The #1 Error in Commercial Video Production

Video Production

OK, yes, it’s true: there are in fact numerous errors that can be made when planning or hiring professionals for a video production. So how can only one be prioritized?

In my years of producing over 1000 videos for TV, web and social media, the #1 error that I encounter boils down to this: Someone with good intentions and influence — usually an executive or business owner — initiates a project by saying, “I’ve got a great idea for a commercial. Let’s get it made.”

Indeed, this is a source of good business for video production professionals. And having a clear vision can make the process of creating a video more efficient. But it’s usually ‘not’ the best way to represent a company’s economic and/or marketing interests — particularly for commercials.

Does this mean it’s always bad? No. But the odds are stacked against any gut instincts when such may lack the experience to embrace all the factors that make a successful video — whether that be a brief commercial or something more substantial.

A better approach would be “We should consider video. Let’s explore this.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one’s gut instincts or inspired ideas should be ignored. The idea could be valuable to informing the general concept. But it would be wiser to consider such within the context of what you’re trying to achieve in parallel with budgetary factors.

To put this in perspective let’s explore a few key points.


First of all, it’s common that an inspired video idea might be beyond one’s budget, which would immediately curtail the project.

Secondly, is the budget just to produce the video? Or does it also include money for broadcasting, distributing or in some way getting the video seen?

Sure, you could post it on Facebook and YouTube for free. But if you spent any meaningful resources on the video, the likelihood that it will generate enough exposure to make the project a success is low. (Viral videos are an exception to the rule, in the same way that winning the lottery is an exception to sound financial planning).

By the way, using Facebook and YouTube as part of a strategy to get your video seen is quite relevant. But getting it viewed is only reliable if you are “paying” to put it in front of the right viewers on YouTube and Facebook, not just posting it online.

Thirdly, if the video is intended to be used as part of a sales strategy, the idea of “return on investment” becomes a factor, and here the variables can become capricious. (Good news follows below in this article regarding how to make the ROI more predictable).


It could be argued that this next point should also be under the heading of “budget,” since the lack of a strategic vision, all in addition to a video vision, could contribute to inefficiency and waste. Nevertheless, its singular importance deserves its own heading.

You can ignore this if you are a marketing professional, since it’s so obvious you would not overlook it. But I’ve observed this to be true even with business executives who achieved a certain level of success in the past through their inherent marketing savvy. You could say they allowed their own enthusiasm for a video project to eclipse the fundamental context of their existing marketing strategy.

Stated another way, does one’s “inspired idea” or “gut instinct” for a video actually align with any existing company messaging?

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, your video should align with your current marketing materials so that all your messaging presents a unified presentation.

Unless, of course, a whole new campaign is envisioned, which would then include new messaging for your website, newsletter, printed materials and other advertising. Specifically, if you decide you want to go after a younger demographic by making a commercial or promotional video series targeted to the younger generation, but your website and messaging is written for a different demographic, then the dissonance in your strategic implementation will reduce the effectiveness of your video.

“OK,” you may say, “That’s too obvious.” And so right you are. But let’s get a little more nuanced.

Let’s say you’re a tech company and your website and existing promotional materials all emphasize your cool hardware. But you are inspired to explore a “more human approach” to your company’s presentation by emphasizing the benefits of your products or services over and above the technology, by conveying a touching story. Such is fine and opportune as a vision. But it should also be represented on your company website in pictures and words as well as any other marketing channels in use. Not just in the video.

Video is such a potent way to convey messaging that a one-off production that does not fit into a broader strategic plan is rarely going to be as effective as one that fits into a holistic strategy for your entire business or nonprofit.


OK, this next point is not without controversy to smaller businesses, even though its merits are inarguable. It’s just that its value becomes even more important as your budget becomes more meaningful.

A core problem that many small and medium-sized businesses have is related to strategic implementation — or more specifically, lack of strategy to begin with. In my experience, a number of businesses view marketing and advertising as “let’s try this and see if it works.” Given that as a starting point, always bet that it won’t work and you’ll be living a lavish life versus anyone who would bet against you.

Of course, it could be argued that such an approach is the result of business owners or execs being too busy to understand that every marketing channel, whether that be email marketing, display advertising, search marketing, commercials or any type of video promotion, has its own factors that should be respected for optimum results.

The good news is that your marketing/advertising ROI can be optimized. As well, your strategy can be informed and refined by data. That data needs to be derived by message testing, which is a disciplined comparative analysis of how to represent your own products or services.

In practice, there is much that can be known about this topic. But to keep this brief for any reader unfamiliar with the subject, the idea of testing is to present multiple ads or messages at a time (to different viewers) for comparison. Always present at least two. Online, it’s relatively simple to test many different ads at one time, which are swapped out in real time to different viewers. In other words, viewer “A” sees one ad or message and in the same instant viewer “B” can be shown a different version of the same ad. The marketer then analyzes the data to determine which ad or message generated the most desirable response. The ad with the best response becomes the “control” ad and then new ones are compared against that to find an even better performing control message.

