It’s Pretty Simple: Make Better Ads

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If only it were that simple.

But, it kinda is, right? For over two decades, I have repeated the same mantra: people don’t hate advertising. People hate crappy advertising.

Unfortunately, the world is littered with too much bad advertising.

Customers can’t see the forrest from the trees.

Is bad advertising the reason we’re seeing the rise in subscription and streaming services like Netflix and Apple Music? It may be part of the opportunity that Netlfix and Apple have capitalized on, but it’s not the core reason. The core reason is that advertising – for the most part – is created as a group effort. Group brainstorms or voting on creative by group has rarely (maybe never?) delivered anything that wins in the market. And, if we’re going to acknowledge that advertising is an art form. And, make no mistake about it, advertising is one of the toughest art forms that we have in the world, if you think about it. The role of advertising is to interrupt a consumer’s experience and plant something on them that is both memorable and makes them want to take (some kind of) action over whatever experience they were engaged with before being interrupted. That’s a tough ask. Consumers don’t seek out advertising in the same way that they do with other art forms (music, TV show, a podcast, a magazine, etc…). That makes the creation of it an even tougher ask. The history the advertising industry is (sadly) littered with brilliant (but burned out) individuals, because of this unique stress.

It’s a tough job, but it’s a satisfying one (when done well).

On the other side of this advertising paradox, are these publishers. Think about it. Over the past few years we’ve seen the music industry suing their listeners (Napster much?). We’ve seen the newspapers suing the ad blockers. We’ve seen ad blockers allow brands to get their ads through (but only if they pay the blockers). We’ve seen Facebook throttle the content of brands, even though their consumers have “liked” (and/or agreed to get) this content… and it just keeps going on and on.

So, what exactly is going on? 

If the better brand publishing experience is less ads. If brands are being pushed to create more content and less ads. If publishers want more native advertising. If subscription services are running ad free. If all of this (and more) is happening… and it is… what’s a brand to do? Don’t kid yourself, being great at content marketing is a tough, long-term strategy that takes a myriad of talent skill groups and a lot of money to make effective. One YouTube video does not offset a strong advertising campaign, in terms of effect. Some might argue (my hand’s raised here), that getting together a great YouTube channel that resonates and builds an audience is a multiple tougher than pulling together a great ad campaign. Yet agencies, publishers and even brand leaders are pushing for this.

So, what choice does your brand have?

Make better ads. Make the best ads. Build the most creative teams to get the best insights, and push that creativity for all that it’s worth. Don’t annoy. Don’t interrupt. Be strategic. Be in the right spaces for the right audiences (technology has certainly delivered on that promise). BUT… and here’s the big BUT… don’t blow it with junky creative that is me too, derivative, uninspiring and unoriginal. It will only drive to one result: underperformance (and being totally ignored). We beg our teams to do great work. We beg our C-level suite to lead us to incredible new heights. We beg our agency partners to bring the best insights and innovations. Why do we still (and continually) settle for bad ads?

Make better ads. They will work. They will be enjoyed by consumers. You consumers will want more. You got this.