Ad Spend Tracking: A Marketer’s Definitive Guide

As a small business or a start-up, you want as many eyes on you as possible! And there’s never too much publicity for a growing business who wants to make it big in the world. Being on the lookout for ways to manage your marketing budget is the first step to take.

Once you have the dollars lined up, you know how much you can afford to spend on the experimentative ideas you have in mind. The article addresses how marketers know when their ad spend tracking fails or succeeds, why and how we can go about monitoring your ad spends.
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What is ad spending?

Advertising spend, as a subset of your marketing budget, refers to the amount of money spent on advertising campaigns. This includes personnel and agencies engaged, marketing collateral intended among other costs incurred for the campaign. So why do companies spend millions of dollars on advertising? Very clearly and for a simple reason, they want exposure! And how the ad portrays the product and/or service influences the consumer decision-making process. As they say “out of sight, out of mind,” you want to also constantly remind your customers that you are here to meet their needs. The different types of advertising are as follow:
Type of ad Definition Examples
Online Advertising (aka Digital) Advertisement via the internet. Includes native advertising which is the digital adaption of the old print advertorials and sponsored content.
  • Google Ads
  • Facebook Ads
  • LinkedIn Advertising
Cell Phone & Mobile Advertising Another form of digital advertising through mobile devices such as cell phones, iPads, Kindles, and other portable electronic devices with internet connectivity.
  • Placing ads on major social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Print Advertising Advertisements printed in hard copy in publications (newspapers, magazines, journals).
  • Periodical Advertising
  • Brochures, Leaflets, Flyers, Handouts, and Point-of-Sale Advertising
  • Direct Mail Advertising
Guerrilla Advertising Broadly used for any marketing ideas that are creative, innovative and unconventional. Usually invites the consumer to participate or interact with the piece in some way. Not necessarily a large budget. Will spread via word of mouth and social media.
  • Viral or buzz marketing
  • Stealth
  • Ambient
  • Ambush
  • Projection advertising
  • Astroturfing
  • Grassroots
  • Wild posting
  • Street
  • Pop-up retail
Broadcast Advertising A mass-market form of communication including television and radio.
  • Television (digital and analogue)
  • Radio
  • Internet media like websites, blogs and podcasts
  • Online streaming
Outdoor Advertising (aka out-of-home advertising) Broad term that describes any type of advertising that reaches consumers when they are away from home.
  • Billboards
  • Bus shelter posters
  • Fly posters
  • Big digital boards on buildings
Public Service Advertising Primarily designed to inform and educate rather than sell a product and/or service.
  • Traditionally appear on TV and radio, but are also heavily promoted online.
Product Placement Advertising Promotion of goods and services within the context of a show/movie, rather than as an explicit advertisement.
Digital ad spending emerged as a rare winner amidst the COVID pandemic. According to a new report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and conducted by PwC, it grew 12.2% year over year in 2020 despite its initial falloff at the start of the pandemic. The report said the fourth quarter of 2020 saw the highest revenue on record for digital ads in more than 20 years – part of it accounted for by the US elections.

Digital advertising spending worldwide from 2019 to 2024, in billion U.S. dollars (Source: Digital advertising spending worldwide 2019-2024, May 2021, Statista Research Department)

Some reports contend that the digital transformation in ads spurred by the pandemic will be “permanent.” Aside from the pandemic moving consumers into their homes with their personal devices, one other key factor driving the growth in digital ads is to optimize spend data for the increasing accuracy of ad targeting.

What is an identity graph?

(Source: 6 Things Every Marketer Needs to Know About Identity Graphs, Signal)

Businesses pull together data sourced from multiple providers (online and offline) to identify broad customer profiles. You hear the buzzword “omnichannel marketing” very often these days, and identity graphs help businesses to do just that by enabling the ability to provide consumers a consistent experience they expect, regardless of the devices they are using or where they are in-person.

Managing ad spending

Now that we recognize the importance of ads in growing a business, tracking ad spending lets you evaluate if the campaigns are working fine. Ad spend tracking is important because once you go over the limit, the entire marketing budget is at stake. Firstly, there’s the 70-30 rule for managing budgets in marketing circles. You may know what channels work for your business – aka helped you to generate your ROIs or hit your KPIs, so allocate 70% for these ad spends. The remaining 30% should leave you some room for experimenting and innovating with new marketing opportunities.

(Source: How to Choose the Best Marketing Attribution Model, adpalor )

Secondly, as we talk about ROIs, consider tracking the impact on your revenue instead of focusing only on leads. While there’s the challenge of balancing every dollar spent with every dollar generated from your marketing campaign, consider optimizing data analytics tools to create more cohesion between marketing and profit generation. Marketing attribution platforms can help to drill down on metrics like cost per opportunity/acquisition, so that businesses can decide what gets credit for the final conversion.

Thirdly, put in the extra effort to frequently review and adapt. The last few years have been filled with fluctuations. Consider that your audience may behave differently on every platform, so it is important to keep your message consistent and as widely known as possible, while you adapt to the changing advertising landscape. In the aspect of company culture, have those regular team meetings to analyse ad spending and adjust it where necessary.

A snapshot of tips to manage ad spending (Source: Budgeting for Digital Marketing: Optimization Tips, Jan 2018, Workshop Digital)

Ways to track ad spending

Here we are breaking down some of the pros and cons of adopting the manual or automated way of tracking your ad spending:
Pros Cons
Manual Tracking
  • Simple to set up: No tech skills necessary and only pen and paper required.
  • Free.
  • Have to keep paper records on hand – Consider the clutter!
  • Risk of forgetting to record transactions: You can only record and have visibility into your transactions when you’re in the office where the books are being kept.
Automated Tracking
  • Usually also simple to set up and use.
  • Instantaneous and real-time recording AND tracking -> Don’t have to wait till the end of the month to do it.
  • Environmentally friendly and saves space in your office.
  • There’ll likely be a user interface for every electronic device – smartphone, laptop, iPad.
  • There’ll likely be a user interface for every electronic device – smartphone, laptop, iPad.
Whether you’re looking to track your ad spending the manual or automated way, there are some universal best practices you can follow to be on your way to efficiently monitor your ad spending. Like, adopt a consistent structure to allow easy communication and understanding. You can organize your expenses by business unit/product line, region, campaign framework, allocation, or even a combination of structures. Another tip is ensuring a single strategy and transparency on investments across the team. By keeping track of the status of your spend in an ongoing way, your team will know exactly how much budget it has left to spend at all times. Once the budget is made crystal clear to all your team members, the sooner they can move on to do marketing instead of spending time and effort to understand and correct the budget!

Can SaaS track ad spending?

When you have a small team, you may not have the luxury of having an employee to just monitor your spends on ad campaigns. This is where a SaaS service can come in handy for the purpose of payments. When you sign with Spenmo, you can create a custom virtual card for each subscription. Each card has a pre-assigned budget to track and control campaigns and subscriptions in one dashboard. On the same dashboard, you can easily freeze and unfreeze the card, modify your monthly budget, and create your custom cards whenever and wherever you are. Contrary to the traditional GIRO or credit card deduction, the pre-assigned budget makes sure that your subscription isn’t taking extra money. Now, you also pay your suppliers and vendors on time so that you don’t mount up on those late penalty fees!
Virtual Card for SaaS and Paid Marketing Spend. Try Spenmo today!

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