Not only can this be done with video itself, but it can be done before you produce the video. By testing messaging via simple online text ads, you are then better informed to approve video scripts that you already know will perform better. (Read “better return on investment”).

And then after you get to to the video production, you can create inexpensive variations of your video messaging to further refine performance. For example, sometimes you’ll find that a woman spokesperson will perform better than a man. Other times, it’s the opposite. Sometimes an older actor will engender more response, sometimes younger. Sometimes it’s obvious. For example if you are selling to a mature or young demographic it’s best to feature those kinds of people in your video. Other times it may not be so intuitive. For example, you may be targeting grandparents by featuring young children who would represent the viewers’ own grandchildren for the purpose of selling childrens toys or clothes to the grandparents.

Although testing is an ironclad path towards greater video performance, as well as more effective marketing, advertising and messaging in general, the argument against it, typically for small businesses, is that it takes longer and costs more. That can’t be ignored. It does take more time and resources. But when done well, the whole point is to generate a higher ROI on your marketing and video-messaging investment.

Testing is how you can build more predictability into your ROI. And by the way, in some cases, testing inexpensive online text ads before moving to video may demonstrate early on that your gut instinct for a great video doesn’t seem to generate the positive traction you were desiring and you may determine to “not” produce the very vision that initially inspired this exploration.

Testing is not only the path towards more effective video production. It’s the path towards marketing and advertising success.


Of course none of the above deals with the details regarding pressing “record” on a video camera.  For those familiar with the overarching three phases of the video production process (pre-production, production and post-production), the above would be categorized as planning and pre-production.

A briefer statement regarding the #1 error in commercial video production would be neglecting that the more you invest in pre-production and planning, the better your ultimate results.

For more information visit VIDEO & TV.

David Ogilvy’s Secret Weapon of Advertising

In 1962, Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” In this 7-minute “We Sell or Else” video, Ogilvy discusses his “Secret Weapon” of Advertising.

David Ogilvy Video Transcript

I wish I could be with you today in the flesh, as they say, unfortunately I’m in India. Ever been in India? It’s very hot. If you don’t mind I’m going to take off my coat.

You know in the advertising community today, there are two worlds, your world of direct response advertising and that other world, the world of general advertising. These two worlds are on a collision course.

You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work, you know to a dollar. The general advertising people don’t know. You know the two-minute commercials on television are more effective, more cost-effective than ten second commercials or thirty second commercials. You know that fringe time on television sells more than prime-time. In print advertising, you know that long copy sells more than short copy. You know that headlines and copy about the product and its benefits sell more than cute headlines and poetic copy. You know to a dollar.

The general advertisers and their agencies know almost nothing for sure because they cannot measure the results of their advertising. They worship at the altar of creativity, which really means originality, the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising. They opine that thirty-second commercials are more cost-effective than two-minute commercials. You know they’re wrong. In print advertising, they opine that short commercials sell more than long copy. You know they’re wrong. They indulge in entertainment, you know they’re wrong. You know to a dollar, they don’t. Why don’t you tell them? Why don’t you save them their follies?

For two reasons; first because you’re impressed by the fact that they’re so big and so well paid and so well-publicized. You’re even perhaps impressed by their reputation for creativity whatever that may mean. Second you never meet them. You inhabit a different world. But the chasm between direct response advertising and general advertising is wide. On your side of the chasm I see knowledge and reality. On the other side of the chasm, I see ignorance. You are the professionals.

This must not go on. I predict that the practitioners of general advertising are going to start learning from your experience. They’re going to start picking your brains. I see no reason why the direct response divisions of agencies should be separate from the main agencies. Some of you may remember when television people in agencies were kept separate wasn’t that idiotic? I expect to see the direct response people become an integral part of all agencies. You have more to teach them than they have to teach you. You have it in your power to rescue the advertising business from its manifold lunacies.

When I was 25, I took a correspondence course in direct mail. I bought it out of my own pocket from the Dardnell Corporation in Chicago. Direct response is my first love and later it became my secret weapon. When I started Ogilvy & Mather in New York, nobody had heard of us. But we were airborne within six months and grew at record speed. How did we achieve that? By using my secret weapon, direct-mail.

Every four weeks I sent personalized mailings to our new business prospects. I was always amazed to discover how many of our clients had been attracted to Ogilvy & Mather by those mailings. That was how we grew.

Whenever I look at an advertisement in a magazine or newspaper I can tell at a glance whether the writer has had any direct response experience. If he writes short copy or literary copy it is obvious that he has never had the disciplines of writing direct response. If he has had that discipline, he wouldn’t make those mistakes.

