Written by Media

Advertising Sometimes Eats Itself

Watching the football this evening, some of the advertising on the pitchside hoarding really made me wonder what on earth the advertising industry is sometimes up to.
Let’s be clear. I essentially work in the advertising industry.
I work at a commercial radio station, and it’s through advertising – in various forms – that I get paid. So I have nothing against advertising. Indeed I would point out to anyone who listens, that radio is an especially cost efficient and effective means of reaching an audience.
But sometimes I despair of the industry. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
1. Advertising Your Advertisement
Last Friday’s London Evening Standard featured extensive advertisements for not one one, but two different TV ads that were going to be on air that weekend. One advertiser had bought a pricey four page wraparound cover asking readers to watch the ad breaks in the middle of X Factor – ITV’s most popular, and therefore most expensive, show. It was a “media first” that featured some kind of viewer choice. There were multiple ads across the various breaks of the show, and viewers got to decide what happened. All in all, a big and expensive media spend. More ads followed in Saturday’s papers.
I’ve got to ask this question: does anyone outside of the advertising industry really find that interesting? I know the campaign got extensive coverage in the trade press, but do viewers really think, “Ooh. I must make sure I watch the smart new advertising campaign breaking tomorrow evening”?
On the TV pages of the same issue of the Standard, another advertiser was promoting the first play of their TV ad too.
Look, I’m sure you’re very proud of your new TV ad campaign, and that it’s much more relevant than anything that’s gone before it. And you’re somehow getting viewer “engagement” by doing these clever things. But really?
Has anyone – outside the industry – actually tuned in especially for a new ad since the days of the Gold Blend couple?
I’m not saying that people aren’t interested in new TV ads. For example, what Nike does at the next World Cup is already intriguing me two years out. But let’s be realistic.
I’ve no doubt both campaigns will win lots of awards.
2. Paying For Your Advert Twice
You see this more and more on outdoor adverts – including the electronic hoardings at football. Instead of including a website where you can learn more, viewers are instead encourage to “Search _____”.
The advertiser has perhaps run a campaign in the past where they were a little disappointed with the number of people who visited the website. Perhaps it was the complicated URL they couldn’t remember? Yes. That must be it. It certainly wasn’t because viewers had no compelling reason to visit any website.
Look, if the best you can do for a website is put “www.myglobalcompany.com/uk/obscure_brand_name” then I perfectly understand why you’ve gone down the “Search _____” route. But perhaps you ought to rethink your web strategy.
So you end up paying once for the outdoor advertising. And then again to Google for the clickthroughs for the search phrase you’ve paid for. Oh, and a competitor could also buy the same phrase if they wanted. Your pockets might be deeper, but they may end up on the users’ screen too. You’ve now paid for two ads to reach your respondent. And this was someone who was “engaged” enough to want to come to the website anyway!
3. Giving Someone Else Your Real Estate
And that someone else is Facebook. Nobody’s visiting your corporate site. You’ve bought .com, .co.uk, .eu, .biz and so on, but all to naught. Aha. That’s because everyone’s hanging out on Facebook. You should put your brand on Facebook.
In itself, I have no problem with that. That’s incredibly sensible. I should say that you’re going to have an extraordinary uphill battle to get me to “Like” your washing powder brand on Facebook, but I realise others are more promiscuous with their “Liking” and that’s all wonderful and helps fulfill the “social media” aspects of your campaign that your agency has been telling you are really important. Because, yes, you really are as vital to my life as my best friends (and some people I once worked with).
Having a social media strategy is one thing. But why are you promoting Facebook ahead of your own brand’s website? Is your website so poor that you’re embarrassed to send people there? Certainly have links to your Facebook, Twitter, and, ooh, Pinterest pages on your own website. But don’t actually use Facebook.com/mybrandnamehere and print it on your packaging and advertising. You’re just making Facebook more powerful which means it’s going to become ever more expensive for you to talk to your own customers on somebody else’s website.
In any case, do you honestly think anyone’s going to visit your brand’s Facebook page unless you’re giving something away, running a competition of some sort, or doing something very cool (which probably involves harvesting lots of user data).
Utterly bizarre.
I’m sure lots of advertising folk will have lots of reasons why these are brilliant ideas that I don’t really understand. Perhaps the artist in you thinks that your three minute epic shot at great expense by an Oscar winning director deserves everyone making it appointment viewing, that your company brand-name is quite tricky to spell so it’s easier to get everyone to “search frying pans” or that your smoothie brand truly is so lovely that everybody really does want to be your friend on Facebook. But if that’s the case, you’re probably a bit delusional.