Why Media Efficiency Never Gets Old

When a Client Needs a Turnaround, Less is More — a Lot More

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Why media efficiency never gets old, from Lineout.

In the age of pixels, data rooms and attribution modeling, how does an advertising joke from the Victorian era still get laughs? The answer is revealing — and it brings context to our agency’s approach to clients.

The quip in question is attributed to John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia department store owner and an early adopter of newspaper advertising. You’ve probably heard the gag a million times: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” 

Advertisers are still quoting Wanamaker, almost 150 years later. Why? Because there’s still truth in those words. Even today, it’s tricky to attribute business performance to specific media investments. (Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.) Yes, we’ve come a long way: collecting data at scale, full factorial creative testing, building proxies to measure incrementality, and more. Most importantly, it’s common practice to scrupulously measure Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) to mitigate that pesky Wanamaker waste.

But not all ROAS is created equal. Perhaps the greatest test of an agency’s media mettle comes when a client looks to improve results without growing their ad budget. Saying that the business needs growth while keeping the budget fixed, it’s not far from asking: “ Can we get Porsche performance out of my minivan?”

That type of challenge might be a non-starter for some agencies, but not for us. Meeting our clients where they are, and bringing them value is exactly the business we want to be in. In fact, to us, the purest expression of delivering impact is discovering new efficiencies within a system — for example, lifting ROAS without a spendy solution.

In two partnerships, we showed that the results we deliver in efficiency aren’t due to luck or mere talent — they stem from our methodology of engagement, curiosity and working hand-in-hand with our clients.  


The legendary dancewear brand Capezio needed to accelerate revenue and customer acquisition. It identified their underperforming Facebook and Google ads as an important growth opportunity. They were right. But before diving into their account dashboards, we asked questions and gathered intelligence about the totality of their e-commerce and wholesale businesses. Our recommendations and strategies — from campaign restructuring to digital catalog overhauling — were informed by this comprehensive intake. We knew that increasing the media budget wasn’t in play. Instead, we needed to reallocate resources with intention, and make existing dollars work harder. As our Capezio case study shows in greater detail, the strategy worked. Because we cared enough to listen, to partner on the limitations, and to develop a comprehensive solution set.  

Palmetto Publishing 

The self-publishing service provider Palmetto Publishing faced a dilemma similar to Capezio. Leads from Google had plummeted and costs were out of line with the results. After extensive dialog with the client, we identified the levers to increase the effectiveness of their existing budget, which was not flexible. Our key plays were: UX enhancements with Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), optimization to Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies. All three tactics worked together to create the change Palmetto Publishing needed. Lead costs dropped on Google, organic impressions and traffic rose, and conversion rates popped. As our Palmetto Publishing case study lays out, we met the challenge — we tuned a growth engine even within strict budgetary constraints. With a healthier business outlook, our client was able to scale its media investment in the future and they discovered no drop off in efficiency. 

Both clients tested our creativity and flexibility. With Capezio, we drew on our extensive experience partnering with e-commerce startups for whom cold, hard efficiency is a matter of business life or death. For the efficient lead generation Palmetto Publishing needed, we tapped into our resident experts whose innovative lead-gen frameworks were developed for clients in higher-education recruitment.     

The Lineout through-line in these examples isn’t only efficiency, it’s the deep partnership that allowed us to act as stewards of our clients' businesses, empathizing with their needs as if they were our own. In other words, empathy begets efficiency.

It’s why we believe there’s virtue in working hard to avoid the waste of advertising. If that sounds old fashioned to you, take it up with Mr. Wanamaker.

Explore More

“Palmetto Publishing Case Study: Rewriting a Book Publisher’s Search Engine Strategy”

“Capezio Case Study: Partnering With a Dance Brand to Find its E-commerce Footing”

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