I feel like this is a particularly pertinent subject given that Black Friday and Cyber Monday just ended which are typically the biggest sales day of the year for a lot of retailers. With big sales days comes big flexing from marketers.
There’s been a trend going for a while, too long really, where people send out screenshots without any context of a shopify store, an ad account, whatever with impressive numbers. Big numbers. The best numbers. $239034097473 purchase value, 4763.4x ROAS. Yuge fucking numbers. Impressive to be sure, but they lack an incredible amount of context, and with that lack of context another small contribution to the sometimes toxic nature of the marketing communities.
I want to be clear I’m all about bragging. Go nuts. Seriously I have 0 shame about talking about a win when we get it. In general we should all strive to celebrate one another’s victories as this isn’t a 0 sum game, but also I think breeding a culture of healthy competition is a positive thing. Frequently though, and particularly with what have come to be known as “ROAS Screenshots” this isn’t really the case.
A screenshot of just purchase conversion value, just return on ad spend, just whatever lacks context to the point of being useless best case scenario, and is intentionally misleading or downright malicious in the worst case scenario. Let’s take a purchase conversion value as an example. $500,000 is really impressive for a purchase conversion value. It seems less so if you spent $5,000,000 to get it. A 25x ROAS seems incredible until you realize it’s a $5 a day campaign retargeted to an initiate checkout audience. This lack of context makes these things meaningless, and contribute to a really toxic culture.
I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself in the past, when would I see one of these things I’d always asking myself why am I not getting that result right now for everyone I work with? I start to question what I know and if I’m even good at this. I doubt my own abilities. I chase trends. Ultimately I create chaos, tons of extra work, and marginal to no benefit. Now you could look at me and say
“Jeromy you’re just an easily distracted and insecure person.”
Which is true, but I see enough people that I really respect doing this all the time, and I think that while that it’s true this could be an individual problem there exist a culture that glorifies this sort of behavior which gatekeeps talented people out and contributes to bad mental health for those that are inside it.
Of course all of this begs the question, if this is obviously toxic, if this is truly as bad as you say why does anyone do it at all?
Well, unfortunately it works.
I can write 10 in depth articles about Facebook ads, or Google ads, or connected TV, or whatever and I won’t get close to the level of new client inquiries that 1 well timed ROAS screenshot will get me. Now are they the kind of clients that I want to sign? Typically no. Traditional content marketing is much better at driving qualified leads. The flurry of activity though is wild and addicting. It feels like you’re really doing something making progress.
So unfortunately the cycle continues and the ROAS screenshots keep being produced. I think it’ll take a true cultural shift in the space where clients stop believing these things and thus thirsty agencies stop shitting them out. Unfortunately a cultural shift like that will take either 1. A ton of people getting burned by these clowns or 2. Some sort of systemic change in how media buying is done (Which may well be happening because of privacy laws and Apple). Until then all we can do is call it out, educate people, and be rise above it.
Oh, also a quick note, I’m not against case studies. If you add context to a big win go absolutely crazy posting it everywhere. Just talk about how you got there, the challenges, the wins in context. That sort of thing adds a ton of value and actually teaches people stuff. A picture of a random result doesn’t.