Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

The menace of targetted advertising

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My friend Brian has a marvellous rant about advertising, with a respectful nod towards my anti-advertising rants that he has had to listen to for years now. :)

And if it [an advert] is targetted at me, then to hell with it. If someone is only saying this to me, then I’m almost certainly not interested. What I want to know about is what someone rich thinks it worth his while to say to everybody. It is exactly the untargetted nature of old-fashioned adverts, Real Adverts in Real Advert Space, that makes them so useful and amusing to me. Untargetted adverts are Real Adverts. Targetted adverts are visual spam.

An interesting perspected on tragetted or behavioural advertising based on the assumption that Real Adverts, as Brian calls offline advertising, worked because it implied that a) many people may think this is worthwhile to buy and b) someone had enough money to pay for the ads.

He also makes a very important distinction that I haven’t seen elsewhere about the offline advertising happening in a public space whereas the internet and especially one’s web surfing is de facto (if not de jure, as it were) a private space.

Advertising still works, in Real Advert Space, in such places as the Underground or Trafalgar Square or an airport or beside the motorway – in the sense, as I say, that it does not induce active hostility. But the internet is not a “public space”. It is my personal space, or something, or I don’t quite know what. Whatever it is exactly, the internet is certainly not a giant collection of Undergrounds and Trafalgar Squares. What works on the internet is someone talking to me, or writing talkatively for me, in a manner that I can easily switch off and can choose to go on listening to.

There is no doubt what Brian thinks about ‘targetted’ advertising. :)

What absolutely does not work is some hired twat dripping with insincerity, whom I know nothing about except this, standing right next to me and the person who is now talking with me so amusingly, and shouting into my ear – because the hired twat has “targetted” me.

That’s what Adblock Plus is for…

Bonus link: Political Blogs’ Double Whammy: Post-Election, Deep Recession

Nightmare on Madison Avenue

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Andrew Grill tells us that the final paragraphs of the biography on David Ogilvy The King of Madison Avenue by Kenneth Roman, sum things up:

Like all businesses, advertising is changing. This could be the most exciting time to be in advertising. Technology is creating new opportunities to reach consumers – and measure the benefits of spending.

What advertising delivers is ideas. … Ogilvy would not recognise much of the new landscape, but he would applaud the growth of disciplines that can be measured such as direct marketing.

Direct marketing?! That sounds more like a nightmare from Madison Avenue…

As I’ve been saying for a long time, mobile is a unique new channel, and it will take a while for all parts of the ecosystem to step up and use its full potential. I hope I am helping to drive this change in some small way.

….Mobile will probably become the most measurable type of direct marketing we will come across – if executed properly.

I think if David Ogilvy was alive today, he would have grasped the mobile advertising opportunity with both hands, given his direct marketing roots, and directed his staff to focus on the utility of the channel, rather than trying to squeeze 50 years of advertising norms onto a small screen.

It is odd to hear statements like this at the time when most people are learning to use technology to control their environment, gearing up to give a permanent finger to interruption and advertising. ‘Executed properly’ to me suggests beheaded, hung and quartered but from context I don’t think that’s what the author intended.

Advertising types look upon people like me with either splattering outrage: How dare I be against advertising! Or they try to talk me off the ledge, oily with condescention: How silly of me to think that advertising will not live through this inconvenient, unprofessional, messy individual empowerment…! Look at our vast budgets, offices, expense accounts. Oh wait, that seems to be drying up! Quick, what’s the next big idea?! Digital New Social Media here we come!!!

But I digress. Deep breath. Let’s try again.

There is advertising and there is Advertising. Advertising with small a is information about products and services by people who provide or use them. A tablet on an ancient road saying: get your stone wheel fixed here!, or by now a dying breed of a classfied ad in a paper, or on craiglist, or a twitter message ‘advertising’ my need for a restaurant in the neighbourhood, etc. This kind of ‘advertising’ is not produced by an agency, or even the company, it isn’t promoted through a campaign. It’s authentic and direct but neither of that is the point. It is not a message, it’s communication. And will ALWAYS be around in some format or another.