Nobody should be allowed to create general advertising until he has served his apprenticeship in direct response. That experience will keep his feet on the ground for the rest of his life.

You know the trouble with many copywriters and general agencies is that they don’t really think in terms of selling. They’ve never written direct response. They’ve never tasted blood.

Until recently, direct response was the Cinderella of the advertising world. Then came the computer and the credit card. And direct marketing exploded.

You guys are coming to your own. Your opportunities are colossal.

In the audience today, there are heads of some general agencies. I offer you this advice, insist that all your people, creative, media, account executives, that they’re all trained in your direct response division. If you don’t have such a division, make arrangements with a firm of direct marketing specialists to train your people. And make it a rule in your agency that no copy is ever presented to clients before it has been vetted by a direct response expert.

Ladies and gentlemen, I envy you. Your timing is perfect. You’ve come into the direct response business at the right moment in history. You’re on to a good thing. For forty years, I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness trying to get my fellow advertising practitioners to take direct response seriously.

Today my first love is coming to its own. You face a golden future!

Should You Create an Infomercial for Your Product?


After 1984, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated regulations to govern the commercial content of television, infomercials began to proliferate the late-night airwaves because they were cheap to make and proved to be a highly profitable media, selling anything that could be easily shipped.

In fact, infomercials became so profitable that more and more money poured into the industry and by the dawn of the 21st century, big brands started pumping money into the infomercial profit party in a much bigger way. This raised the profile of the infomercial industry as a whole, and furthered the acceleration of rising rates.

Having been involved with some of the most successful infomercials, I have observed that infomercials, as an advertising media, have matured in a way somewhat analogous (although not nearly as fast), as what has happened in the Pay Per Click advertising channel. As PPC became a successful advertising model, over the years advertisers have driven up PPC costs.

Further, the level of sophistication in PPC strategies to stay profitable has also increased.

In a similar way, the costs and risks associated with creating and testing infomercials have skyrocketed since their humble beginnings.

And yet, the investment to test for sales potential via PPC is less than TV.

So, when someone asks me if they should produce an infomercial, rather than delve into the relative merits of their product or service and how broad the demographics are for the market that buys it, I simply ask how much testing has been done through less expensive media?

When that has been refined and scaled up to maximize the demand and profits, enough marketing data will be gained to determine what are the best keywords and messages that underlie this product’s success. And all that data will be very important as a research basis for scripting and producing an infomercial TV “test,” to see how it would do on a limited trial basis as a TV advertisement.

There is much more to know about creating infomercials, but the simple answer about whether you should create an infomercial for your product would be based upon how well it’s selling on the Internet and using the supporting data to help evaluate a translation to TV.

Stated another way, for most business persons, the question about whether a product would be successful as a national infomercial shouldn’t even be considered until it’s been tested online and then tested in smaller geographical regions on TV.

What is a “Performance-Oriented” Website?


Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of a performance-oriented website is what it is “not”: It’s not a website that is merely an online brochure.

At the lowest level of effectiveness, a website that simply exists is arguably better than no website at all. (Having said that, a really poor website can lower the repute of your business, which, theoretically, could be worse than having no website in the first place).

Stated another way, if you publish a website expecting it to help you achieve any of the three purposes stated below – it won’t do so effectively – unless you take advantage of any of the many things that can be done “after” you have established a website.

Generally speaking, anything and everything that can be done to make your website proactively work for you, could be categorized as building and realizing its performance potential.

Website Purposes

If we consider that a website would have one, or more, of the following purposes, we could define performance as anything that improves such attainment:

♦ Selling a product or service

♦ Conveying information to as many individuals as possible

♦ Facilitating social and/or professional interaction

Avoid the Most Common Website Problems

A website that offers nothing more than a description of a product or service will not likely achieve much of anything, if nothing is done after it is published.

In other words, a commercial website needs to incorporate as many different promotional opportunities as possible, in order to become profitable.

However, even a non-commercial website would still benefit from the majority of web promotion strategies and technologies, to further the attainment of non-commercial purposes.

Leveraging Internet Marketing and Communication Technologies for Greater Website Performance

Very small, or very large amounts of money and resources can be engaged to further the purposes of your website.

From a practical perspective, even with an unlimited budget, it would still be prudent to approach spending on a gradient basis, with the intent of testing and tuning the various marketing elements along the way, to more effectively leverage the return of your dollars and resources.

The following is by no means an exhaustive outline of all the things that can be done to increase your website’s performance, but it certainly delineates some of the most common.

♦ A simple and inexpensive activity would revolve around establishing and regularly publishing new content to a blog. Search engines like new content and this one activity alone, over time, will boost your website’s profile on the internet.

