Using Digital Advertising to Sell a $400+ product that had NO prior Brand Recognition

Well it’s finally happened and can’t be denied…

I clicked on a banner ad and bought the product (€270 euros  / $410 AUD worth!) all without talking to or emailing anyone from the company and knowing nothing about the brand before I saw the Ad. I’ve clicked through and investigated plenty of products and services in the past, but never with such a big purchase from an unknown brand.

In this Digital Advertising Case Study, I’ll run you through the process as it really is an interesting review of how Programmatic Digital Display Advertising works and the trials and tribulations you marketing folk go through when trying to fit every piece of digital media into “but what’s my CPA going to be?”  I add Digital Marketing explanations to the narrative, in orange. 


So here’s the Case Study:


From never having heard of the brand or even product type, to paying over $400 after clicking on a blimmin ad…


One normal Friday afternoon, my wife and I re-realised that our 10 year wedding anniversary was approaching and wondered what we should do or buy to commemorate it.

For context, I’m currently living in country France for 2015 and half of 2016 with my wife and our little kids. It’s a realisation of a long term goal of ours and a deliberate decision to step off the treadmill (as much as you can, or want to, being a passionate business owner) and reconnect with ourselves and our kids. To be honest, our businesses have continued to perform well and our staff have never been happier as they also access the benefits of our new “Remote Workplace Policy”. And with me in a different timezone it means we’re now available to customers from 9am to 9pm, something we weren’t before! Anyway, back to the study….. 

My wife and I decided on watches, as we’d both fallen out of the habit of wearing one. We looked at a few online, decided we have similar tastes and then moved on to another topic of discussion.

That night and the 2 following, I rapidly became a ‘watch expert’! I read numerous blogs, articles and review sites in detail (all found via Google searches and, from memory, not clicking on any Adwords) to determine what sort of watches we could buy. We’d have to mix and match brands. And from there, like many good intentions, nothing was researched or done about watches for a couple of weeks.

And then I found it!

Well, it found me.


That fateful meeting!

Like any normal online operator, one day I was complaining to myself about the internet speed in our apartment and therefore went onto to do my regular tests, and lo and behold, there on the right of the normal testing screen was an MRec (you do know those little squarish Ads on the right of most websites don’t you?) for this simple, silver, mesh banded watch that I had never seen before. Stuff the speedtest, this thing was exactly what I was after!


Though I didn't take a screenshot at the time, I found this retargeting one later to give you context
Though I didn’t take a screenshot at the time, this retargeting one gives you context


I clicked on the Ad and was immediately swept up in the simple brilliance of the Slow Watches website watching video after video and zooming in on all angles of my new found love. I had never heard of the “Slow Watch” brand before and had also never even heard of a ‘one-handed watch’!   Living in country France, my life had certainly slowed as I got used to village life and the minute walk to drop and pick up the kids from school or even wander a further minute down to one of the many cafés or bars to catch up with new friends. This watch could be the perfect reminder for me of my time (pun intended) in France and the promise to myself that I would live in the moment more often and generally ‘slow down’ my previously hectic lifestyle. This new watch was perfect. So I checked the price…., and that’s where things hit a speed bump.   270 Euros! Despite the two year warranty, free delivery and 14day returns, that’s a lot of dough for me to spend on what I could only consider as a luxury item. I hadn’t died in the last 5 years without a watch so this was certainly a ‘want’ over a simple ‘need’.

So I jumped off the website and continued about my daily life.


Slow Quote


It’s all about the Data

On those couple of nights, I read A LOT of websites about watches. Some of them were obviously there to generate affiliate links to retailers but most were credible watch blogs or editorial within watch features that reviewed different brands and types. I was also on a number of watch retailers’ websites directly.

Because of the time and depth of research, I set myself up to be added to one of the many Datasets we programmatic types buy to narrow down our prospecting for your new customers. I must have ended up on at least one of the following datasets from Lotame or Eyetoa or the like;


INTEREST – Shopping: Jewellery & Watches: Watches
INTENT: Shopping: Fashion: Jewellery & Watches


The length of time spent and depth of webpages I reviewed within sites I visited would have surely put me on the ‘Purchase Intent’ datasets as well as the general ‘Interest’ ones. I was definitely serious in my research. No bored desk jockey looking to waste time at the office would have spent the energy that I had. I was a red hot watch prospect.

Slow Watches must have bought that dataset for an Ad Campaign. My Click came from an Ad on which has nothing to do with watches or even fashion or lifestyle but Speedtest is plugged into about 20 different Supply Side Platforms and has 51 different Tags placed on their website. They provide a great service but they’re really an Ad and Data machine.


Entice me back

About a week later, I started to notice 2 different types of Slow Watches Ads appearing in MRec slots on numerous sites I visited. They had found me again! I stayed strong and kept a distance for a few days but after a while I caved and clicked through again and ‘re-surfed’ their website. It’s a simple site, I was already very familiar with it, but I needed another look. This time I justified to myself that if I set a decent business goal with MMTD, and reached it, I could buy the watch guilt free. So I left the site again.


