Maybe We Need To Ease Up On The Advertising

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When you play in the Social Media sphere, a lot of people will refer to advertising as "interruption-based marketing". No one likes to be interrupted.

It has been a huge week for the online advertising community. Everybody is scrambling to figure out the ramifications of what Apple‘s soon to launch iAd platform will mean to the industry. As if it’s not enough of a struggle to get your interactive development team primed to produce content and new digital environments for the iPad, this new iAd advertising network that Mr. Jobs and his team launched last week is going to force us to figure out how to create engaging advertising within the apps as well. Plus, let’s be realistic here, what works on an iPhone won’t work on an iPad (and vice versa) – although these devices look similar the usage, flow and user interaction is totally different.

But wait, there’s more…

Today, Twitter announced their advertising platform, which sounds a little like Google AdWords. These sponsored tweets will appear at the top of the user’s Twitter feed and will only appear if their content is relevant to the advertiser. People complained about optimizing two lines of text when Google launched their advertising model (people still complain about it), it’s going to be fun to watch the creative juices squish around over 140 characters of text.

Where else can they nail consumers with interruption-based marketing in Social Media?

When it comes to Social Media, we need to shift away from advertising models and move towards better marketing models (more on that here: The Shift From An Advertising World To A Marketing World). With everything happening in online advertising, these two new advertising platforms will only further confuse an already littered landscape. We need to dig deep (much deeper) and consider the consumers (and how they connect) and what their needs really are all about.

Brands can do more. Brands can do better.

Why would a brand simply want to put a 140 characters of advertising drivel in someone’s Twitter feed, when – for free – they can monitor the many references about their brand, listen closely over time and then figure out some semblance of a strategy around how to engage, connect and… GASP… Market to them more effectively? What would drive loyalty and passionate evangelism more? Engagement and adding value in the actual conversation or a random (unrequested) message to kick off their Twitter stream?

What would have been interesting…

Is if Twitter (and Apple, for that matter) had come out and said, "listen, no more ads. We have created an internal agency that will assist brands in better understanding the many opportunities that can come from engaging in our communities. We have the data, we know who people are connected to and what they’re talking about, and these insights will be able to help you better communicate and market to those people. We can also use this data to show you the type of individuals who are looking for the products and services you sell, and all you have to do is better communicate to them why they should buy from you."

The gold is not in advertising to people. The gold is in the data. The gold is in using the data to become a better Marketer.

Is it just me or as brands really missing the bigger idea?


  1. I’m not sure if I have ever agreed with you more Mitch. I cannot stand the idea of this, you’ve heard of lazy journalism, this is lazy marketing for certain. Would it kill the bigger brands to try to engage and discover what we want? I am, however, interested to see what happens now that McDonalds has hired a VP of Social Media.

  2. Mitch – First off, great post. Second, I wonder if this could also apply to the many businesses that are Ad supported – such as Yelp.
    What do you think? Do companies need a mass audience the size that Apple and Twitter can command to be able to effectively use the data you suggest is more valuable, or can a startup do the same?

  3. its all about democracy and permission. If your ad is relevant, i will WANT to see it. if it is not, it is invading my space without permission. the popups are the worst kind, yet advertising a jewish dating service to osama bin laden just because he has opened a twitter account is just as bad… sass

  4. Actually, I don’t agree with you. I got the point about the data, and it’s brilliant, but I think we should get back to the ad platform thing. A platform is ‘something’ to plan and buy and data can be automatically retrieved thru the platform, right? So works Facebook, so works Google.
    People don’t want companies to sell their data to advertisers – at least not directly – and nobody want to be directly told what’s good for her. They rather like ‘advices’ and contextual ads.
    Brands want to be free to plan their own online strategy without being told what they should (or could) do.
    maybe I’m totally wrong or maybe I did not understood your post (I’m not a native english speaker) but I’d like to know from you if you see a middle-point between what I write and what you write.
    great post anyway!

  5. I agree that interruption advertising is gasping for breath, the victim of distracted readership and a multiplicity of channels. However, advertising continues to hang on because it is not purchased by readers, it is bought by people who grew up shoving signs in front of eyeballs. Apple and Twitter can sell it because there are advertising folks who will buy it, regardless of results. And I’m guessing there will be some measurable results. Human beings can be influenced by the subtlest of suggestions.
    Marketing has always been harder, because it’s tougher to listen than it is to talk. Great post…. and keep talking, Mitch!

  6. Interesting that a company hires a “VP” of social media. I think every manager should be engaged in the social media realm and there needs to be s central person to track the conversations online. That way when something is said that falls into a certain managers realm of responsibility the central monitor can pass it along to be dealt with directly.
    By hiring a “VP” that tells me you view social media like you view advertising. It wil be interesting to see if this person reports to the President or someone in marketing.

  7. Just to clarify the McDonalds situation, here’s some of the article from Nations Restaurant News. I wonder how long it’s been since this person has actually been in the trenches of an operating restaurant, let alone used the SM tools that are important to one.
    “McDonald’s, said Tuesday it has hired Rick Wion as director of social media, a position that surely could not have existed even 10 years ago. Wion joined McDonald’s from GolinHarris Communications, where he was vice president of social media and implemented digital-communications strategies for McDonald’s as well as Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, BP and other companies.
    According to an internal memorandum from Bill Whitman, McDonald’s vice president of communications, Wion will “lead, develop and counsel internal and external partners on strategies and tactics that guide McDonald’s U.S. program activation in social media.”
    Those initiatives will support the company’s marketing campaigns, long-term branding, crisis and customer service management, and employee engagement activities, Whitman wrote.
    “Additionally,” Whitman wrote, “Rick will be responsible for aligning McDonald’s U.S. social-media strategies and tactics with U.S. and global disciplines, serving as McDonald’s U.S. social-media subject matter expert, including the identification and application of new trends and technologies to our ongoing efforts as well as the establishment of a consistent set of metrics to measure our progress and overall brand ROI.”