♦ Taking advantage of the “basics” of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will further make your website’s content more friendly to the search engines and establish a greater probability that your pages will be delivered to individuals searching for what you have to offer. SEO encompasses a broad swath of activities to create more traffic to your website: some more readily learned than others. However, the most basic points are not burdensome to learn and will boost the performance of your website.

♦ Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is the fastest way to generate qualified traffic to your website. It makes the most sense for commercial sites, since every click costs money. PPC advertising is easy to get started, and “used to be” an easy way to make profit. I emphasize “used to be” not because it is less effective nowadays, it’s just that it has proven to be so effective (and become so popular), that the costs have gone up tremendously since its early days and the sophistication required to excel at it has also increased. Regardless, the entire traffic and profit stream for some commercial websites revolves principally around PPC advertising.

♦ The term “joint venture” is used to describe the concept of two or more independent parties working together for economic advantage. In respect to online marketing, this can embrace a number of different types of joint venture relationships. One effective opportunity includes sharing the profits of any of your sales that are generated via an email campaign (or other promotion) from other web entities. For a specific example, check out this Simple Flow Chart for an Email Marketing Joint Venture Campaign. Joint ventures can be one-shot campaigns that may, or may not, be repeated in the future.

♦ Affiliate marketing might seem similar to a joint venture, in that it incorporates the concept of working with others to sell your products or services. However, there is a critical difference. In a joint venture, two (or more) parties are specifically and personally working together for mutual advantage. Affiliate marketing is more impersonal (at least in the beginning). Affiliates are like free agent marketers. If they are interested in your products and like your commission plan, they will drive some traffic to your site (as a test), and then will only continue to do so if it is profitable for them, and/or until they switch to selling your competitor’s products should they offer a higher commission.

♦ Taking advantage of social media networks is another way to further promote your website and business. Although many people think in terms of the no-cost opportunities related to posting content, nowadays the labor involved doesn’t always yield a positive return on one’s time investment. What is more workable is a paid social media strategy.

♦ Regardless of how few or how many of the aforementioned promotional actions you take advantage of to drive visitors to your website, one very fundamental action is setting up an auto-responder database service to automatically capture the email addresses of interested visitors (usually in exchange for some valuable info or free service), which will then allow you to keep in touch with them, to build a relationship, and to better achieve your website’s purpose.

Website Metrics

Monitoring and improving your website’s performance requires a comparative analysis of what has been achieved in the past as opposed to what is going on now, in order to boost the performance for tomorrow. The most fundamental metric for commercial sites is conversions, which can mean sales, or email subscribers, or white paper downloads, more information requests, or any key performance metric that results in value for your organization. But it can also include metrics like how many people visited your website, how long they stayed on the website, how many pages they visited, how many visited high-value pages (such as sales pages), how many videos were watched, how long the videos were watched, how many people filled out a survey and so on.


A performance-oriented website is really the centerpiece of a proactive and strategic marketing activity and process, which includes driving visitors to the site, converting them to take some action (i.e., purchase a product, request some free info, enter their name/email into a form, etc.), all of which is quantified in terms of website metrics for the sake of improving the performance of your website, in respect to its individual purpose(s).

Outsource Online Lead Generation

There are a number of online lead generation models, and they all center around the concept of providing relevant, targeted, current (even real-time) sales leads.

In addition to continuing your own lead generation strategies – online or otherwise – an additional option is to outsource this activity. In exchange for payments on a per-lead basis, you can follow up with fresh leads as they come in.

Internet Lead Generation Agencies

There are outsourced agencies that provide online leads that can be used for a variety of purposes such as list building for e-newsletters or direct sales. The idea would be to call the leads immediately (for a telephone sales organization), or to plug the leads into an appropriate sales funnel.

Internet lead generation agencies may develop their own websites to capture leads and/or partner with other lead generation sources who have their own websites.

Various models of online lead generation exist, but typically, a consumer who encounters a lead-generation website enters their contact details in exchange for a free offer of some sort.

♦ In some cases, the info seeker would enter his/her information directly within a banner advertisement and the lead could be sent directly to the advertiser.

♦ A full-page lead generation advertisement may promote some free offer to encourage visitors to enter as much personal information as required to process the lead and for the individual to receive their free item. This type of online lead generation can result in lots of leads, some of which can be low-quality, including leads with purposefully inaccurate information, since the information was entered for the purpose of receiving something free and not as a result of a sincere desire to be contacted.

