October 29, 2012
Online Advertising Through The Wrong Lens
It seems to me that advertisers and marketers still don’t understand a basic concept about using the web.
After 15 years they are still committed to plopping their thought template for traditional advertising over the web and expecting it to fit.
The models they have in their minds are wrong, and to a large degree account for the dismal performance of most online advertising.
The key to understanding online ad success is to forget about the distinctions between marketing and advertising and sales promotion and PR. These distinctions may be relevant in traditional advertising but are red herrings on the web. The important thing to understand is the difference between creating demand and fulfilling demand. If you don’t understand the distinction, please read this.
Thus far, the web has been shown to be good at fulfilling demand and weak at creating demand.
The most obvious evidence that the web is lousy at creating demand has been the startling inability of web advertising to build brands. As we’ve asked here many times, after 15 years what mainstream consumer-facing brands have been built by display advertising, or social media, or YouTube, or “content”? You can count them on one hand. Or one finger.
On the other hand, the reason Google and Amazon are so successful is that they are utilities for fulfilling demand. Whether you call them advertising or not is largely irrelevant. Google is an ad supported site. Amazon is a store. But they are both in the business of fulfilling demand. When people already have some idea of what they want, they go to the web. And largely to Google and Amazon.
Facebook, on the other hand, is not where people go to fulfill demand. They go there to screw off with their friends. Which is why advertising on Facebook has been so remarkably ineffective.
If you are a marketer, you are far more likely to be successful if you use the web for fulfilling demand rather than creating it. When people are already interested in you, the web is where they go.
Stop thinking about the web the way you think about your advertising. It ain't like that. Think of it as a store. Think of it as the yellow pages. Think of it as a brochure. But don't think of it as television.