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It differs from Advertising with capital A, which stands for the entire industry producing ‘content’ and shoving it down our throats, the supply chain of agencies, clients, brands. That is not set in stone. There is nothing inherent in the business models of Advertising industry. There have been several since the dawn of time, I am sure. One of them is statues. Yes, dear reader, statues…

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Statues are symbols, imagery that is supposed to make us react, think and feel in a certain way about the subject of the statue or the owner. Similar to advertising or branding in fact. And indeed it used to be the way nations, powerful leaders and institutions advertised themselves and projected an image.

This form of advertising is extinct. It is art now. This would definitely have come as a shock to the whole generations of artists, sculptors, quarry owners, workshop apprentices, patrons and potentates. Surely a whole industry can’t disappear? Just watch the chisel of history chip entire supply chains away. A nice reminder that there is nothing intrinsically necessary in our business models, in the way we understand advertising today and that some of the ways that define Advertising may cease to exist in the same way statues, monuments and paintings are no longer used to ‘advertise’ the rich and mighty.

Quote not to remember

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From ITV plots future in which there is no escape from ads, Colin Macleod, research director at the World Advertising Research Centre:

Consumers are becoming a lot more clever in avoiding advertising, and now that they’ve got the technology to do it it’s become a big issue for advertisers. They need to be smarter.

How about forgetting about ‘consumers’ and taking a hint – don’t interrupt us with ads and don’t keep looking for new ways to do so. Engage as human beings or get out of our way.

Bonus link: Don’t Watch That, Watch This.

Relevant vs useful

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I am fed up with hearing that advertising, marketing and other push messaging has its place as long as it is relevant. Relevance will not get you very far when my attention is already spread thinly and when I am the ultimate arbiter of how my attention is destributed.

Substitute useful for relevant and watch the shift from the advertisers to the audience.

Relevant means what the advertisers or vendors imagine I want. Useful means what I want as ultimately determined by me.

What has a better chance of getting my attention and further engagement?

Social gaffes

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Tomorrow I am chairing a lightweight panel about ’social gaffes’ at the New Media Age Online Marketing show, i.e. talking about examples of brand, marketing and advertising forrays into the social media/web with unfortunate consequences. There are many more examples that I found but here is a few slide I prepared earlier.

The five stages of customer relationships

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How’s that for ‘user generated content’?! Eat your heart out, creative agencies. :)

It is hard to maintain ‘it’s not us v. them‘ attitude when it is so easy to recognise and identify with the symptoms in the video…

Bonus link: Article by Knowledge Wharton Getting Engaged: Advertisers Search for Their Voices on YouTube

Christvertising

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Found it just in time for Easter, Christvertising:

Whether yours is a small, big or internationally renowned brand, God’s is infinitely larger.

Christvertising is a network of communications specialists and advertising professionals, which helps you navigate through the maze that is the world of competitive brands. If you like your product, so do we, but more importantly so does God. We believe that nothing is possible without the Lord’s blessing and consent. Your product is no exception. May God bless your Brand.

How quaintly medieval! And yet, has more rationale than the current advertising practices.

And as commenters here point out:

I think “God doesn’t love your brand” would be a good t-shirt… With a little graph depicting a decline in sales.

Truth in advertising…

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A collection of brilliant adverts. One slight glitch – they are truthful. Here are my favourites:

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by Adjective Noun

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by inyarear

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by Sanchez

There’s something wrong in the trends business…

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A brilliant and taking-no-prisoners analysis of the trend peddling agencies by Piers Fawkes.

He talks about arrogance and control, the long time favourite pastime of the media and ‘creative’ business, death of creativity (ouch), lack of critical judgement and of organisational change. All heartening observations for a devout disruptor like me, all the more noteworthy as they come from an insider. Anyone working or dealing with agencies could identify those, but it takes some courage and time to spell them out. I share those views, of course, but they do not keep me awake at night in the slightest. My focus are companies and more importantly the people inside those companies.

One of the frustrations I have with the ‘creative’ industry is the appropriation of what’s freely available and accessible and passing it for their own expertise or judgement. And very badly at that. So bloggers become ‘influentials’ to be showered with press releases, gimmicks and offers of participation for trinkets. Teenagers are superficially described and pigeon-holed faster than you can say ‘demographic’. Or ‘youf culture’ if you are one of the new trendy agencies. Geeks get conveniently ignored, definitely to their benefit. Sayz Piers:

We’re in a digital world where conversations are free – but trends services aren’t willing to be honest about where they got their judgments from. Too many companies and their ad agencies are cut and pasting their unchecked judgments into their powerpoint documents to make significant strategic decisions.