♦ Another common Internet lead generation model is through co-registration advertising (Co-Reg). Through this process, an individual is offered the opportunity to receive additional free information while registering for some other service. For example, while subscribing to a magazine or ordering printing services, a consumer might request additional information that is being offered. In other words, the demographic info provided by the consumer, as well as the service they were signing up for would indicate the category of lead. Following the same examples, someone who was signing up for a health magazine subscription and also requested info for a nutritional product might be categorized as a “Health and Fitness” lead or “Weight Loss” lead, depending upon the specifics of the nutritional product. A consumer who is purchasing online business cards from a printing service, and who also registers for information about working at home, could be categorized as a “Business Opportunity” lead.

Pay-for-Performance (P4P) leads and sales represent another category of lead generation or sales programs. Some of the above examples might be conducted on a P4P basis, or not. Meaning, on the one hand, you pay for the leads regardless of their quality. And on the other hand, some P4P models might base remuneration on actual sales. Such will typically cost more, but of course, you’re not paying unless you get results.

These are not the only ways lead-generation agencies generate their inventory, but they are some of the ways that lead agencies can provide current, targeted leads to your phone or email inbox.

Like everything else in the marketing world, you would be wise to start small and test the effectiveness of a given online lead generation service (or several such services) and scale up your efforts for a lead source that shows promise.

Of course what is understood is that you have a lead processing activity already in place, to effectively utilize these paid leads, whether that might be calling the leads immediately, or including the purchased emails into your existing sales funnel.

Technology Advertising: It’s the Story! (Not the Technology)

To marketing and advertising types, the technology of getting a message out can be seductive. Regardless of whether it’s (particularly in the past) via direct mail, magazine ads, radio, TV commercials, etc., such does demand a certain amount of attention to make everything work effectively.

Sometimes the technology can take center stage when you have imagined, produced and executed an idea that generates impressive returns on investment.

Alternatively, it can be disheartening when the increase in new sales does not surpass the money and resources it took to create and get the message out.

Nowadays what can be accomplished with technology — particularly regarding the use of the internet, databases, data science, artificial intelligence, and instant information processing — is beyond the reality of many.

Sure, text messages, video-on-demand, social sharing and related channels are readily embraced by a massive chunk of individuals in our world.

  • But what about emerging ways to personalize a message so that a marketing ad can be more relevant to a consumer at the instant they view it?
  • How about marketing videos that allow viewers to engage with the video subject in real time?
  • How about video advertising that includes subtle elements like a clock in the video that displays the correct time of your current geographical location?
  • Or a marketing video that displays the same weather as your location, or even geographic elements from your location?
  • And what if such personalization were tied to something as inherently ignored as a traditional online banner ad viewed on a computer, tablet or any smart phone?

As intriguing as this or any new or future technology may be, what is rightfully emphasized in the world of marketing and advertising is “the story (or idea).”

As obvious at that may seem, it’s worth emphasis and re-emphasis and even over-emphasis as it’s too easy to be allured by the magic of technology in and of itself.

Without a compelling story to sincerely capture the attention of real people to then engage their attention, the technology is for naught.

Of course, now, more than ever, determining the most effective idea, or story, is perhaps more magical than any technology might ever be.

“Offer Service” (For Free?)

The concept of giving away something valuable for free, to gain business attention, has been ongoing grist for argument, within internet marketing circles for a while. The obvious point of contention is that giving away something free, to get your product or service into the hands of potential paying customers (who would not otherwise know or care about you), does not make money.

Of course, the point of “why” one is giving away anything for free is completely missed if one is not also selling a product or service.

Low Cost Advertising

The notion of giving something away “free” as a low-cost advertising media to garner attention for your product or service has been so heightened via the internet, that it’s now an expectation for many web users that they should be able to find any information they are seeking for no cost.

Regardless of whether one can find “any” information for free, or not, the notion of “free” is certainly not new. And I’m sure anyone who would argue “against” the merits of giving away freebies could also cite examples of when they, themselves, received free product samples, or free consultations, or free trial offers before they ever used the internet. (Well, I guess that would depend upon one’s age….)

Scientific Advertising, by Claude Hopkins

Regardless, the point of this article is to simply draw some attention to “how long” freebies have been in existence. Although I would bet free samples and free trial services goes back to the beginning of commercial enterprise, what I can cite as a reference goes back to 1923, in the book Scientific Advertising, by Claude Hopkins.

Chapter 3, “Offer Service,” is all about offering something for free. In fact, in the first sentence of the second paragraph Mr. Hopkins states, “The best ads ask no one to buy.” He further goes on to say, “The ads are based entirely on service.” He offers real-world examples of giving away hair brushes, coffee, cigars and sewing machine trials, and refers to a consumer “…anxious to reciprocate the gift. So the salesman gets an order.”

Of course not every free gift or free service will result in a sale for one’s paid product or service, but the opportunity to make sales based on giving something away can be easier (and more economical) than repetitiously telling people, who don’t know you, to buy from you.

Scientific Advertising

You’ve read a few marketing books. How many ‘old’ marketing books have you read?

