“I dont need advertising!”

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I talked in my previous post about people who are self-proclaimed online advertising haters and touched there on the subject of the targeted and not targeted audience when it comes to online advertising. I felt the subject deserves a few more lines from me so here it is:

I know a lot of you keep thinking constantly you don’t need advertising on the page you’re browsing because you don’t “react to it”. And as such you consider yourself not being the targeted audience and sometimes go on about how web based advertising is rubbish and should be banned. And half an hour later you go and look at ticketmaster‘s latest offers and based on some popup they present you with you decide to buy tickets to Lee Evans‘ tour – by basically reacting to advertising! Thing is a lot of this perception is based on previous bad experiences of online advertising – and I an one of the first to admit that yes, that does happen. There are advertisers out there that will do anything to shove their ads in front of you – and in most cases that involves pretty much hijacking the page and hiding the content from the user behind their ad – which needless to point out creates a bad user experience. This is just as bad as the shop assistants who jump in front of you as you just stepped in a shop asking Can I help you? – in most cases its off-putting and totally unhelpful. However that doesn’t stop you from buying your shoes from John Lewis right?

Same with the online advertising, which has got a bad reputation (for some of us) because of the reckless practices by few advertisers. Most advertisers (and publishers) have learned not to mess about with “the holy trinity“: the user – the publisher – the advertiser. Balance this triangle towards the advertiser and you create a poor experience for the user and therefore piss off the publisher as well (as they will be losing audience); focus on the user experience and the advertiser won’t reach all the audiences intended and therefore not pay the publisher that much – and neither of them will be pleased as a result of that; finally focus on the publisher, who is trying to provide impartial content in most cases, and don’t interfere and interact too much with the content and layout and you’ve got once more a poor user experience, with randomly targeted ads hardly visible to the user which will result in low CTR and you’ve got both the advertiser and the user walking away. As I said though there are advertisers out there who will disregard that and will create in most cases a poor user experience. These are the ones that put you off – but as I said before this doesn’t make you the “not targeted audience”.

If you think about it you like going to a shop where the assistant says to you as you walk in: Hey, you know that XYZ band you got their album from us last week, you wouldn’t believe it, but we just got their unplugged CD come in yesterday!. Back in the “old days” when I used to spend a lot of my time in the Virgin Megastores, and HMV and the likes, and I knew most of the shop assistants, I used to love being greeted like this as it did in most cases save me lots of time — since let’s face it, in most cases, I’d just walk in and browse randomly piles of CD’s, listen to some and maybe decide to buy one! (There were of course times when I’d just walk in because I’ve just heard that morning on the radio that Sophie Ellis Bextor had a new single out and I just wanted to buy that — in those cases I’d just ask the guy to remind me again in a week or so as I knew what I wanted already.) Transposed to todays world, this means logging into your iTunes account and based on the kind of music you’ve downloaded previously you will see recommendations — for the same artist, or genre. This is happening already and while some people do moan about it, there is still a lot of value in it — and it saves you heaps of time. If you know what you want to buy/download though, you just ignore the recommendations and proceed with your download. And this doesn’t happen with just iTunes, but lots of other retailers — Amazon’s recommendations for instance I do find very useful: I might not decide to buy any of those in the end but for one at least it keeps me updated with what else is out there in line with my interests (that Amazon knows of).

It’s a similar thing in the online advertising world — ultimately advertising is trying to mimic just the process of “word of mouth”; if you think about it, I’m sure you can recall some instances where friends have mentioned to you a shop, an event, a restaurant thinking you might be interested — and sometimes you probably thought “I’m so not into Italian restaurants” and just shrugged it off and didn’t think much more of it; whereas sometimes I’m sure you just jumped at the chance when you heard Take That tickets went on sale that morning and quickly went and snapped a ticket for yourself. Adverts don’t always get it right — your mates don’t always get it right in the above scenario so don’t expect machines and algorithms built on the principles “word of mouth” is based on to work! But don’t think you don’t need it — unless none of these examples above apply to you (and I can bet my bottom dollar that the percentage of such individuals is less than 5% of population!), you are actually a targeted audience for advertising, and even more you probably use it — just that sometimes the advertising you are using is nicely disguised in “suggestions” or some other obscure term (which really was only created so people don’t get put off by the term “advertising”).

I know some of you would throw Jakob Nielsen‘s article about “Advertising Doesn’t Work on the Web” — but come on guys, that was written in ’97! Granted, it was that era when advertising was so poor that it created a bad name for itself at the time (which is why, getting back to my previous note, other “nicer” terms were promoted — sponsored searches? recommendations? just another name for it!), but we are now 13 years later on and technology and internet has evolved so much.Servers are now learning slowly but surely what you might like and want from the internet next — and just like in a real life scenario, sometimes they might get it wrong; but that doesn’t mean we (YOU!) don’t need advertising.

If you really don’t need advertising and advertising doesn’t work for you, then ditch your Tesco Clubcard — since surely the vouchers you get from them are surely meaningless, untargeted at your needs and you never use them!

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