A Ballerina's Approach to Paid Media

There’s something about ballet that is so evocative for me. Whether dancing, teaching, or simply watching, my love for ballet is visceral. I hear the opening bars of The Sleeping Beauty’s Rose Adagio or the iconic leitmotif of Giselle, and the music envelopes me, radiating through my fingertips and moving me like little else does. Whether this love was learned or entirely innate, I know that ballet has been a passion of mine from my penchant for walking on my tiptoes in infancy on through my days performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

My career shift from such a physical art form may seem like quite the leap (pun intended). I moved from a world ruled by movement, music, and performance to one laden with spreadsheets and heavily ruled by the Google gods. My transition to life as a PPCer was a smooth one, however, as many of the trends and practices inherent in the Paid Media world align with those of ballet. 

In the worlds of ballet and Paid Media, there is a constant need to learn and to challenge. Both fields require a dogged determination to continue along a path toward perfect ideals, requiring a mixture of art and science, trial and error, and a bit of luck.



Most dancers are trained in a particular methodology – Vaganova, Cecchetti, Balanchine. All of which are different means to a similar end, though some dancers favor one method over another. Likewise, PPCers may develop a penchant for how they approach, organize, and optimize a new campaign. You may organize a campaign by keyword theme, buyer intent or match type, bid on broad or long-tail keywords, or experiment with new platform features. In either field, you may be trained in one methodology, but there’s a need for continuous flexibility, and I don’t mean doing the splits.

Ballet requires constant modification and adjustment. When I’m perfecting a turn, for example, there are best practices in terms of preparation and alignment, and as a dancer, I know what’s worked well for me in the past. Every day is different, however, and performance depends on a variety of circumstances. I might have new or “dead” shoes, the choreography may require me to change something or I might be feeling “off my leg.” So, there’s often trial and error involved in everyday practice and performance.

Similarly, with PPC there are best practices, but tweaking and optimization are inevitable. I can build out a campaign according to best practices using data from all the best research tools and set bids to follow that research, but once a campaign is up and running I have to make adjustments, continue to be flexible and tweak based on performance. Seasonality may be a factor, search queries gain and lose popularity, and sometimes your keywords have to be tweaked to attract a user at a certain stage of the buyer journey. Whether a choreographer asks you to interpret something in a new way, or Google changes the tools you’re used to using, you have to be flexible and adapt to what is needed for a particular role or a particular client.



Performing in a ballet requires storytelling, whether there is a tangible story communicated, as in Swan Lake, or simply a central theme, like “love” or “loss.” As a dancer, I strive to carry my audience through the story of the dance, delving into my character and bringing my audience into the story. I want the audience to leave a performance somewhat transformed and singularly moved.

I attempt to approach PPC in this same manner. I want to understand my client’s goals and my user’s perspective. Who is my audience? What do they care about? What are their motivations, questions, concerns? How can I speak to that individual typing the search query on Google.com?

Both ballet and marketing require a balance of art and science – a desire to move an audience, to speak to them, to evoke an emotion, an action, and encourage them to buy into what you’re selling – online or on stage.. If a ballerina has perfect technique, but no emotional appeal, she may bore her viewer. As a marketer in PPC, you want your user to engage with your ads on a personal level, gaining a newfound or strengthened image of your brand or product in the process.

In ballet and in marketing, you’re telling your story and helping your audience along a journey.

Don’t Look Behind the Curtain


Ballet dancers put in hours of practice, sweating, sometimes struggling, and maybe swearing, but the audience should never see that a particular move is difficult and straining on the dancer – every move must appear effortless. A ballet performance should be a seamless experience for the audience.

Likewise, in the world of Paid Media, a marketer’s goal should be to create an experience. A user shouldn’t feel targeted, sold to, or even recognize that what he’s viewing is an ad. Our marketing efforts should be designed to build awareness, answer questions, and, most importantly, strengthen users’ relationships with a brand. Again, it’s in the details – the frequency capping, ad messaging and constant optimization.

PPC should be a part of a fluid experience where ads play a part in helping the user along the buyer journey. While there is constant work done behind the scenes, PPC ads should cater to the user and contribute to his or her experience with your brand.

A Unified Experience


A ballet company works cooperatively to put together a cohesive production, wherein each component is designed to support and work with the other parts. The music score, conductor, musicians, costumes, lights, dancers, choreography, backstage hands – each element must work in conjunction with the others to create a seamless performance.

A digital marketing campaign is no different and should work as a unit. Each element – the storytelling, the optimization, the attention to detail – should serve a greater whole. The Search strategy should work with the Display strategy, supported by a Retargeting strategy and a Social advertising strategy. Even beyond PPC, the SEO, social, and digital PR strategies should be designed to work together toward a client’s ultimate advertising goals.

A cohesive marketing strategy is powerful. Your ultimate goal should be to deliver the right message to the right user at the right time and through the right channel, all in effort to support the user’s decision cycle and nurture his or her relationship with your brand.

Whether in a performance seat or an office chair, each audience member, each user, should be personally moved and inspired by your campaigns.

Written by Adriana Dew on May 27, 2014


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Adriana Dew