New Trend in Online Advertising – or is it?

Yes you may find my heading a little confusing, but so is this so called “advertising” we are being fed by Facebook and YouTube and your local Browser.

I really don’t like it and if the technique can be perfected that would be one thing, but I have real problems with this advertising model. Let’s look at why.

Here’s what happens:

Your privacy is invaded as bots and cookies and who knows what grab bits of information about your personal life and use it to try to pigeonhole you as a specific type of consumer who is a prime target to buy a specific thing.

This in itself is flawed, as many of us search for things online and sometimes for a friend or relative. Or maybe we just want to see how much a car like we own costs now. Or check on who has the lowest price of an item. Or see if the shoes we just bought were indeed a good deal.

Does this mean that we are targets to buy that item? Not. I mean let’s be realistic about this. I am a Mac addict – all my friends will tell you that. I will never buy a PC, nor want one. But I do have friends who ask me to see if I like a specific model, what do I think about this or that and I oblige them by searching for it online.

Chances are if it is PC related I will tell them to get a Mac — after all I have used Macs since 1987. So today when I got bombarded with PC ads I got annoyed.  The more PC ads that popped up the more annoyed I got.

Then because I was surfing to find out about some PC programming stuff online, I got bombarded with “ads” from that specific manufacturer. Who, by the way, I had sent 3 terse emails telling them their website was confusing, their navigation terrible and their product descriptions lacking.

Ok so let’s recap – I visited their website, did not like their product, nor their site, and I complained to them. Therefore I am now their target audience and they are paying for ads to appear on my screen to make me even more annoyed.  Hmmm…

Now is this logical?

Advertising 101 teaches you to put your ads in front of a defined target audience who may be persuaded into buying your product.

Am I the target audience they should bombard with unwanted ads on their product?

I think not.

With the advent of social media, brands can make it or break it with WOM (word of mouth) spread through Tweets, posts, blogs, emails… The word gets out as fast as your internet or phone connection.

And if you have a brand to promote, the last thing you want is to stir up bad press online. It will go viral far and wide. It is very hard to stop. It conceivably can be fatal, although I think that is more rare…

Look at what just happened with Abercrombie’s! They did it to themselves with an arrogant attitude and a slip of the tongue.  And their comments went viral, faster than you can snap your fingers (well almost) — you get the idea.

Consumer feedback is instantaneous nowadays.  Look at programs like “Dancing With The Stars”, who show Tweets on the bottom of the screen during the show.

Positive reinforcement is great PR. Consumers are more interactive and willing to let everyone know what they like or don’t like. Consumers are defining brands and making or breaking sales.

But tell me —  how do these companies know what interests me?

Let’s have a look at what Google has come up with, as it says it has analyzed my browsing and searching activity… here is some of the info on my Google Ad Settings with the topics they think interest me:

  1. Apartments & Residential Rentals:  Well a friend of mine grabbed my laptop the other day to look at a place a friend told her about. Does that make me interested? Not.
  2. Arts & Entertainment:  Well yes that is true.
  3. Bedroom: Another friend of mine is an Interior Designer and she wanted to show me something she was thinking of doing  for a client of hers. Does that make me interested to buy something for me?  Not.
  4. Biographies & Quotations: Ok I’ll buy that. I love them.
  5. Business & Industrial: Definitely
  6. C & C++:  Hey they forgot C# – and yes I was searching for some coding answers, but believe me I have no real interest in any of these…
  7. Camcorders: I have no idea where this came from! And NO I have no interest.
  8. Cats: I like funny cat videos, who doesn’t?  BUT stop trying to sell me litter.
  9. Computers & Electronics: No words needed, but I like to look, but not in the market for anything right now.
  10. Construction & Power Tools: Yeah I am selling off a lot of tools, not buying them. But how would they know that…?  Hmmm….  Do you see where this type of Marketing is flawed yet?
  11. Cooking & Recipes: Don’t know where this came from either…
  12. Custom & Performance Vehicles: So I like to watch Classic Car Restorations, big deal.
  13. Dogs:  Yes I have one — AND?
  14. E-Book Readers: Yes I have one — And?
  15. East Asian Music: Well it had Asian music under some of the cat videos – but does that mean I like it?
  16. Economics: Well Yes…
  17. Education: Of course – I do teach! But PLEASE stop trying to get me to go back to college – I DO already have a Terminal degree, thank you!
  18. Fashion & Style: Well sort of but not a whole lot…
  19. Food & Grocery Retailers: I do like to eat…
  20. Fiber & Textile Arts: This is a little broad, but if it has to do with Art, yes.
  21. Graphics & Animation Software: Of course but I am not in the need for any…
  22. Home & Garden: I needed some bug spray…
  23. Home Appliances: Guess looking for coffee at Bed Bath & Beyond means I look at Home Appliances
  24. Home Financing: NOT – well not now anyway…
  25. Home Furnishings: Another friend did a search
  26. Home Improvement: So if I look for lumber to make my paintings that means I am interested in Home Improvement… Can you see where I am headed with this yet…?
  27. Homemaking & Interior Decor: NOT except to look at websites of a client’s competition…
  28. Humor: Well — I’d better have a sense of humor…

