June 08, 2015

The Never-Ending Search For Unaccountability

The first day I stepped in an ad agency one thing became clear to me. Agencies are very sensitive about accountability.

Oh, when the product is selling like crazy, we're happy to take the credit. But when the product ain't selling, well, you see, it's a branding campaign -- it's not supposed to build sales.

Lately, the online ad industry, and in particular Facebook, has taken the accountability dodge to a new level of excellence.

First some background.

"Interactive" display advertising was first sold to us with the promise that it would be much more effective because consumers could and would, um, interact with it.

Then, when it was found that no one was interacting with "interactive" advertising (fewer than one click in a thousand) the story changed.

Online advertising success, and particularly Facebook display advertising, became about "engagement." Engagement (whatever the hell that means) replaced the invisible click as the measure of display ad effectiveness.

Well, now it turns out that not only is no one clicking on ads, no one is engaging with them either. In fact, only 7 people in 10,000 of a brand's Facebook fans ever "engage" with a post.

So what's the new cover story?

Well according to this article in The Drum,  Facebook has done some fabulous logic-torturing research to prove that maybe it's actually better to target your advertising to people who don't click and don't engage because they're cheaper to reach.

The article, written by a "global digital director" guy, explains that...
"Any activity which sets out specifically to drive active engagement is by its very nature limiting itself to being attractive only to a small percentage of consumers..."
In case you're wondering what that bullshit means, it's that no one is interested in engaging with our ads or posts and we better come up with a new cover story pretty damn quick.

And what's the new story?

The new story is that the way online advertising works is, um, just like ol' fashioned, "traditional" advertising.
"There's a clear message that brand marketers may well be better off getting people to stare in awe at their creative marketing rather than trying to force them to click their way through it."
Stare in awe at a banner ad? At a Facebook post? Is this supposed to be funny? Has this guy totally lost touch with reality? Is it possible that he really believes this?

In the astounding logic of the digital world, the pitch for "interactive" advertising is now the fact that it is not really, um, interactive.

Author of the piece in question turns out to be a stand-up guy. See his comment below.


Jerry Daykin said...

Well thanks for featuring my piece... I'm a regular reader of yours so obviously honoured to be featured one way or another ;)

Appreciate your bullsh*t flagging but I'd argue for the most part we usually have quite a similar view of the marketing world - I spend most of my time trying to cut all rubbish out of digital marketing and putting back in a more meaningful and accountable way of looking at it. There was some hyberbole to end the piece with, and no I didnt really mean banner ads as ever being a platform for great marketing. Epic YouTube videos maybe?

Quite the opposite of making FB unaccountable though it means they are pushing much harder to be accountable to traditional marketing measures - brand impact, direct sales panels, MMM, etc. rather than engagement which has always been small and ignorable.

bob hoffman said...

Thanks for your comment, Jerry.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

So, what it all boils down to is that an ad is an ad, and the only metrics that counts are dollar bills exchanged for product. The more things change...

Jeffrey Summers said...

I know, let's sell juice to everyone who doesn't drink juice!

Jim said...

It's the biggest market after all. Lets advertise on the sole of shoes too - everyone wears shoes don't though.