Another of my gripes is the number of agency pitches and presentations to clients promising social media nirvana, without anyone in the room having actually seen a blog/feed reader/bookmarking tool/widget etc etc. Alright, it’s 2008 so by now they have probably seen them. And signed up for Facebook/MySpace/LinkedIn/SocNet-de-jour. Or went to a workshop, a training session or asked the in-house geek to show them – but hardly used them, let alone immersed themselves in the ‘userland’ on a daily basis. Why, of course? These are consumers, demographics, markets and ultimately trends to package and sell. So it’s work, not a way of life or, god forbid, fun! The upshot is that if you don’t know what you are talking about but have to sell it, this is what happens:

In Summary, the trends business is a walled business that uses smoke and mirrors to protect it. It preaches from on high what the trends are without much transparency about what their recommendations were based on. In an era of Google inspired freedom of information, these businesses surely can’t continue to hide data that is already in the public domain.

via Mark Earls

update: How clients like it…

French school commercial

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Advertising at its best! I take it all back!

The curse of the platform or advertising is not a business model

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I must agree with Alec’s post Twitter Business Models / Calacanis is Bonkers? where he calls Calacanis barking mad crazy for talking about in feed advertising and SMS advertising for Twitter. I am surprised that in this day and age anyone would consider advertising a long term, or even medium term, way of making money online. I can only hope that Hugh was being deeply sarcastic.

Sayz Alec:

At best they may maintain some control over their half-life – how long it will take to lose half of their users, and then half of what remains – but decay is inevitable and will be rapid. Maybe they could milk some cash out of it on the way down, whilst they are pissing-off their userbase? Not a good plan for growth…

Indeed, especially as Calacanis believes in scale and this underscores his recommendations to Twitter.

It’s about scale. When you’re playing in the big leagues with unlimited access to capital you shouldn’t worry about revenue BEFORE you have critical mass.

Here is industrial age thinking translated into online environment. And true enough, to the extent that the mindset still rules our behaviour online. But there may be another way, in the ‘channel world’ scale is in aggregation. In the networked world, scale is in distribution. That is why people from the former build platforms, people from the latter build applications that help distribution. It is not platforms that are bringing the media industry to its business model knees but P2P-eed teenagers, networked bloggers and applications that increase the individual’s ability to produce, share and distribute.

The curse of the platform is that although it may initially bring users value, as time goes on it is hard to sustain, let alone make money as the cognitive dissonance about who your real customers are increases with time. At the start, when building a platform, the platform owners consider themselves, or at least behave as if, serving the users. But the moment they decide to start placing adverts or otherwise ‘monetise the eyeballs’, their real customers are the advertisers. There’s not many of them wot gets it:

Craigslist had been approached about placing text ads on the site. “We’ve had the numbers crunched for us,” he said. “The numbers are quite staggering.” But, no, the site wasn’t interested. “No users have been requesting that we run text ads, so for us, that’s the end of the story,” he said to the befuddlement of the crowd. “If users start calling out for text ads, we’ll listen.”

Another unspoken question presents itself – Is making x gazillion $$$ within a finite amount of time a business model? Or is an exit strategy with $$$ in the bank a business model? Both are certainly a way of making money but a business model is something more fundamental. It is about creating a way to create value, to maintain and grow it. The aims is to make enough money to keep doing just that. I don’t see much of that in Web 1.0/2.0. But I may be old-fashioned like that.

799px-sydney_opera_house_in_sand.JPG One of the statements that made my heart leap last year is: Advertising is a form of censorship. The Web of 2007 is a house built upon sand. But more about that later…

Quote to remember

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…we too easily default to framing our understanding of advertising in its own terms. We regard advertising as an independent variable: something ya gotta have. But in fact advertising is a dependent variable. The independent variable is the individual human being. As Chris Locke put it so perfectly nine years ago, we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.

What we need is to equip demand with better ways of engaging supply. Not just better ways for supply to create and manipulate demand.
- Doc Searls in Facebook doesn’t need to be Adbook

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