A bit about advertising psychology

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I saw this advert today on LinkedIn — I do check the site (and the app) a few times a day, so it doesn’t come as a surprise I guess — and made me think about employing a bit of psychology into advertising (something we tried to do back in time in Cognitive Match)… or in this case, the lack of psychology in this advert 🙂

Advertisers often seem to forget that the messaging in their ad has to resonate with the user — or in this case I’m guessing it’s the ad server which made this mistake (the skeptics will roll their eyes here and say “D’oh, trust AI to do a good job”, and I’ll disagree again: it’s the humans who made the decision for the ad format, the “AI” just thrown the data at this model). Either way, we react to advertising because the message (and I’m not referring strictly to just text but the overall message the advert is conveying) tells me something in particular. Am I looking for a hair product? Then an advert for that will get my attention, while jeans adverts will likely not (at least at this stage).

Furthermore, the message has to be refined to resonate with me: if the ad will make me feel bad (about my hair in this case) I will probably discard the ad — and feel quite annoyed to be honest 🙂 Whereas a message that makes me feel elevated somewhat is more likely to get my attention. Put simply: an advert suggesting that I have awful hair is unlikely to trigger my attention, whereas an ad which doesn’t comment on the quality of my hair but promise to deliver “better hair” might. By the way, I use hair here because I did like the iStockPhoto image I used in this post and as such the theme made sense 🙂

With that (very very simple) explanation in mind, have a look at this job advertising I came across today:

What’s wrong with it? Well, it’s the bit that says “Company XYZ is hiring engineers like you (I don’t want to single out the company, really the name of it is irrelevant, I’m sure if you spend some more time on LinkedIn you will probably find similar ads with different company names).

That messaging all of a sudden throws all engineers in one single bucket — might just as well read “we’re hiring cattle”! And employing that psychology damages the user perception of the ad. Do I want to work for a company which thinks I’m the same as all the others? No, thanks! Bang! right there, the click opportunity is lost — and so is the potential user journey towards joining the ranks of that company. The message would only work if the ad actually outlined a few common traits of “engineers like me” — be it focused on their experience of say Java, or knowledge of digital marketing space, or versatility with multiple frameworks and technologies, basically anything that would move the messaging from “cattle” to “select group”!

This of course makes the ad more difficult to personalize for each user, which is why (I’m guessing) they went for this idiotic simple approach. Change that message to something like “Company XYZ is hiring. Could you be or next stellar hire?” and the psychology it projects to the user is a totally different one — and I bet you their CTR will reflect that too!

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