What Is Cross-Channel Advertising? And Why Is It So Difficult?

by | Aug 30, 2019 | Education, Impressions

Cross-Channel Advertising Feature Image Cat

Cross-channel advertising is the practice of unifying a campaign’s disparate advertising channels towards one objective. 

But managing multiple advertising channels is like herding cats. Some are laser-focused on their own (often inscrutable) agenda, others are ambling off absent-mindedly, while still others are flitting from shiny object to shiny object.

This is the lot of many modern marketers. Digital advertising requires marketers to think in cross-channel terms, but the solutions provided so far haven’t made it any easier to do so (and often complicate things further). 

Let’s figure out why.

Why cross-channel advertising is a necessity.

Cross-channel advertising, as most define it, is just advertising. Most think of it as utilizing multiple channels in your media mix. They often say it’s the same as multi-channel marketing or omni-channel marketing. 

But, by this definition (as any “mad man” would tell you), advertisers have been doing cross-channel advertising since the advent of radio (and even earlier). If you had a campaign that employed TV, radio, and print, you’re doing what some define today as “cross-channel advertising.” 

The distinction we make is that true cross-channel advertising is aligning every channel towards one objective. This requires you to tap into the unique strengths of each channel. 

The thing is, there are a lot of channels these days. And each of these channels introduce nuances, challenges and opportunities media teams have to navigate. Not to mention, developments in programmatic technology has made all this happen faster and faster.

As Shane breaks down in a recent video, this means using tactics that don’t directly correlate with the most obvious KPI. For instance, if your goal is driving more conversions, awareness tactics can be incredibly effective in the long run, despite seeming like a costs sink at first.

True cross-channel advertising is recognizing this and using all the applicable channels at your disposal to drive conversions (or whatever your objective is). If you don’t do this a couple things will happen.

You’ll Waste Money

We hear this story all the time: we had a channel running without the right creative/audience/etc. for a couple weeks and wasted a ton of money. This common error is a direct result of not adequately executing a true cross-channel campaign.

You won’t take into account each channel and intentionally lay out strategy across all of them. But that’s OK. As we’ll get into below, it’s not your fault.

You'll Burn Out - Brain on Low Battery Icon

You’ll Burn Out

What advertisers want (and need) of digital advertising is the marketing holy grail: to connect with the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message.

And this requires one thing: to be where your audience is. To achieve this without a true cross-channel approach, your team will be doing a ton of grunt work to make it all happen.  

Trophy Icon - You Won't Fulfill Your Objective

You Won’t Fulfill Your Objective

Following the above example from Shane, if you don’t run awareness to drive conversions, you won’t drive as many conversions. You’re missing huge opportunities to fulfill your ultimate objective by siloing your channels.

So, you need to use cross-channel advertising, in the sense of utilizing each channel for its unique strengths to achieve one central objective. Unfortunately, doing so is much easier said than done.


Why cross-channel advertising is difficult.

Put simply, it’s hard to know what’s happening with your campaigns at any given time. Differing campaign architectures, ad tech stacks, team structures, etc. all contribute to a confusing, extremely siloed system for managing your advertising

Here are a few of the biggest culprits that make true cross-channel advertising difficult.

Fence Icon - Walled Gardens

Walled Gardens

Facebook and Google (and soon, Amazon) have built self-contained ecosystems that incentivize using their technology to the exclusion of others, also known as walled gardens. In other words, Google want you to only use Google technology and generally won’t play nice with Facebook or third parties. 

They’ve got their own (often inscrutable) agenda, algorithms and black boxes that few understand but many adhere to out of necessity.

When these walled gardens control the majority of a channel (Google with Paid Search and Display and Facebook with Paid Social) it’s super difficult to get it to work in line with other channels. 

Arrows Pointing All Over Icon - Fragmentation

Industry Fragmentation

A perfect example of the advertising industry’s fragmentation is G2Crowd’s Cross-Channel Advertising Software category. Most of these only specialize in a few channels. If they were to do every channel, they’d be spread too thin to do anything of worth. 

So, you need solutions for the solutions for unifying all your channels. You have to hop in and out of platforms trying to understand all of what’s happening and somehow figure out a way to bring it all together.

The result of this fragmentation is often a lack of control over individual channels and a “set it and forget it” kind of attitude. You might launch a campaign through certain channels, but because the industry is so fragmented you have to let them amble where they will and try to make sense of it later.

Ring Icon - Shiny Objects

Shiny Objects

Another big issue is the shiny object problem. To remain competitive, channels and platforms develop new capabilities, ad units and other bells and whistles.  

Examples in recent years include big shifts in blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), but also include things like Facebook’s big pivot to video content or Pinterest testing out conversion tools

While many of these are legitimately powerful tools (as Marty, one of our data scientists, outlined in his article Advertising AI Isn’t What You Think It Is), they can cause more harm than good. In Facebook’s case with the video pivot, they heavily incentivized video content to the arguable detriment of other ad units. This has a very real impact on all ads run through the Paid Social channel.

This can lead to channels being distracted by new features that may not have a huge impact and may even hurt performance in the long run. In these situations, you’re better off doing some A/B testing to see what works. But that’s near impossible with the tools the industry has historically provided.

The result of all these is that media teams never have a good grip on what’s happening in each of their channels, let alone how they work together. Cross-channel advertising is not possible in such circumstances.


How cross-channel advertising can be easier.

The answer to all of these issues is one thing: unification. It starts with a better media plans using tools specifically designed from the ground up for complex, cross-channel campaigns

Next, you need to connect all your data sources, channels, platforms and everything else into one location. 

This exactly what LumenAd’s Connect Feature Set is designed to do. It’s marketers’ toolkit to bring all channels together to execute true cross-channel advertising campaigns. 

View our Connect Feature Set page for an overview → 


In the coming week or so, we’ll explain exactly how the Connect Feature Set makes true  cross-channel advertising campaigns possible. Schedule a demo now if you don’t want to wait.

Related Articles

Resources for Marketers: COVID-19

Updated: 4/24/2020 It’s April, and working from home and sheltering in place is now the norm for most Americans. (Thank you essential workforce for all that you are doing right now!) As we wrap our...

VIEW ALL Education | Impressions resources

Subscribe to the Impressions Newsletter.

Get the latest news, tips and best practices delivered to your inbox. 

LumenAd logo      © Copyright LumenAd 2020
111 North Higgins Avenue, Missoula, MT 59802  |  406.552.1022