That’s enough to make my point… I will stop there as there were 61 entries on their list of my interests, which included PC Tablets and Windows OS by the way!

Mind you they have REALLY gathered a lot of information about my browsing – but hey it’s not all my browsing, and how do they know what or why I was searching for things?

You see this new “advertising” makes assumptions. It is not based on fact. Much of the material upon which they base interest is unreliable. Therefore how can the ads they throw in my face do anything but annoy?

How can they possibly claim I am a prospective customer?

They can’t. They do this and cross their fingers hoping I will click on an ad.

Now how can you call THAT Advertising?

It is Marketing in the sense that it is based on information, but the information is not reliable.

It is not valid Market Research. It is more like an attempt to get people to throw money in little bits out there all the time in hopes they will snag a customer.

For example; I watched several cat videos on YouTube today for fun. During the 4 videos I watched I got like 7 ads for the same brand of tires pop up. AND ads for the same brand I am having issues with, NOT a brand I am interested in purchasing again unless my warranty covers more than 80% of the cost.

So tell me, HOW VALUABLE was it to pop up these ads in my face over and over again. I cannot tell you how aggravated I became. And I love advertising – it has been my career for decades. So consciously or subconsciously is it possible that I may form a negative image of a brand by their actions with regards to the messages they serve me daily? OF COURSE!!!

See I have a problem with this whole ad delivery system. The number of ad impressions looks terrific on paper and if you only are told that the target was specifically people who looked at your website or were interested in your products saw them, wouldn’t that sound great?

But would the latter be true? NO.

So you see if I, an advertising guru , who has analyzed the effects of advertising on prospects for decades, am turned off by this type of advertising, then how would your regular group of customers react when they are bombarded already with thousands of ads a day? This is information overload already.

Isn’t it possible that the negative aspects of this method of “advertising” (it pains me even to call it that) can outweigh the positive if your brand is at stake? Is it really worth the risk?

A company’s brands are really, really valuable with regards to the net worth and/or stock price of a company. So keeping that in mind would you do this to YOUR brand if you were CEO?

Of course I think this new interactive, social world is very exciting and I welcome many aspects of it, but in reality should it be called “Advertising”? I think not. It is a sales technique, and one that has not been proven.

Well it works, doesn’t it?

Yes in some ways it does bring sales, and sometimes it can build brand image, but NOT ALWAYS. It can backfire.

And as consumers become more technologically savvy, they may also become more resistant to this type of advertising. I am always clicking ads closed. Aren’t you?

I for one have clicked by mistake on more than 20 ads this week – hey I have a trackpad and it’s easy to set off these links. So think about this — someone paid for these click-thrus — most likely – and sadly.

And if some of these advertisers think that because I researched tires they have a chance of selling me some — sorry…

Yet I don’t expect this article will change this “advertising” practice. The technique will morph with time hopefully into some sort of less annoying sales vehicle.

Until then I guess we’ll have to try to minimize the intrusiveness by opting out of these things the best we can…

What is your take on this type of “advertising”? Love to hear your thoughts.

– Geri Konstantin