How Retargeting Works


Remind me of what I’m missing

The tactic that lured me back to the Slow Watches website this time was simple Retargeting. Because I had been onto the Slow Watches website, they had cookied me and were now able to buy Advertising in real time, when it was known that my same IP Address was entering other websites that were able to have their Ads placed on. They used multiple creative (which was different from the original prospecting Ad) and had a reasonably large frequency cap to enable me to see the Ads for a few days. It worked. I came back.


The Real World

Over the next two weeks, we visited Spain for the school holidays. Whilst walking along the esplanade in San Sebastián, my wife spotted a watch she liked in the window of an independent boutique, she walked in, tried it on, asked my opinion (I liked it too) and she bought it on the spot for 130Euros.


How’s that relevant?

It’s not really. I just wanted to add that part in for you hard core digital marketers. Sometimes it’s just a numbers game too and if you pay enough for a shop lease in the right spot and you present your stock well, people buy stuff. It’s been happening for a while before the internet…..


The final countdown (I know, I know)

Given that my wife’s new watch was very similar to the one I was coveting online and business was heading in the direction of my goal, I had limited reason not to buy my watch soon. Despite the fact it was now past our anniversary (it’s hard to treat yourself sometimes!) I knew the time would come (another pun, I know). I visited the Slow Watches website a few more times in the lead up to hitting my goal especially as it approached winter and I needed motivation to persevere with my 5am starts to the workday.



By now I was very familiar with the Slow Watches website and I’d directly type the URL into the Address Bar so I guess my traffic would be attributed to “Direct” in their analytics and their brand recognition or sponsorship budget would be taking the credit. I’m not sure…


Buying the Watch

I made it! I reached my goal at work and I had run out of reasons not to get the highly coveted (by me!) Slow Jo 21 with All Mesh Band. And it was nearly Christmas so it could also double as the kids’ Christmas present to me.

Slow Jo 21

I jumped directly into their website, selected the right watch face and band, added it to my basket, clicked ‘basket’ and then clicked ‘checkout’, entered all of my personal details in for delivery, clicked on Paypal as the payment method, reviewed my upcoming purchase, clicked ‘Buy’ and then that’s when it all came unstuck!

For some reason, Paypal and I don’t get along well. I’m not 100% sure on the reason for the little tiff this time but from memory it had something to do with an old unaccessible email address or an old credit card being tied together with Paypal and after a longer than desirable period of trying to sort it out, I did the unthinkable. I closed out of the nearly completed shopping cart, closed my laptop and commandeered my wife’s laptop to make the purchase. I repeated the steps of going directly to the website and all the way through to making a purchase and finalising it in Paypal on her machine.

And for you following along for a reason other than an interest in Digital Marketing, that’s where it all finishes, but for the rest of you:


Let’s play ‘Attribute the Sale’!

So some ‘guy’ who’s been wisely marketed to and then retargeted to when he didn’t buy the first time he was on the site and who has had a high quantity of page views has vanished from the marketing funnel (though I was retargeted to with an ‘Abandoned Cart’ campaign later on, on my laptop) and a sale has appeared out of no-where from ‘a gal’ with very limited time on site and page views, who came in via ‘Direct’ and bought in the same session. 


So how does the Marketing Manager at Slow Watches answer the question “Did the Ad Campaign work?”  The sale date was well over 60days from me seeing the original Ad on, but it was that Ad that introduced me to the whole Slow Watch range. 

I’d look like an Impression and a Click on the original Ad Campaign but not a Conversion. Even in a 30 day Post Click analysis (users who clicked on the Ad and then converted within the next 30 days), I wouldn’t come up as a Conversion. 

And changing computers and therefore IP Addresses at the last minute means that there’s no link at all between an Ad Campaign and this Sale/Conversion. 



So what?

Well, maybe one lesson is to have a small amount invested in both Prospecting via a narrow Dataset and Retargeting at all times. If someone enters the very narrow Dataset of “PURCHASE INTENT:  Watches” and you sell watches, don’t you want to get something in front of them asap, even if you don’t have a specific campaign in market?

And another is that maybe the ‘Post Campaign Report” at the end of your Ad Campaign doesn’t always tell the full story. There’s always residual affect on your website traffic from a high performing Digital Media Campaign, despite the Conversions at the time. It’s up to you to make the most of it with lead magnets and direct communications.

And finally, when you click on an Ad for a product you’ve never seen before and end up spending more money on an online purchase than you ever have before, blog about it for your business to try your damnedest to make the whole experience into a tax deduction…… (just kidding, I swear!)




So hopefully you’ve learnt a little about where the terminologies and processes of Programmatic Digital Advertising can fit into the sale cycle of a product. If you’d like to know more about Programmatic Digital Advertising, download the Cheat Sheet relevant to your position as either a Marketer who directly advertises or a Privately Owned Media/Marketing Agency. Or you can request a Free Consultation on the right of this article.


“Have a great time and be slow…”




ps: The watch is awesome btw!