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I half the money I spend on advertising is wasted

Rant alert: “I know that half the money I spend on Advertising is wasted… I just don’t know which half!”

I used to think the famous statement “I know that half the money I spend on Advertising is wasted… I just don’t know which half!” was really clever and a wry comment on the hit-or-miss nature of marketing…

Now I know more, I think otherwise.

I would love to be able to tell you who actually made the original comment… some say it was Henry Ford (Ford Motors, b.1863-d.1947), others that it was John Wannamaker (US department store magnate, b.1838-d.1922) or William Lever (Unilever, b.1851-d.1925)… but there are so many other candidates I can’t possibly list them all.

Actually I just googled the key words ‘Advertising + Half + Wasted’ – got 9,230,000 results in 0.39 seconds!


Old sayings like this from well over 100 years ago, survive not because they are true, but because business owners in a weird way WANT them to be true – it gives them a get-out clause for spending money on advertising and marketing that doesn’t work, and a reason why half the money they spend doesn’t make any sort of return.

What return are we expecting?

Cadburys wartime advertsDuring the Second World War in 1941, the UK government introduced strict rationing of non-essential food stuffs and so production of chocolate had to stop and the factories were turned over to making things to support the war effort.

Cadbury’s were laughed at by other sweet manufacturers because, even though they were not allowed to produce and sell their Dairy Milk chocolate any more, they continued to advertise it on posters and in the press.

So was this money wasted?


Cadburys wartime advertsEvery time shoppers went to queue up to buy their rations they were reminded of Cadbury’s chocolate, they remembered the taste and talked about it with others in the queue, and, even though they could not buy any, the advertising told them how Cadbury’s was ‘doing its bit’ for the war effort, and that soon everything would be back to normal…

After the war when sweet rationing was lifted, because of the advertising, everybody wanted to buy Cadbury’s chocolate. Sales rocketed!

What Cadbury’s had realised was that advertising is not just about making immediate sales.

Brand recognition and keeping your business in the forefront of people’s perceptions can pay huge dividends in the long run.


So how do you tell which parts of your advertising ARE working?

Before embarking on any advertising or marketing campaign the KEY QUESTIONS to ask are always…



SMART targets-03In marketing we use the acronym S.M.A.R.T.   


  • What are you hoping to achieve and why you want to achieve it.
  • Remember that immediate sales are only half the battle, don’t forget things like brand recognition, customer recall, hits on your website.


  • How are you going to know if your campaign worked?
  • Think about not only the number of sales generated, but also measure on-line activity, foot fall and other purchases made during the campaign.
  • Try to measure things like gender, age and time of day – all these thing add up to a full picture of what is going on.
  • Make sure you have something to compare this activity with, i.e., a before and after, otherwise – how will you know to what extent it’s worked?


  • How are you going to achieve your goals and do you have enough resources to do it properly?
  • List what you will need to do before, during and after, and assess if you can realistically do it all before you start – you may need to re-think or spread things out a bit!


  • Why are you doing the campaign?
  • Are the advertising/marketing methods you have chosen the best ones to reach your target market?


  • Is the time right?
  • Have you left enough time for the campaign to work?
  • Will you be sending reminders via social media, local radio, press releases?
  • When will your campaign stop?

So now you know why I get a bit miffed!

There is really NO EXCUSE any more for falling back on “I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted… I just don’t know which half!” !!!

Einstein quoteWith a bit of very straight forward planning and follow up, you will know which bits of your advertising are working, why and where they are working AND you will be able to do it even better next time because you measured it!

And to take another quote from the past (and I never rant about this one!), Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

I hope you enjoyed my rant and hope you found it both interesting and useful. I’d love to hear from you, so please do post a comment in the box below to let us know your advertising experiences!




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