather than the address line of the browser. That means that they not only see the link to the intended advertiser, but they see competitive advertisers!! In the example below, a person hearing the ad for “Brakes Only” and finally searching for them is also exposed to ads from Certified Auto and Meineke. The proprietor of Brakes Only cannot be too happy about generating potential leads for their competition (or they probably never realized they were doing so).
Rule 3: Hard-to-remember 800#s drive surviving prospects to Google, where they must survive competitive exposure
Be that as it may, some traffic does arrive at the intended website. Now we have to determine which ad campaigns drove the particular visits. Many broadcast media companies attempt to associate web visits to specific ad spot airings by mere time correlation. They credit a web visit to a spot if that visit occurs within 7-10 minutes of the spot time. If all consumers hearing the ad were seated at their PC and ready to visit the cited URL, or Google the company, that would be a valid methodology. But the fact is, 3 of 4 consumers are driving when they hear radio ads, so the chances of them executing that web visit within 10 minutes is slim – and beyond that window, attribution to that specific spot is probably not fair. The upshot is that the bulk of web visits cannot be accurately attributed to a specific spot.
Now if we only had a single advertising campaign running in a certain time-frame, it would be easy to determine (a) whether a campaign generated web visits, and (b) which campaign drove the visits. In the illustration below, the yellow triangle represents a single airing of a radio or TV ad, while the squiggly line represents web traffic. Clearly, the spot drove these specific web visits.
However, if like any national advertiser, there are multiple active campaigns across many media types, most of which drive consumers to the advertiser homepage (rather than special landing page), there is no way to sort out which campaign drove which visit. This illustration shows the theoretical traffic driven by each of three campaigns. But in reality, this traffic would only show up as total traffic by time of day (the black line) – meaning attribution to each of the three campaigns is not distinguishable.
Yes, it is possible for digital ad campaigns to utilize unique URLs (landing pages) for accurate attribution, but broadcast ads, where the consumer cannot engage via the same medium that delivered the ad to them can only drive consumers to the homepage of the advertiser, or to their general phone number, where attribution is lost.
Rule 4: It is impossible to distinguish the source of web visits to the homepage when multiple broadcast ad campaigns are active.
Radio and TV have lost media spend to digital platforms to some extent not because they are better, but because they are more measurable. Consumers can respond to a digital ad with a trackable click – and that’s not possible with broadcast ads, which require consumers to remember a method of responding, such as a phone number or URL. (Then they have to do it, which may be impossible if they are driving.) So there is a trade-off between memorability (ability to respond) and trackability (unique inbound paths). Vanity toll-free numbers are easier to remember, but not differentiated by channel. Unique 8XX numbers are trackable, but nearly impossible to remember.
What if you could have a memorable response method that is also trackable? We submit that a call-to-action of “dial #250 and say (brand)” is easy to remember and is trackable. If you are only using the #250 CTA in your radio ads, then you know Radio drove those calls. Even if the goal of your ad campaign is to “drive to Web”, you should be using the #250 platform to deliver your landing page link to the pocket of your prospect via our text-back feature (callers engage via the #250 voice call, but we send a text reply, with their permission). Even if you want these prospects to land on your homepage, we can set up a trackable short URL that delivers them there, and can isolate these visitors from all other visitors to your homepage.
Don’t stymie your interested prospects with an impossible phone number. And don’t ask them to visit your website, or text a keyword while they are driving. Give them the easy to remember and execute method of connecting to your business: #250.