I’ve gobbled up a bunch over the years and continue to do so as much as possible. And although I have a few favorites, in my opinion, the most important one is not a new one. In fact, it may very well be the oldest:

Scientific Advertising was written by Claude C. Hopkins in 1923 and is truly a seminal book for the world of direct response marketing. The principles of testing and measuring that Hopkins established are as important today as back then. The difference being that what took months to test back then, can be tested with extraordinary lightning speed nowadays.

The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in a single ad. Weeks of work sometimes. The ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people. But back of that ad may lie reams of data, volumes of information, months of research.

So this is no lazy man’s field.

Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins, 1923

The mantra of 21st century marketing is the same as back then: Test, Test and More Testing!

Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them—not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort—the buyers of your product. (1923)

Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins, 1923

Pay-for-Performance Quest for Client Partners


You produce a high quality product/service. Your customers/clients love you. You just need more of them.

You’re seeking a pay-for-performance (P4P) marketing service to provide as many new leads, or actual customers and clients, as you can get.

Maybe your business is doing great and you want to get to the next level. Or, maybe your marketing worked in the past, but the evolving landscape became too complex and expensive.

I’ve got good news and bad news.


First the bad news: The marketing and advertising landscape has gotten more complex. Google and Facebook, in particular, keep getting more expensive. On top of that, strategies that worked not too long ago are less effective today. Nowadays, profitable marketing strategies seem as fickle as diet fads or women’s fashions.

Now the good news: Businesses continue to sell stuff. Every day. Sure, some businesses expand while others fall to the wayside. But behind each business success is a marketing success. Pro marketers are always seeking ways to provide more sales for a lower cost. Currently, two areas are delivering some of the best marketing return on investment (ROI).


You’ve probably heard of both.

Cross-Platform Retargeting: Unless you’re new to online marketing, you know that retargeting and remarketing represent a number of different ways to use advertising to build relationships across different online platforms. For example, show someone a video, a post, or an ad on Facebook and then show those same individuals uniquely targeted ads on Facebook or elsewhere on the internet. And you only pay when they click. It’s a powerful way to place your brand in front of the right prospects as they travel around the internet. And for those that don’t click, you get to show your brand for no cost.

Artificial Intelligence: Of course AI is not new. It’s been around for decades, but it’s getting smarter. Autonomous cars are in the news more than ever, for good and bad. Whether we like it or not, much of our lives are — or will be — touched by AI. In the world of marketing and advertising, AI already facilitates massive data analysis, more effective ad creation, faster ad testing and more efficient ad buying. Each passing day puts non-AI advertisers at a greater disadvantage.


The question isn’t whether you should be using these (and other) technologies to improve the ROI of your marketing and advertising efforts. For many businesses that haven’t begun yet, the question is where to start?

And after that there are many more questions on how to continue to move forward.

Furthermore, striving towards higher production and lower costs by introducing any new technology often lowers efficiency and increases cost – albeit temporarily – until the new technology and processes are effectively integrated into your operations.

The same for new spheres of marketing strategy and technology. You will likely make mistakes and lose ROI until you adjust to the new way of doing things.

But what if you don’t have the time to keep learning new marketing methods?

Perhaps that’s one reason you’re researching P4P marketing and advertising options.


P4P isn’t new either. Commissioned sales people and organizations have long been an integral part of the marketing and sales landscape. Commission-only sales professionals receive no compensation unless they generate sales. Sales pros who are compensated by a salary plus commission often have lower commissions than their commission-only counterparts, but that base pay does offer more income predictability when sales are sluggish.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each model.

  • For example, a sales pro who receives a salary plus commission represents a longer-term commitment by both the company to increase revenue into the future.
  • A commission-only sales rep may at any time favor other brands, who offer more compensation or perks, resulting in a loss of revenue for the first business.

There are also a variety of hybrid commission models that attempt to better align sales incentives and goals between the brand and salesperson.

P4P as used in internet marketing, represents a pricing model whereby a marketer or advertising agency receives a payment or bonus from a merchant for ‘performance’. This may be in the form of each new lead or new customer obtained for the merchant through the agency’s online marketing efforts or some other ‘performance’ metric the agency and client agree upon before beginning.

What about affiliates?


P4P is a broad term that embraces many types of performance-based marketing and advertising models.

Affiliate marketing is one type of performance-based model in which a business compensates one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer created by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.

The basic idea here is that merchants only pay affiliates for efforts that result in a desired action such as a lead, a  sale, a free trial user, or a newsletter subscriber. This removes the risk to the merchant because they know in advance that they will not have to pay for bad referrals, and it encourages the affiliate to send good referrals.

Affiliates often have a specific business process and/or model that works for specific types of businesses. 

