A lot of people enmeshed in the online world like to refer gruffly to other types of marketing as “interruption marketing.” Predominantly, they are talking about advertising. Advertising “interrupts” your reading experience. It can certain interrupt your television watching or your radio listening (do people still listen to the radio?). On social media platforms, advertising can fall into the downright annoying category. Yes, a lot of arguments are floating around about why you should stop advertising. As far back as 2009, Business Week noted, “The vast majority of ads don’t register with consumers.” In a recent post for Business2Community, Patrick McDaniel notes that many people go up to him and say, “Yeah, I tried advertising. It didn’t work.”
In fact, a simple Google search for “advertising is dead” yields quite a few results:
Are all of these folks right? Is advertising dead? Does advertising just simply not work?
What does “work” mean?
Not to be glib, but exactly what were you expecting your advertising to do? False expectations can be a big problem for businesses and marketers. If you were expecting your advertising campaign to pull your company out of the recession, you probably found yourself disappointed. Similarly, if you thought advertising would make people like your product more, you were likely not satisfied with the results. As Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston note in Marketing in the Round, advertising is really best for direct marketing and building brands. If your objectives and measurement systems aren’t in alignment with those types of tactics, you’re going to run into trouble.
Why do people think advertising doesn’t work?
The most common reason advertising doesn’t “work,” I might hypothesize, is that people don’t really understand how to make advertising work. Advertising is more like a puppy, not like a cat. You can’t leave it alone and assume it will take care of itself. You need to plan your media placements carefully. You need to make sure you are hitting the right audience with the right kind of creative. And yes, you need to find ways to measure everything you’re doing.
When we recommend advertising programs to our clients, we present online ads as akin to billboards. People don’t click on banner ads much anymore, but they notice them, and if you are going to an industry website, seeing companies you want to learn more about can create an environment where clicks are more possible than in other places (like, say, CNN). We also recommend not using banner ads for sheer promotion anymore. Give people a REAL reason to click. Offer something that can answer a question or that can help your potential customers meet their objectives. If you are led to believe that an online banner ad will increase traffic to your website by leaps and bounds, you will probably end up believing that advertising doesn’t work. If you don’t capture click-throughs via a special landing page, you’ll end up on the same boat.
In print advertisements, it’s important to make sure your ad makes sense for your audience. Does your audience like copy-heavy ads that are more like advertorials or do they respond to graphic-heavy ads with very little copy? Do they like straightforward presentations or does their eye get caught by out-of-the-box creative? There are plenty of ways to test these kinds of approaches, whether it’s running two different ads in very similar publications or timing your ads for a Reader Study issue, where people can respond directly to your ad and say what they think about it.
Again, if you do not have a methodology for capturing leads from your print ad, you are likely going to believe that advertising doesn’t work. You need to find a way to attract readers to your website, and not just to your homepage. You need to drive traffic to a page where you can capture information. Incentivize this part of your program. Again, offer readers something that will entice them to click, whether it’s a free white paper, an e-book that answers a key question, or something else along those lines.
If you engage in a print advertising program with an expectation that you will immediately be inundated with sample requests and sales, you will again end up believing that advertising doesn’t work.
You can do social media and still advertise
Many people seem to draw a black-and-white contradictory picture between social media marketing and advertising. If you are on Twitter for your business, you clearly can’t also advertise. Right?
In fact, this kind of thinking is leading companies away from some really intriguing integrated marketing opportunities. Print ads could drive traffic to a Facebook page. A QR code on an ad could lead to a YouTube video. You could even invite people to answer a question they see in a print ad by contacting you on Twitter. The possibilities for translating interest in a print ad to engagement elsewhere could be almost endless, in fact. But the “this or that” mentality overshadowing marketers these days may cloud over all of that potential.
What do you think about advertising? Should people just give up on this type of marketing or is that crazy talk? What are your experiences with advertising? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
PS, this post is letter Q in the Alphabet of Marketing Myths series. You can catch up on the series here.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/colleen-lane/4989879689/ via Creative Commons