Tagged: advertising

The Evolving Landscape of Online Advertising


originally posted in Concept Hub

It has been 10 years since I took an advertising class at Florida State University through my marketing program. It was one of my favorite classes for two reasons.

First, it was 1998 and it was the beginning of exploring advertising opportunities on the web. We built our own banner ads. I recall my team created one for Motown Records. I became an avid reader of Wired Magazine and immediately recognized how Amazon.com and Priceline.com were changing the game. I knew my future was definitely going to be digital.

Second, was the promise of integrated marketing communications. I read in my textbook that integrated marketing communications was:

a concept of marketing communications planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines – for example, general advertising, direct response, sales promotion, and public relations – and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communications impact.

The Internet looked like it could be a channel that would enable such integration. Through campaigns with an immediate call to actions, the ability to widely distribute information, and the analytics to track behavior as well as the ability to have a 2-way conversation, it seemed that PR, Sales, Marketing, and Advertising teams would be able to work together to achieve their goals.

What we saw were websites, banner ads, pop up ads, and lots of emails. The web became a landfill of information. Many of the sites were even polluted with viruses.

Google Changes the Game

As many people know, Google came in with a system to organize the information landscape as well as to make the web a safer place by having sites with high authority rankings rising to the top. In a way, Google was the first Digg. It ranked sites based on how many other sites were linking to it. The thought process behind Google was that the community knows best.

As a revenue model, Google chose to change the game of annoying banner ads and instead perfected the system of behavior-based ads. Ad Buyers not only knew that their ad would get lots of views, but they also knew that the views would be by a relevant audience at a very relevant time.

Imagine you are typing an email about planning your vacation to NYC and to the right pops up several ads about NYC. You probably do not need to try so hard to imagine, it happens to each of us every day.

Word of Mouth Marketing

What Google AdWords did was basically digitize word of mouth marketing. Whatever your online behavior reveals about you will result in a relevant ad will refer you to a site. The only thing that was missing was the relationship. Typically word of mouth referrals come from friends and family. You are telling your mom that you want to go to NYC and she tells you about a site her friend at work used. You trust your mom and therefore extend that trust to her friend at work and decide to check out the site. Google ads or any of the behavior-based ads does not provide that same comfort of trust. That level of trust can only come from real people within our networks of influence.

Relationship Marketing

Online Forums have been around since the Internet. People have been using email to spread their opinions to their friends from the moment they signed up for their first account. So why are we only recently paying attention to online networks and the impact of relationship marketing?

Trust. Initially, we did not trust the information that was posted on forums by strangers. We each have been hoaxed by online urban legends and well we only trusted sanctioned broadcast messages online. As technology changed and evolved, more and more of our friends and family started posting information online. Not just about brands, but about life in general. The web became a conversation amongst our networks and our extended networks. Now when I am looking for information about NYC, I can bypass my mom and go directly to her friend from work to find out about the website she used to book her trip.

Integrated Marketing Communications

Ten years ago I learned about integrated marketing communications. An idea that all the departments involved in communications would work together to create a strategic and comprehensive communications strategy. In the 10 years since then, I have yet to see that idea realized, until now.

Whether or not organizations realize it, what happens in customer service is now being broadcasted online throughout various peer to peer networks. Public Relations is now in the hands of each employee that is representing an organization online and marketing is in the hands of the communities.

As this landscape continues to evolve we see traditional advertising dollars and methods becoming less and less stable. People want value from their advertising messages whether it is education or entertainment or participation. People want trust from brands, the kind of trust that only comes with building a relationship and providing a service. Organizations need to work harder and be more diligent to keep their customers satisfied and to maintain their attention. In order to achieve such a challenge, internal departments need to work together to develop a unified approach and consistent message and mission. Advertising has evolved to the point that integrated marketing communications is not just a nice idea, it is an urgent necessity.

What Did You Say? Say It Again!

originally posted on Concept Hub

Since you were born, everyone has been trying to get your attention.

From parents and grandparents to siblings and peers, teachers and guardians and of course the media.

