Organic Matters: Advertising For Permission Vs. Awareness Only

January 21st, 2016 | Jen Evans, Marketing Futurist

Jen Evans
Jen Evans

Paid media can generate two things: awareness and action (in this case, permission). Here’s an overview of when to focus paid on permission and when to focus on awareness.

1. There are a couple of fundamental rules marketers often forget to take into consideration in their communications:
For a significant percentage of your audience (as high as 50%), right now is the first time they’ve seen your brand, or remember seeing it.

2. For everyone else, it is an interaction and data point that may or may not (and more than 80% will not) generate an email opt-in, the most productive digital relationship a marketer can have with a customer.

The pros and cons of ads focused on permission vs. ads focused on awareness come down to the relationship with your audience and stakeholders and the goals of the program.


Pro: Builds a high-potential conversion list; identifies highest-value customers; matches customer perception of “story” funnel; is usually best referral source; can retain info for even the briefest viewers; low hard and ongoing costs (but high labour at first).

Con: Opt-ins from some advertising very low; needs to be optimized; need sophisticated email approach to maximize conversions; requires a disciplined approach to audience-aligned content; highly-dependent on quality of content; starting from scratch will almost always require some paid support initially (unless you are extremely patient); measurement options few; ongoing audience comms and management required.


Pros: Predictable results from spend; proven effective (impression frequency matters and makes a difference to recognition); paid search still a great performer on desktop; highly targetable; easy to benchmark and lever spend; less ongoing relationship communications required (lower maintenance); less ongoing dialogue infrastructure required.

Cons: Difficult to optimize since measurable outcome not the focus; difficult to tie to tactical effectiveness; no ongoing return; investment evaporates as it is spent; complex media buying/programmatic environment; difficulties with mobile effectiveness and ad blockers; low labour but high costs; difficult targeting for B2B; one-off vs. evolving relationships with all customers.

By focusing advertising both on awareness and cross-channel opt-in (permission) conversion, programs generate both brand value and customer value, and satisfy the needs of both new and experienced audiences. Within twelve months, ongoing communications and infrastructure within a well-architected, high-quality content program can become a perpetual, extremely efficient, multi-platform, truly integrated marketing and customer community engine.

Jen Evans is a digital strategist and content marketer, the creator and co-founder of squeezeCMM, Digital Fieldwork, B2B News Network, The Bot Registry and Sequentia Group, past chair of the Information Technology Association of Canada, a former tech columnist for the Globe and Mail who made Canada’s Profit Hot 50 two years in a row, and a curious marketing technologist.