If there are existing affiliates that support your business model, it’s something you should consider.

As an example, Amazon maintains an affiliate marketing program which they launched in 1996. Although they were not the first, its program became widely known and contributed to the retailer’s success. Amazon affiliates (called “associates”) place ads on their own, personal websites for products which are purchased via The affiliates get paid a commission when purchases are made from Amazon. Like many things in life, affiliate marketing has advantages and challenges.


For many businesses, affiliate marketing programs are a productive part of their marketing mix.

However, affiliate programs also attract rogue elements, who use spamming, trademark infringement, false advertising, cookie stuffing, and other unethical methods. Hence, some merchants avoid affiliate programs due to associated risks, even if said risks are actually less than they used to be. As a result, some merchants implement tight controls on how affiliates may advertise and use monitoring methods to help diminish the risks of rogue elements, which limits the support of affiliates.

Other brands use outsourced affiliate program management companies to deal with the details.

For the purposes of this message, it’s important to know that Skyworks Marketing is not an affiliate.  Nor are we a program management company or an affiliate marketing agency. We only mention the preceding based upon years of explaining the difference to those newer to P4P marketing.

In brief, Skyworks Marketing is a Pay-per-Performance advertising agency. We create, execute and optimize custom marketing and advertising strategies with a heavy emphasis on online advertising, video and TV. We may also use affiliate marketing networks as one part of our own efforts.

If your business is a good fit for affiliates, that may be a productive path for you. Just be aware that such is not what we do.


Here in the 21st century, performance based marketing and advertising is an umbrella term which includes Affiliates, Influencer Marketing, Email Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, PPC, Native Advertising, Sponsored Content, Social Media Marketing, Incentive Programs, and any other form of marketing where the marketing partner exchanges sales (or completed desired actions) for commission payouts.   A pay-for-performance advertising agency is comparable to the way traditional ad agencies have operated in the past (and now). The TV series MAD MEN serves as an example.

However, the difference between modern ad agencies and those of the 60’s, when the bulk of MAD MEN is represented, are substantial. For example, back then “focus groups” were often used to measure consumer interest.  Nowadays, real-world ad “testing” is how to find out what will move people to spend their money.  

Among many other things, a modern agency develops and tests offers for you, which might be similar or quite different from your current efforts.  

An agency partner is working with your business to optimize your sales.

The top clients in MAD MEN paid millions of dollars a year for marketing and advertising services.  Of course most small to medium size businesses have budgets that are only a fraction of that. Yet the point is still valid: an ad agency is optimizing ways to sell your products/services to maximize sales as much as possible.

An affiliate model that works best for you and is profitable for an affiliate is a true win-win scenario.  But most often their compensation is tied towards doing things their way, which typically represents a fraction of the sales opportunities that can be leveraged to expand your business. For example, video and TV production, direct mail, and many types of online advertising would not be used for your brand via affiliates, but such is routine through a marketing and ad agency.  

A significant difference between performance-based ad agencies and non-performance based agencies is the incentive to generate marketing and advertising campaigns that work.  When you pay an ad agency for services, you may be gaining their very best and most sincere efforts to generate sales for your business.  Or, maybe not, as both sides were represented in MAD MEN.

When an ad agency is operating with a performance incentive, the calculus is mutually beneficial. A performance based ad agency has “skin in the game” and is continuously motivated by the principle that better performance for your business is better performance for their business.


Another one of the most widely known P4P marketing opportunities is via any of the myriad Pay-Per-Click (PPC) platforms. Google and Facebook are the most well known players in this space. In brief, you only pay when someone clicks one of your ads. It’s a classic P4P model.

Of course if your ad, offer and landing page are not well optimized, you can still lose money. As many do. Hence, that’s why agencies, such as Skyworks Marketing, and others, offer expert PPC Management services. Having said that, as a word of caution, some markets are so competitive that even paying a professional service to manage your ads may still result in unprofitable PPC expenditures. Which is why we prefer to monitor and optimize the entire sales process, not just the advertising, so that we can provide the best opportunity for profitable results.

Having said that, there are some business cases whereby running PPC ads at negative ROI is still valuable. For example, when enough upsell opportunities are proven to establish a higher lifetime value per average customer than the initial purchase itself.

Here at Skyworks, we have enough experience that we may advise that you will not likely achieve a profitable ROI before we even start testing. In other cases, we can see that there is a reasonable expectation that we can generate PPC leads/sales at a positive ROI.


What if you could buy the key conversions you require, such as qualified leads, app installations, new subscribers, confirmed orders etc., at a pre-agreed price? This is also known as CPA, which is cost-per-action or cost-per-acquisition.

