The Failed State of Digital Advertising

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My digital advertising customer experience sucks. Big time. 

I’m speaking at a conference soon, and wanted to know what the official hotel is for the event. I Googled the event. Now all I see are ads for this event. Every. Where. I. Go. I signed up for a software service, because a friend had recommended it. Now all I see are ads for this software service. Every. Where. I. Go. I grabbed a link for a book that I had read on Amazon to share with a friend. Now all I see are ads for this book on Amazon. Every. Where. I. Go. I was at a kid’s birthday party at one of those trampoline places. Now all I see are ads for this sporting venue. Every. Where. I. Go. In fact, in looking through my Facebook feed, there is nothing in there that is relevant to me anymore – at all… and the brands that are advertising to me are, without a doubt, paying a premium because of what some algorithm has defined as valuable intent. There is no intent.

This is where digital advertising falls down. Hard.

Feel free to retarget a consumer who has abandoned a shopping cart. There are a myriad of other ways to define true intent. A search? Search may well be one of the worst ways to align your retargeting or personalization marketing strategies. It’s expensive and it’s wasteful, if you really don’t dig in and define some significant metrics that must happen AFTER the search that should trigger an ad. Regardless of how the brand behaves in their media spend, the biggest criminals in this ordeal are the platforms. Think about the depth, data and understanding that these platforms have on their users. Think about the power of their click tracking, user behavior, the underlying machine learning and artificial intelligence technology that they have developed and this is the output? Couple all of that together, and it’s somewhat criminal that the vast majority of digital ads that consumers are being exposed to are things that they have already closed the purchase (or research) cycle on. And, with that, why bother wasting a brand impression if that consumer has already (and obviously) been exposed to the brand and, in many cases, is already a consumer? It’s the old-school mindset of impression repetition coupled on to this new technology that can personalize and retarget. It makes no sense to mix those two ideologies together.

It’s true… is it not?

The worst of the worst (and the most common digital marketing advertising infraction) comes in the continuous flow of ads for a brand that the consumer has just purchased from. And, to make it worse, it never ends. There are countless brands that I have purchased – months later – that are still retargeting me with offers on the exact product or service that I have already purchased. It’s a bad brand experience. It doesn’t say “thank you for being my customer.” It does say: “we have no idea that you’re now a customer, so here are some ads for something that you have already purchased from us.” It’s not a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Isn’t that Customer Experience 101? 

Digital marketing and advertising is not easy. Digital marketing and advertising is hard, complex and fast moving. Because of that, I struggle to understand why brands make it even harder on themselves (they are paying a premium for this kind of advertising) and for their consumers (it’s hard to feel like a valued consumer, when every brand interaction tells them that you’re not a customer). Perhaps it’s time for brands to take their foot off of the digital marketing customer journey gas pedal, and re-evaluate where their spend is going, and what the logic tree is that displays an ad in front of consumer. It will cut down on waste. It will build a better brand experience. It will put their media agency on notice that they need to be sharper. It will reduce ad spend. It will increase viewability. It will increase positive recall. It will increase brand value.

How is that not one of the biggest wins a brand could have in 2018?