How To Course-Correct A Poorly Received Advertising Campaign

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Sometimes, an ad campaign just doesn’t land quite right with the target audience. Although you may have done your research and informed your strategy with data, for whatever reason, your efforts may be building the wrong kind of brand awareness.
Forbes Agency Council

When an advertising campaign isn’t well-received, it is key to figure out what the reason is before attempting to solve the problem. Here, 13 members of Forbes Agency Council each share the first step they would recommend brands take to figure out the root cause of the issue so that they can course-correct.

1. Revisit Your Target Audience And Align Future Campaigns Around Them

Be accountable to both internal and external audiences for the misstep, but also be ready with a course-correction strategy. That strategy should start with reviewing and revisiting your target audience, including who they are, what their pain points are and how their challenges can best be addressed. Next, make sure future campaigns are aligned across all of those areas. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.

2. Run A Focus Group To Understand What Alienated Your Audience And Why

Generating the “wrong kind of brand awareness” is usually a sign that your campaign messages alienated your audience. Before you do anything else, run a focus group to understand what alienated them and why. This will inform all follow-up activity, so you actually solve problems rather than making them worse. Don’t take further action until you understand what problems you’re trying to solve. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Pause And Research The Disconnect Before Slipping Into Communications

When a campaign goes wrong, it’s easy to slip straight into communications. That might be an apology, a clarification or a doubling-down. But, ultimately, when a campaign doesn’t land, there is a gap in knowledge—a disconnect between you and your audience. Before deciding on the next steps and how to recover, talk to your audience and find out what’s at the root of the issue. – Chris Martin, FlexMR

4. Identify Broken Connection Points Between Audience, Content And Platform

Always begin with your audience. Look at the connection points between audience, content and platform, and identify where the breakdown occurs. If you still do not see a problem, start testing immediately. Do not focus on one singular aspect of the creative. Rather than jumping to the conclusion that there’s a problem with your user experience or visuals, discover the core: Is it technical, creative, audience- or offer-related? – Albert Moufarrij, MACH9

5. If Your Audience Is Correct, Examine The Ad’s Content And Your Message

If your target audience is correct for the product or ad that you are promoting, then immediately turn to the content of the ad. You may not have the right message, or you may need to change your message and relaunch. Make sure that you are testing prior to the full release of a campaign. You can often detect the errors in content or target demographics during initial testing. – Sherri Nourse, Ambition Media

6. Align The Call To Action With The Audience’s Abilities And Motivations

When a campaign isn’t working or is not received well, the answer often lies in the audience’s inability to perform the campaign’s call to action. At these times, a campaign can be taken the wrong way or ignored completely. The answer is to adjust the campaign so that the behavior is easier for the audience to perform and in line with their abilities and motivations. – Roger Hurni, Off Madison Ave

7. Understand The Audience’s Perspective And Address It With Empathy

First, you’ll need to diligently go through the comments made by your audience on your ad creatives to understand their perspective. Once you know the exact reason why they disliked the campaign, come up with a message that addresses it with sincere empathy. Publish an apology accompanied by an explanation on all of your social media channels. Remember, winning your lost audience back is more important than trying to prove your point. – Ajay Prasad, GMR Web Team

8. Analyze The Data That Informed The Campaign And The Feedback

Analysis of the data and feedback is the first step to determining your next course of action. Ad campaigns aren’t created in a vacuum; data is utilized to make informed decisions about what resonates with a target audience. If the campaign didn’t have the desired effect, it’s important to first know why. Understanding what led to the undesired outcome is the first step toward correcting it. – Jonathan Schwartz, Bullseye Strategy

9. Explore Your Campaign To Find The Issue And Make Incremental Changes

The advertising landscape is constantly evolving, and audiences are changing their behaviors. What used to work a year ago might not now, but don’t scrap everything you’ve done. Take a look at your campaign to understand where the issue lies. Is the targeting too broad, or does it need to be more refined? Or, is the ad creative and messaging the problem? Make incremental changes to test your campaign. – Nathan Miller, Miller Ink, Inc.

10. Admit You Missed The Mark And Pinpoint What Was Lacking

Admit that you missed the mark and work on pinpointing what was lacking—either your intended audience or your message. If your audience was on point, look into engagement metrics and Web traffic reports and use social listening tools to understand what missed the mark. If you gained awareness but tarnished affinity, you had better own up to your mistake and perhaps even reference it in your next campaign. – Bernard May, National Positions

11. Immediately Pull The Campaign From All Distribution And Media

If a campaign isn’t received well, you can immediately pull it from all distribution and media. As you go back to the drawing board, relaunch any tried-and-true creative campaigns that have been effective in the past and refocus your efforts moving forward. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC

12. Use Social Media Polls To Ask Your Target Consumers What They Want

Many times, companies launch a campaign without doing any prior consumer research. The campaign is created based on what the company’s owners think will resonate with their customers. Posting polls on your social media—asking, “Who do you want to see as our next ambassador?” for example—is a great way to gain insights for your next campaign. – Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR

13. Gain A Better Understanding Of The Journey A Customer Takes With Your Brand

When a campaign doesn’t achieve the targets you set, go back to your understanding of your audience. Did you use buyer personas? Are those personas based on recent, relevant customer journey insights? Campaign success hinges on a thorough understanding of the journey a customer takes with your brand, as well as their desires, concerns and behaviors. Layer strategy and tactics on top to succeed. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

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