By Justin Goldsborough | January 6, 2010
(Photo courtesy of www.merchantmaven.com)
One of my favorite parts about vacation is having the time to catch up on a TV series Maggie and I have been wanting to watch. Last week it was Mad Men. And besides wondering how agency employees got anything done while knocking down 10-plus drinks a day and smoking a carton of cigarettes a week , the show has me thinking about advertising. Is it dying, changing or just something I don’t put a lot of stock in. At this point, the jury’s still out.
I’ve seen the numbers. We use them all the time in social media presentations at Fleishman. Consumers don’t trust advertising. At least they don’t according to Nielsen, which says the average person is exposed to more than 3,000 marketing messages a day, yet only 14 percent of people trust advertisements, while 78 percent trust peer recommendations.
Edelman’s 2009 trust barometer backs Nielsen. It ranks employees and customers as the third most trusted source to consumers. Corporate or product advertising ranked dead last. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported global ad spend is expected to have fallen 10 percent in 2009 — a 13 percent sink in the U.S.
So pardon the pun, but Don Draper’s industry of choice appears to be smoked. Doesn’t it? Or maybe, like society’s view of smoking and drinking at the office in the 60s, it’s just bound to evolve and change.
Let’s run with that analogy for a bit, shall we? How many times did you hear a company mention its Facebook fan page in an ad six months ago? Now how many times have you heard it in the past month? If I remember correctly, Best Buy started the domino effect of ending an ad with a reference to the brand’s social media presence — the twelpforce stadium ads — and now it’s becoming more and more common by the day.
Go into a store and you’ll see a “follow us on Facebook” sign taped to the cash register. Online ads (many on Faceook) are interactive polls or “become a fan” buttons that promote more engagement than your traditional banner ads. In fact, when Maggie and I were on vacation in Napa last week and went to eat at the Greystone Culinary Institute, a one-star Michelin restaurant (that means it’s really good, not that you get free tires…well, I didn’t know ), their was a “Follow us on Facebook” ad written at the bottom of the menu in this fancy restaurant.
What’s this change mean? Some companies are changing what they feel the key takeaway should be in their ads. They have to. It used to be “check out this deal,” “you need this product” or “our airlines take you where you want to go.” Now it’s”let’s continue the conversation” or “come see what others are saying about us and let us know what questions you have.” I get that philosophy. It matches up well with the trust stats from Nielsen and friends.
What I don’t get are companies that continue to shell out millions or thousands for a 30-seconds-or-less relationship. I saw your ad on TV, maybe even liked it, but that’s it. Fade to next commercial with the company saying, “Until I talk at you again.” And print ads make even less sense to me. Thank you I needed to fill up my trash can or recycling bin. What are the only print ads that are effective? IMO, coupons.
My instincts are to call traditional ads — one-way TV spots, print ads, direct mail pieces, even online banner ads that take you to a traditional Web site — a waste of money. Do people really buy products based on advertisements these days? I can honestly say I don’t. At least I don’t think I do. In fact, I can’t remember a time I heard/read/saw an ad and said, “I’ve got to have that.” And I have never clicked on a banner ad in my life.
I ran this theory by Maggie and she told me the most effective ads are the ones that influence your behavior without you knowing it. She said advertising isn’t going anywhere and that people buy things based off ads all the time whether they know it or not. I told her Don Draper would be proud.
I’ve always thought there were three factors that directly impacted peoples’ purchase decisions — price, quality and opinions of those they trust. Advertising may plant an idea in a person’s mind that gets him/her to ask “how much” or that leads to a discussion of the product with his/her offline and online social networks. But the ad alone doesn’t sell the product, does it?
Maybe Maggie’s right (don’t tell her I said that ). After all, I asked a couple of guys I really respect — @DannyBrown and @TomMartin — this question during Sunday’s #blogchat. Both said they had made purchases based solely on ads. In fact, Tom said he has a “houseful of products he bought based on an ad.” A small focus group I know, but still shows some of the varying opinions out there.
When I first started writing this post, I imagined myself finishing it off with a line like “Don Draper would hate the advertising world today because it’s too much work.” Dying are the days when a company can just put together a creative spot or layout some catchy artwork and copy and be done. Ads in 2010 have to do more. They have to start a relationship and continue the conversation or at least get the consumer handed off to the brand representatives equipped to continue that conversation (hopefully your PR teams, but that’s another post).
That’s where my head was at the start, but now I’m not so sure. So I guess it’s open for debate. My best guess is the companies that adapt their advertising strategy to be more of an engagement strategy using traditional advertising channels are going to be most successful at driving reputation and sales. The ad can be an introduction, but it better not be all a company brings to the party. Ads need to lay the foundation for a “talking with” the consumer relationship that isn’t a campaign, but a full-time commitment. After all, “talking at” advertising relationships are as old school as an office where all the women are secretaries and having a scotch and a smoke at 10 a.m. is commonplace. At leasst that’s my two cents.
I’d love to hear what you think about the current state and future of advertising. How will the ad industry have to adapt over the next few years? And can traditional advertising still be effective? Is traditonal advertising dying or is it not that cut and dry?