Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do We Need To Kill Advertising To Save It?

What would you do if all of the dollars that you spent on advertising this year we’re suddenly back in your budget? And, all of the advertising that you are currently running, whether offline or online, is no longer running?

In other words, you have a clean slate to start over.

Imagine that nobody knows anything about your brand. How would you go about building it? Would you spend the same amount of dollars in the same places that you did previously?

Doubtful, isn’t it.

One of the problems with advertising is that it already exists. When the word “advertising” is mentioned in a conversation, the mental picture we all draw in our heads is more or less the same.

And, in most cases, it’s not a very complimentary picture.

We all know what advertising is. And, maybe that’s the problem.

Maybe what we need to do is kill it.

Maybe the only way that advertising can survive is if it dies.

Because if "advertising” isn’t around, then the way we go about building brands and selling products would be very different.

Would we still try to communicate with people about our products and services?

You bet.

But it wouldn’t be through “advertising.”

What would it be through? I have to believe that it would still be through story telling, but stories that approach people in a very different way. Through cooperation. And participation. And, if the stories are told well, through social syndication.

But not through intrusion. Or, interruption.

In other words, less through paid media. And more through earned media.

"Advertising agencies" would need to be called something else. After all, if they’re no longer doing advertising, well, what are they doing?

And perhaps therein lies the rub.

What are they doing besides spending the client’s money?

To start down this path, this path of a world without "advertising," the first thing you need to do is eliminate the word “advertising” from any and all conversations with your ad agency. No one from the agency side, or your side, can use the word “advertising” when they’re talking about advertising.

See how befuddled they become. See what word they start to use to replace the word “advertising” when they’re talking about advertising.

Because that word they come up with is what you should now be doing.

Whatever that is, is what "advertising" needs to become if it's going to survive.

Because as of now, advertising is dead.

Sometimes things have to die to live.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Intrusive Advertising. How Would You Define It?

Ask anybody who watches TV what their description of intrusive advertising is and what do you think most will say?

“It’s when the commercials come on and interrupt my program.”

That’s, at least, what I would say.

But it seems that those that run the cable companies have a different definition of “intrusive advertising” from those that watch the cable programming.

Here is the definition of “intrusive advertising” from the president of the advertising sales division at Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV provider.

“Where advertising is intrusive is when there’s a complete mismatch between product and viewer.”

In other words, advertising is intrusive when it is not relevant to the viewer. Not when it intrudes on the program.

To be able to successfully solve a problem, you first have to be able to define what the problem actually is. The cable companies have correctly identified the problem – people don’t like it when advertising intrudes. But once they identified the problem, they incorrectly defined the problem based on a solution that they’re already proposing – more precise targeting.

What they need to do is figure out the solution to the actual problem, rather than trying to define a problem based on the solution they’re trying to market to advertisers.

I know, Comcast has data that says that viewers shown targeted ads watched them 38% longer than folks who see less-relevant commercials.

Okay, so let’s assume that most people watch very little of a commercial, say 10% on average. For a 30-second spot, that’s 3 seconds. If the product is relevant to them, they watch 38% more. Which means, at best, even with perfect targeting, less than half of the commercial is going to be watched by viewers.

And that’s how the cable industry is going to solve the advertising problem facing marketers today? By getting people to watch half the commercial?

Thank goodness. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Argument For Viewer Time Sheets

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this report on P&G and Coca-Cola ending billable hours with their agencies.

The agency time sheet is going by the wayside. And performance-based measures are gaining in popularity.

I have to bet that advertising agency CEO’s are huddling right now trying to figure out what kind of performance they want to be held accountable for.

Because that’s really the question isn’t it? It’s no longer about if you want to be paid based on performance. It’s about how you want to be paid based on performance.

Or, to put it another way, what does your agency perform the best at and so you can try and make the most income?

According to Sarah Armstrong, director of worldwide media and communications operations at Coca-Cola, “The amount of labor or time should not define the value of the work.”

I have to disagree with Sarah. The amount of time does define the value of the work. If, of course, the amount of time that you’re measuring is the amount of time that the viewer spends with the commercial rather than the amount of time the agency spent working on it.

The more time a viewer spends with a commercial, the more value that commercial has for the advertiser. Do you think Sara Armstrong would be willing to pay her agencies based on viewer time sheets rather than agency time sheets?

Think about it. The more time an advertiser can get a viewer to spend with their brand, the less time that same viewer has to spend with the competitor's brand.

In this way, share of time leads to share of mind. And share of mind, as we all know, leads to share of market.

Guess what? Share of market is something that all advertisers agree is a fair measure of performance.

Which means that if I were an advertising agency CEO, I’d be marching into my clients’ offices and asking to be paid based on viewer times sheets. In fact, I'd agree to be held completely accountable for how long the viewer is engaged in the commercial.

The longer the agency's creative involves the viewer, the more the agency makes.

In return, ask for one thing and one thing only. Creative freedom. Once the advertiser buys the script or idea, they have to agree to back off. Let you do what you do.

How many agency heads do you think would take that deal?

