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Digital Advertising Works. Your Ads Just Suck!

Let’s tighten our belts and roll up our sleeves for just a moment. Some complain that “traditional advertising is dead” or that “there is no ROI in social media marketing.” I don’t believe that many platforms, even traditional media such as billboards and radio are dead at all. I believe that many of the new players, such as SnapChat and Pinterest, can be more effective than most realize. Most platforms can still work, if “expletive”, “expletive” know what they’re “expletive” doing. The problem is that most don’t. And the problem is that your ads just suck!

I don’t just mean that the ad itself is lame. I mean that many ads are doomed from the beginning. The creative is dull. The target market is misunderstood, the vehicle used to send the message is ugly and the joke has been done before. It interrupts the consumer experience instead of complementing or adding value. Interest and emotion are no where to be found.

What happened to the passion, the imagination, the soul of clever storytelling? What happened to the art of advertising? What happened to studying the legends, like Cliff Freeman, Mary Wells Lawrence, Thomas Burrell, Dan Wieden, David Ogilvy and Hal Riney? How would they execute a Facebook and Twitter ad?

History is full of great women and men who were god-like in storytelling and speaking to their audiences, yet they are often forgotten. Digital ads nowadays are often the equivalent of someone interrupting you on a Starbucks line handing you a ½ off flyer for a cup of coffee made fresh out of their dirty trunk. You’re more likely to get metaphorically punched in the mouth than to make a sale or win a lifelong customer with those tactics.

Why do so many ignore the consumer preferences and turn to flashy, annoying, in-your-face tactics? Intrusive ads created by the aloof, have pushed consumers, mostly millennials, to actively seek out ways to avoid advertising whenever possible.

With so much available consumer data and easy access to tools, why are so many consumers so unhappy with our craft? Why are the vehicles being blamed instead of the drivers? Any time a new medium or platform for advertising is introduced, the previous platforms fall under scrutiny for failing to maintain the same ROI for marketers. Video didn’t kill the radio star, he just wasn’t good enough to roll with the punches. It’s not that the novelty of older mediums is wearing off, and it can’t all be blamed on platforms becoming over saturated, it’s simply Marketing Darwinism. Old tactics and weak marketers are becoming less and less effective, while the innovative and savvier artists are pioneering the next frontier, capturing both consumer attention and sales revenue.

Some of these savvier products have been around for ages, while others are just now finding their way into the marketplace.  All have found clever ways to get attention, understand their target market, and provide value in some way. For instance:

– Hipchat Office Space campaign YouTube

Creates a desire for the working class-aged audience to hold off on pressing the “skip ad” button by playing on nostalgia, humor, and celebrity star power. The character is relevant to the product itself and his fame quickly gives context to the product in a humorous and positive way.

– Snickers Superbowl Ad

Displays something familiar, yet unexpected. It’s recognizable to both an older audience who would recognize the Brady Bunch house as well as a younger market that would notice “Machete” actor Danny Trejo clearly out of place.

– Geico’s unskippable YouTube ad campaign

Takes notice of something well all deal with- YouTube ads- and makes light of them in a ridiculous and memorable way.

Successful ads like those are refreshing. I know great advertising. I’ve studied great advertising. Most importantly, I’ve executed great advertising. What, did you think I worked on brands like Gatorade, Quaker, and BMW off of my good looks alone? I did my research and it paid off. The more spectacular ad campaigns that I see being implemented, the more frustrated I become when I see others insulting the craft. So, here is my advice to other advertisers, as well as a challenge.

Understand your target market

Don’t just know who they are. Study them. Talk to them. Understand them. What do they like to read or watch? Where do they do this? How do they do it? Why do they do the things they do? Find out how can you help them, don’t just guess.

Understand your platform

Would you advertise on the radio without ever having tuned in to a station yourself? Of course not. Don’t market on platforms you don’t understand without testing them for yourself. Interact with them. Analyze them. Do everything you can to damn near break them. Figure out how they really work and how consumers truly use them, then find out where your ad fits best into the equation.

Understand your creative

Why would anyone care about your ad? No one cares that you created it, designed it, wrote it! No one cares how long it took you or how many iterations it went through. Will it catch my rapidly depleting attention? How? Understand that you are fighting an uphill battle right from the get-go. Attention must be earned nowadays, not stolen.
This is me calling out other marketers to step up to the plate. Stop complaining, start listening and evolving. Do you want Taylor, that new kid they just hired to be your new boss? Because Taylor is one step closer to the corner office with every bad ad you approve. As I said before, provide people with something of value. Make them laugh, make them think, solve a problem, fulfill a need, challenge us in some sort of way, or please, get your ads out of my face.

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