Is relevant advertising really so annoying?

Simon Sinek has written a book about a brilliant idea: „Start with why„. Now he has written a semi-good blogpost about the ad industry titled „I hate you: a tale about the advertising industry„.  His main take out: agencies knowingly produce stuff people don’t want to see, so they look for ways to make people watch that stuff anyway. His proposal:

the ad industry should work to improve the quality of their product to a point where people want to watch it.

Well, isn’t that what creative agencies are trying to do anyway? It’s a problem of targeting. The best ad is wasted on someone who doesn’t care or even hate the brand. And once an ad is well targeted, it’s message should be relevant, and there should be no question about acceptance. A good creative targeted at the right audience should never fall into the trap of being annoying.

However, the world isn’t perfect, and in mass distributed media, there will always be a spillover – i.e. ads delivered to people who don’t care about the brand, the message, the offer. And it’s not only a question of entertainment, as Simon Sinek suggests:

The quality of advertising should always be measured based on how entertaining or engaging it is. They should stop measuring how many people are forced to watch (reach and frequency) and start measuring how many people choose to watch.

The main factor is not entertainment, it’s relevance. An ad can be highly successfull, if relevant, even if it’s not in the least entertaining. Given the right context, a fitting message and good targeting, you might also want to call advertising „information“.

Of course, if neither of that is true, you should call it „spam“ or simply annoyance.

The main point of Sinek is, however, that ad agencies produce their creative having a different target audience in mind: the client. For that matter, we might even add another target audience that sometimes play an important role: jurys of advertising award shows. Much of what is created serves to satisfy individual client needs, or may be even simply client internal political structures.

So Sinek argues, that ad agencies should instead again focus on their main target audience: the end customer.

Producing a product for the consumers who are the ones actually consuming the product makes more business sense, too.  Clients would be able to spend less on media because the work would be more memorable.  Plus, if people CHOOSE to watch the ads, they are more likely to like the brands, products and companies featured in those ads. In other words, if advertising was made for consumers and not clients the ultimate benefactor would actually be the client…and isn’t that supposed to be the job of good advertising?

Good idea. Given what I notice in the industry, this is definitely the intention when creating new ideas. Within the realm of highly user-centric media such as social media, this thinking has already started to sink in. It just needs to permeate all the layers of „integrated“ agencies, until even the most classically oriented teams are also familiar with this idea.

Contextual Offline Advertising

Fantastic idea:

Milk producers in Quebec put milk cartons in refrigerators in ten appliance stores around Montreal to take advantage of the moving season.

Apparently, that similar story about diapers and young fathers (who have to stay at home on a friday nite) is not true.


Quantitative and qualitative influence in marketing

Over at the Online Spin blog, there is an interesting article about „peers vs influencers„. The question is, of course: who is your ideal target group. It’s the debate of Gladwells Tipping Point theory vs Duncan Watts argument, that there aren’t any network nodes more influential than others.

Joe Marchese says, there are indeed people who are more influential than others. But only in three dimensions – and they can vary according to topic, point in time and other variables for the same person:

–People have a quantity of influence: the maximum number of other people they can reach with a message.

–People have a quality of influence: the amount of influence they exert over those that they reach.

–People have types of influence: categories of “expertise” that other people assign to an individual.

If this is the case (if it is that easy), you can quickly deduct your target audience according to the marketing objective. Is it widespread awareness? Is it consideration? Is it increased sales?

Not sure if it is that easy. But it does sound nice to put these target groups against the typical marketing funnel. Only question remaining: can you always clearly distinguish one from the other these days? (I doubt that.)

Do you really think people are paying attention to your ads?

So you really think that people pay attention? Try this test to find out how good your „attention“ skills are.


Amazing, isn’t it? Now imagine people are looking for something specific online on your webiste. Will they notice the ads? I guess, they will. BUT: only if they are relevant or related to what they are looking for. Another reason why(contextual, behavioural, etc.) targetting is crucial when attention is scarce. And scarce it is pretty much all the time these days.

Do social networks need advertising?

Mitch Joel pointed me to a business week article about advertising in social networks. In the same post he also links to a blogpost claiming social media sites need advertising.

In short: time spent on social networks is declining, for whatever reason – one could of course be increased advertising on these platforms. So this could be a problem for advertisers in the near future. Secondly: social networks need advertising, the same way media has always been ad supported.

But it’s not only the fact that user numbers are going down, ads on social networks are also less effective than on regular websites:

Many of the people who hang out on MySpace, Facebook, and other sites pay little to no attention to the ads because they’re more interested in kibitzing with their friends. Social networks have some of the lowest response rates on the Web, advertisers and ad placement firms say. Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them, compared with 20 in 10,000 across the Web.

The solution to this is new targeting mechanisms, to serve users more relevant messages.

Last fall, both rolled out programs allowing marketers to pitch products to people in hundreds of categories of interest, such as fashion and sports. News Corp. President Peter Chernin said on Feb. 4 that response rates on MySpace improved as much as 300%.

Could be a solution. But at the end of the day, this whole approach still tries to use old answers to new problems. How about taking an approach that looks beyond plain advertising? How about introducing branded widgets, services, or exclusive whatevers to these platforms, so that brands can provide an added value to the interaction between users?

I am thinking of such things as the Red Bull Rosham Bull Challenge in facebook, which is a game that two users can play against each other. Or even just plain and simple things like the fact that you can sponsor digital gifts in facebook. There still is lots of potential for these kind of approaches.

Oh, and from a business model perspective: I don’t think social networks need advertising support. At least not to the extent that their business models are in danger if there is no proper ad solution in place.

Think about the German platform There you have a choice of paying a monthly premium for additional services – one of which is the fact that you don’t get to see any ads.

There could also be other models, like changing the business model slightly and starting e-commerce around certain product groups (i.e. certain information-based, digital products or even real products).

These problems are not really new. But what this whole discussion shows, is simply the fact that social networks have, all of a sudden, exposed the need for new marketing approaches much clearer than any of the previous developments on the web.