I know three that would. If you know one as well, have them give me a shout and I’ll tell them how they can make it happen.

Or, they can always go here and see for themselves.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why 5 Second Pre-Roll + Overlay Is Not The Most Effective Video Ad Unit

Sorry MTV, but you and your experts are wrong.

According to this report out today, SVP and GM of MTV’s digital advertising unit states that 5 second pre-roll + overlay is the most effective video ad unit.

This is just another example of why you shouldn’t trust the experts. The experts will tell you that shorter is better when it comes to online video advertising.

The experts are wrong.

In this instance, they tested a 5 second pre-roll against a 30 second pre-roll.

Remember, pre-rolls are a forced view. The only way to opt-out of watching a pre-roll is to abandon the content that you originally came to see. When it comes to forced views, it is not really surprising that viewers say that shorter is better.

I don’t know how much MTV paid for this brilliant piece of insight, but chances are, much more than it was worth.

If you want to know what is truly the most effective form of video ad unit, don’t ask the experts. Ask the viewers. Better yet, you don’t even have to ask them. Just take a look at the data to see which video ad format they’re choosing to watch the most.

And, even more importantly, which video ad format they're most frequently forwarding to a friend.

Guess what? It’s not a 5 second commercial. Nope, not a 30 second commercial either. It’s usually a commercial that’s a minute in length or longer.

See for yourself.

I don’t know about you, but if I knew my commercial was forwarded to over 3,623,795 other viewers at no extra media cost to me as the advertiser, I’d say that’s pretty much the most effective video ad unit.

Regardless of the number of experts MTV hired to tell them otherwise.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Why We Need To Separate Media From Creative

Two articles last week – here and here. The two articles come from two very different perspectives.

The first says that Digg now lets users vote on ads, just as they can vote on a normal user-submitted Digg story. What Digg wants to do is charge a higher rate per impression for ads that viewers like.

The second article is from Erwin Ephron. Erwin separates noticeability and engagment. According to Erwin, it’s the responsibility of the media to help an ad get “noticed.” This is very important, as “noticeability” is a necessary pre-condition for a viewer to engage with an ad.

Can’t argue with that. After all, it’s pretty hard to engage with an ad if you first don’t notice it.

But whether people like the ad or commercial, or how long they decide to engage with the ad or the commercial, is the complete responsibility of the creative message itself.

Not the media that delivered the message.

If Erwin is right (and I think he is) and likeability or engagement is the responsibility of the creative, then why should publishers, i.e. media, benefit by being able to charge more per impression based on something they have no influence over?

The ones who should benefit from an ad being liked by consumers is the creative agency that created the ad. Not the media that ran it.

Once publishers separate the responsibility of media from that of creative and hold each accountable for what they actually do, that's when they’ll finally be able to add an additional revenue stream outside of impressions.

Which, they will quickly discover, will bring them more money then charging more per impression.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Why Intrusive Advertising Is Not The Answer

You’d think we’d learn.

Advertising online is already pretty annoying. So much so that we all try our best to avoid most advertising that intrudes on our enjoyment of the Web.

Because we seem to avoid intrusive advertising, the brilliant powers that be figure that the key is to make it even more intrusive so that it will be even harder to avoid.

It seems to be the type of logic that falls into “The beatings will stop when the moral improves” camp.

One high-placed exec used the following logic regarding the more intrusive formats. “It theoretically makes a lot of sense. It’s a similar type of user-interruption experience as a commercial in the middle of a TV show.”

Huh, huh.

And we all know how well that works.

We need to stop and think this whole Web-based advertising thing through a little before just jumping in and try to implement methods that don’t work on TV.

Otherwise all we're going to find out is that they also don’t work online. I just can’t understand why advertisers want to waste billions of dollars to find out something that they already know.

Then again, maybe I do. It’s easier to lose money then it is to figure out a new way to make money.

To find a way that advertising can actually work online, we need to stop and consider how the paradigm has changed. Online, the user is in control, not the advertiser.

Advertisers now answer to users. Which means the only way for advertisers to regain control is to give the user complete control.

I know. Sounds crazy.

But so did Hyundai’s proposition where they said that if you lose your job, bring the car back. Hyundai realized that before you can solve a problem, you need to stop and figure out what the actual problem is.

Hyundai asked the same question all the other car dealers asked at the start of the year. Why aren’t people buying cars?

The right answer? Because they’re afraid they won’t have a job tomorrow.

Hyundai’s solution? If you lose your job, bring the car back. No questions asked.

Other car dealers asked the same question but came up with a different answer. “Money is tight,” they said. So they lowered prices.

Do you know the only car company that had positive numbers in the first quarter of this year?

That’s right. Hyundai.

So what is the question advertisers should be asking about online advertising? I think it's this. Are people trying to avoid commercials online, or, are they trying to avoid interruptions?

Once advertisers figure out that the answer is the latter, then they’ll realize that the solution to making advertising successful online is to find a way to make it so that their commercials don’t interrupt.

Radical?

Perhaps.

But no more so than Hyundai’s approach when they first launched it.

Funny how "radical" becomes "smart" when it succeeds.