  8. Mitch, although I may agree with you, this is just wishful thinking. Here’s why.
    Google became a public company in 2004 and is the fastest-growing corporation on the Fortune 500 list (it is already number 117 with $22 billion in revenue). In less than 10 years they have become the most recognized brand name in the world.
    Although they have launched a host of other revenue-producing products, including corporate search engines, 99 percent of their revenue comes from advertising. I would say that model is a proven winner and love it or hate it, Twitter has absolutely made the right move.
    In the end, coming up with something new really doesn’t matter because targeted online advertising works. Unfortunately.

  9. “Why would a brand simply want to put a 140 characters of advertising drivel in someone’s Twitter feed, when – for free – they can monitor the many references about their brand…”
    I’d say because the ad is easier for most companies to handle: easier to budget for, to plan, to get approval on, manage over time, etc. Most marketing departments are organized around the concept of the ad buy. To borrow the old IBM saying, no one ever got fired for suggesting an ad campaign. Whereas doing real social marketing is messy, unpredictable, and in general harder to do.
    That said, I agree with you that Twitter’s idea of selling tweet ads is rather unoriginal and “unTwitteresque”. It doesn’t get the nature of their own service. It would have been much more in the spirit of the Twitter universe if they had launched an in-house consultation firm, or a loose network of social media experts, that a business could tap into to learn about the world of social marketing.

  10. The ONLY time I am engaged online is when someone is “adding value to my life”. That “adding value to my life” could be an interesting blog article (like the ones on Six Pixels), a vlog that engages me or makes me laugh, or a tweet that peaks my interest and has a link for me to follow.
    Internet users have become so adept today at filtering out the noise that I really don’t see how the “tweet up” advertising model will work. If the tweet is not engaging and “adding value to my life” I will simply ignore it just like other tweets that pass thru my stream and are not part of a “tweet up” campaign. I am curious to see how this will play out.

  11. I think we’ll end up somewhere in the middle, between contextual, relevant, user centric, semantic adds (money based) and the brand relevant, user centered, tailored, brand driven (energy and value based) conversation.
    Some brands will have the money to pay for adds (thinking about smaller business who can’t afford a social media expert) others’ will have a full forced all out customer service activily monitoring and enganging on twitter.
    I’m a fan of both, but the result is the thing that counts. As a customer I want a solution for my problem, or an addition that will make my life easier and more pleasant.
    If adds, or brands, will solve that, I don’t care.

  12. It’s not you. You’re totally right as far as I am concerned. Brands are catching up, but slowly. Your suggestion regarding non-obtrusiveness of marketing/advertising are exactly in line with our strategy and vision.

  13. The only advertising like that I can see working is that which comes from influencers.
    For instance, if a corkscrew company hired GaryV to use their corkscrew for every WLTV episode.
    But…it’s also possible that if enough people send the same message via Twitter (paid ads), then the product could build enough hype to take off.
    Watching TV on my iPad via the ABC app I’ve noticed quite a bit of interruption marketing. Commercials that I can’t forward through or skip. Something tells me they aren’t going to let it go.

  14. I think the problem is that big brands are so anonymous that every tweet feels like a (spam) ad.
    Small companies or personal brands have it way easier – they can actually put value out there and engage with the community – and you can always reply to the real person behind it.
    That’s the beauty of personal branding !!

  15. “We have the data, we know who people are connected to and what they’re talking about, and these insights will be able to help you better communicate and market to those people.”
    “So, can you work in Justin Bieber in your new campaign?”

  16. Everyman on Bill Knew Better, Transmedia Storytelling, Freelancers for the Win
    Everyman on Bill Knew Better, Transmedia Storytelling, Freelancers for the Win

  17. What’s the end game here though?
    We can market in many ways: TV, mobile, web, event, etc… CPM ads, sponsorships, promotional tie-ins, product placement, etc… Sponsored tweets, iAds, Adwords, etc…
    In simple terms this is a war between content providers and marketers. The major problem is that people are giving away their content for free (rather than building their own web, mobile, and TV channels). In other words: social media destroyed the traditional distribution models which we can all admit is fantastic for “the people” but it speaks very little to the point that 95% of content isn’t good. (Or isn’t relevant, or is poorly produced, or otherwise)
    The consensus appears to be that we’re all on the same playing field now. The overarching point that I want to make is that I don’t believe it to be a sustainable model. Why? Because it’s the aggregators that are making ALL of the coin. The random Twitter or Facebook user is simply giving it all away for free. That leaves the serious content producers out there to wade in some sort of middle ground where content is valued between zero dollars and striking gold. Again, my issue is that the money is just going into the hands of a few upstarts, venture capitalist, and investors. The content producers are out in the dust and the marketers as a result will continue to have a hard time because of the fractured media landscape.
    Data is gold indeed. But I think too many corporations and marketers are beholden to bureaucracies that don’t allow for much leeway beyond placing “safe” ads in “safe” places.
    There’s a good read from Clay Shirky that I’d implore everyone to check out:
    “The Collapse of Complex Business Models”
    While I don’t agree in most cases that “collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification”, I will agree that it speaks to the aformentioned bureaucracies.

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