The media has been in front of each of us telling us what to buy, how to be entertained, how to improve our lives, who we should be, where we should live, how we should dress, and where we need to go on vacation.

We are also informed of the tragedies in the lives of unrelated people, and the political policies and natural disasters that are happening all around the world.

All of these messages that are trying to catch our attention, whether it is personal or advertising or news media, are doing so through the same communication channels. Our friends text message us on the same device we are receiving mobile ads. Google Ads is trying to catch out attention to “donate now” as we read about the latest natural disaster. Our emails have become a potpourri of news, business communications,  marketing messages designed to sell something, marketing messages designed to inform, family updates, spam, and family and friend forwarded spam.

It is no wonder most of us feel as though we are suffering from ADD. We simply do not have the ability to spread our attention to the many sources that are demanding that we pay attention to them.

In such a noisy world, how can a marketer get their message across?

Well – we could try to get on Oprah’s good side.

All joking aside, let’s think about that for a moment. If you wanted to get on Oprah, what would be the steps you would take?

I would start by watching her shows to get a feel for what types of topics she covers? Who has she had on the show recently? Has she already covered a similar topic that is related to what you do? What could you add to the show that was covered? How would your presence on the show benefit the Oprah show? How would your message benefit the audience? Who is her audience? Are they all the same or can we segment them into different categories? If we segment them, which categories would benefit the most from your message? And seriously, would being on the Oprah show really help you accomplish your stated goals anyway? You do have stated goals, don’t you?

Alright, you have your reasoning for being on the Oprah show and you have defined the value of you being a guest to all parties involved. You have a compelling message to send to Oprah so that she would invite you to her show…now what?

Well, you need to get in touch with someone connected to Oprah or her producers. You can mail a letter, email them, create some buzz on YouTube to get some attention, start a blog petition…basically you will have to reach out to a variety of people through a variety of different communication channels simply to get their attention. For each person you reach out to, you will have to be ready to explain to them “what’s in it for them” to get you on the Oprah show.

With so many people trying to get our attention each and every moment of the day we can each almost empathize with what the team on the Oprah show must go through.

We each have so much ‘noise’ in our world. What must a company do when trying to communicate to their employees or vendors or customer or prospects or the media and so forth?

Similar to the process of getting on the Oprah show, we need to step back and ask “what’s in it for them?” With so much competing for everyone’s attention, what will make them stop and listen to our message?

We can break the process down into 4 steps;

Step 1 – Tailored Messages: What is your core message? How many different ways can we state that message? What ways can we demonstrate that message? How many ways can we segment our audience? What criteria do we need to base the way we segment our audience (values and beliefs, behavior, size, and income, etc.) Which variety of messages will best resonate with each group?

Step 2 – Communication Channels: Which message is best tailored for which communication channel? Should you send a postcard or a handwritten letter or do you have an idea for a compelling video? Should the video be online, DVD, Cable or network television? Is your message one that requires a long-term commitment? If so should it be delivered via podcast or a blog? Would email or text messages be appreciated by your audience?

Step 3 – Time and Fund Management: Which segment of your audience is most likely to respond the way you would like them to? Which messages would best resonate with them? Which communication channels lead directly to them? Which messages are tailored to those communication channels? What is the best way to capture relevant metrics and create an efficient feedback loop?

Step 4 – Creating a Ripple Effect: Remember the reason why Oprah is where we all want to be is that when she is influenced she influences hundreds of thousands of others. How can we create a similar ripple effect? Consider how the people in your primary group are connected to those in your secondary group?  How do the two groups relate to each other? What would motivate the primary group to pass your message on to the secondary group? Have you empowered the people in the primary group to pass a concise message on to those in the second group? How can we track the ripple effect?

The most important part of getting your message to rise above the noise is to keep talking. Don’t develop tunnel vision just because one message or one communication channel seems to work. Our attention is constantly being scattered throughout the information landscape and we tend to respond to what is in front of us at the moment. Say your message, then say it again – either with a different twist or through a different channel. Then say it again. Once you have others talking, join their conversation and tailor your message to what has resonated with them. Listen to what they are saying and then say it again.