Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Purpose of Online Advertising

Some say the purpose of online advertising is “clicks”.

Some say “impressions”.

Some say “likes” or being “friended.”

Everyone says “sales.”

Except me. 

Say you run a thirty-second commercial online.  It’s a spot that’s been set up to easily be shared with others after viewing. 

The spot is viewed by a consumer.

Now let’s say you have an option as an advertiser.  You can choose one of the following.  That this single consumer buys your product after seeing your commercial.  Or, that this single viewer shares your commercial with 10 other people.  

Which do you choose?  Which would ultimately make your brand more successful?

Research shows that commercials received from a friend or associate are watched more thoroughly and have more impact on the viewer than commercials running as usual.

Research also shows that when sharing something online, we will do so on average with ten or more people.

That’s ten people that the advertiser has reached free of charge.  Ten people who will watch the commercial with more interest because it was a friend or associate who sent it to them.

What does this mean?  That instead of one person buying one product, the advertiser has the possibility of making ten sales.  And, by the way, at no extra cost to the advertiser

What’s the ROI of that?

There are many, including this writer, who claim that repurposing advertising from TV to online is a waste of money for everyone except the publisher and the media agency.

The reason is that the objective of online advertising is twofold.  First, to create earned media.  And second, to create sales.  The objective of TV advertising is more one-dimensional.   

Two different objectives should mean two different executions.  How many advertisers do you know who do that?

What would online advertising look like if its primary objective was to create more earned media?  Would it be more interesting?  Provocative?  Engaging?  Watchable?

Would it have more people spending more time with online advertising?

Would it go a long ways to solving the “ignore me” problem with current online advertising?

Perhaps the problem with online advertising is that we have misunderstood its primary purpose. 

We still think it’s to sell products.

It is.  But only after it first “sells” the commercial.

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