In this case you’re paying for an outcome that is more definitive and/or further along the sales funnel than just a click. The cost for CPA is higher than with PPC and may have some conditional requirements. When it is available for your own products or services it can mitigate the realities of rising advertising cost since the necessity to continue to optimize the advertising to offset the rising cost is borne by the partner doing the advertising on behalf of the company providing the product or service being sold.

Stated another way, buying a pre-agreed CPA provides more prediction in your marketing and sales process, as well as lowering the cost of your marketing.

Having said that, if you have the resources to hire and maintain the professional services required to make modern marketing and advertising more productive while reducing costs, you likely wouldn’t be contemplating external P4P partners to begin with.


Skyworks Marketing is first and foremost a marketing and advertising agency. We use online and on-TV marketing, advertising, publicity and lots of video to generate sales and leads for clients. It’s a true partnership whereby we create custom advertising programs for your products or services.

A notable success was helping to grow a business from nothing to over $100 million in 3 years via online advertising, direct mail and national TV. Pro tip: It involved a tremendous amount of split testing of messages and ads.

Located on the beach, just north of LA, in Ventura, CA, Skyworks Marketing is also the primary sponsor and management/production entity behind the weekly CA cable TV series, Our Ventura TV.

A core component of who we are is using artificial intelligence and data science to generate more sales with a smaller budget.


Skyworks Marketing helps businesses generate more leads and sales via marketing, video and TV with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and data science.

Our fundamental strategy includes ongoing ad testing and data analysis, supported by artificial intelligence.

Most of our partnerships also benefit from our video production, regardless of where they are located in the U.S.A.

We provide these services in the same way other marketing and ad agencies do: we charge money.

Additionally, for certain clients we partner on a full or partial P4P basis. In that regard, we’re a bit like Goldilocks seeking partnerships that are just right. It usually includes partners who are seeking full-agency support with an entity that has more skin in the game and is more accountable.


Like any business, we provide value in exchange for money.

In some cases, we provide value on a performance basis.

Those P4P cases are designed to represent a truly win-win relationship where our qualified clients receive tremendous value, on a long-term basis, for marketing and advertising services that evolve over time as the markets themselves and real-world data informs those changes.

It’s a never-ending process of testing and optimization.

We get paid two ways:

  • Clients pay for services, such as ad creation/testing, offer consulting, ad management, script writing, video production, etc.
  • Qualified P4P clients pay us on a full or partial performance basis depending upon the relationship.

Internet Fraud and Work-at-Home Scams

Consumer scams are not new.

As an example, in the 1920’s, the Ponzi scheme (bogus investment swindle) was a notorious way to bilk individuals from their savings. However, the idea of that specific scam goes back earlier, to 1857, when Charles Dickens described it in his novel Little Dorrit. Back in 2008, Bernie Madoff became the operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a testament that old ideas can be given a fresh suit to steal from people anew.

Of course criminal behavior goes back much earlier than Charles Dickens depicts. One of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not steal”) is indicative of how long criminal acts have been problematic to Mankind.

Nowadays, a modern way for criminals to put on a new suit is by cloaking themselves behind the Internet.

Examples of Internet Scams and Fraud

The list of ways that theft is perpetrated via the Internet is seemingly endless.

The FBI maintains a website resource of Internet Crime Schemes and how to avoid such. The FBI notes a whole bunch of common categories of Internet fraud. Here are a few:

  • Internet auction fraud
  • Non-delivery of merchandise purchased from websites
  • Credit card fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Business fraud
  • Nigerian Letter Fraud

That last is so well known as an example of Internet fraud that the FBI lists it on the same page as its own singular category. Although it has been bilking individuals of their savings “online” since the 1990’s, the scam goes back decades earlier in the form of direct mail and faxes.

Work-at-Home Scams

Many scams can be identified with the simple admonition, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Most work-at-home scams could be avoided by simply respecting that age-old common sense.

A work-at-home scam usually involves a victim who is lured by a home employment offer to do some simple task for a disproportionate compensation. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.

To be sure, there do exist legitimate work-at-home opportunities. Many people do, in fact, work in the comfort of their own homes. But anyone seeking such an employment opportunity should be wary of accepting a home employment offer.

Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

Internet fraud is common. And even though “auction fraud” is one category listed by the FBI, the vast majority of purchases made via auction sites, such as eBay, are fairly transacted. In other words, only a small percentage are fraudulent. The same is true for business fraud and online credit card transactions in general: the vast majority of purchases made over the Internet are transacted fairly.

The US Justice Department lists a number of ways to avoid becoming defrauded, including:

  • Being Careful About Giving Out Valuable Personal Data Online
  • Being Especially Careful About Online Communications With Someone Who Conceals His True Identity
  • Watching Out for “Advance-Fee” Demands

For more info on protecting yourself from internet scams click on this link from the United States Department of Justice on Internet Fraud.