The Trigger Finger

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If the way in which we use the Internet (and mobile) is so different from traditional media, the advertising is going to have to change.

How many times have you found yourself sitting in front of the television, watching a sub-par show and saying to yourself, "well, there’s only 20 minutes left, I might as well watch and see how this turns out?" It happens all of the time. You’re in the car listening to the radio just hoping that something interesting comes on, even though you’ve endured the same traffic and news updates multiple times in a row. Or, you keep flipping through a magazine/newspaper hopeful that one of the articles will capture your attention.

You don’t do the same thing when it comes to the Internet or your mobile device.

If it’s not exactly what you were looking for or hoping to see, you’re gone. Quicker than a light switches off. Boom. Gone. No regrets. No going back. No floating around to see if you were wrong or if the experience is going to get any better. New Media Marketers love waxing poetic about the difference between the Internet and other media channels having something to do with the interactivity and measurability of the medium. That is both true and fair, but what makes it uniquely different to traditional mass media is how quickly the consumers vote with their trigger finger.

If it’s not immediately perfect… it’s gone.

As Marketers, it’s important that we always remind ourselves of this. As Marketers, it’s important that we start developing better marketing messages (and platforms) to ensure that our advertising and communications operates and optimizes itself for that type of experience. The truth is that we are not there yet. Not even close. Most online advertising today still looks a whole lot like traditional advertising. Banner ads are like billboards. Email Marketing is like Direct Marketing.

It’s one of the reasons why Search Engine Marketing works so well.

The way the advertiser pays for the ad on a search engine is different (it’s based on the click and not the impression), and the way in which the ad appears fits the channel it resides within. It’s not that search advertising has less interruption, it’s that search advertising fits. And, we need more of that. Consumers are creating their own online experiences (either through RSS or by following the people and pages that are most relevant to them), and their trigger fingers are getting sharper and faster. There’s a reason display advertising has seen a 50% drop in clicks since 2007 (and that only 8% of the Internet population accounts for those clicks).

Online advertising has to change, evolve, improve and then constantly optimize.

Engagement, rich media, time spent, behavioural targeting and everything else won’t save online advertising unless the actual creative fits, grooves and adds value to the overall experience of the consumer. One of the reasons why advertising works so well in fashion magazines is because those ads are – to a certain degree – a compliment to the content. It’s going to be a very interesting moment in time when online advertising can compliment the content it wraps around as well.

What do you think, will online advertising simply upgrade to self or really evolve into something that won’t make consumers use that trigger finger? 


  1. Not only does it have to change but it has to become more useful to the advertisers. PPC advertising from the major players may be by the click but an advertiser has little control over who clicks and some studies have indicated a significant percentage of clicks are sabotage clicks from competitors. Although it may be more directed it is also not free of problems.

  2. Our competition has always been people’s time. The most optimized keyword researched graphic designed flash embedded channel on earth will garner no interest if the content sucks. Trickery won’t help if the intended audience isn’t interested.
    There is simply too much choice and too much digital real estate to think all can be monetized by ancient advertising models. As marketers, we must remember that engaging with customers is not about advertising but rather by creating experiences they actually care about.
    Until we can truly integrate solutions with everyone involved, we will continue to clunk around with banner ads, infomercials, product placements and other interruptive models. And we’ll continue to pour over analytics to try and figure out how to steal more of people’s time. All the while the finger will remain poised over the trigger.

  3. I think the Digg content ads is an interesting step in the right direction:
    I hope and think we will see more of that. Simply paying more attention to the fit between the content and the advertising is quite underdeveloped on the Internet imo. It shouldn´t have to be that way. Site owners should refuse RBN deals simply to build a better advertising experience for their visitors which would benefit them more long-term.
    I can´t remember where I read it, but someone pointed out that having the status “married” on Facebook and getting those “looking for singles?” ads there is really strange. Should obviously not happen at all at a website where so much is known about the visitors giving their data away.

  4. Advertising is the entire game in traditional media really, because there is no interaction. It’s a 2D “master’s voice” communication – brand talks audience listens. And with the ‘survey-based’ measurement methodologies of traditional media (neilson, PMB etc) the targeting often amounts to just hosing down the crowd with a fire-hose. This is one reason advertising is annoying – I don’t have a dog, I don’t really like dogs, but I see dog food ads everyday of my life whether I want to or not.
    The social web introduced micro-targeting and, if used properly, that will increase the relevance of advertising to consumers. And the data used in micro-targeting is, I believe, far more powerful than what PMB, Nielson et al produce – because it’s voluntary data, what you want to world to know about you, as opposed to being just the answer to a question you were asked.
    Using targeting to increase relevance is only one aspect. The other critical factor is non-interruption. As click-rates decrease, banner ads become increasing annoying – the less consumers listen, the louder advertisers shout (a quick tour around Yahoo shows you that there are more floating, pre-roll and other intrusive ads).
    But the whole opportunity online, and in the social web, is to deliver a brand experience – it’s an experiential medium, the ad is just the first step in a communications continuum. The ad is just the doorway in. Target an ad effectively, with an offer that is relevant and valuable to the consumer, they just might participate in your brand experience. The job of brands and marketers now is to ensure that there is something for consumers to experience and benefit from after the click.
    And regarding SEM there is an obvious reason why it works better – it delivers what consumers want and are looking for. But in the overall marketing equation it has little value – it just fulfills demand, the consumer’s mind is already made up as to what they want to buy, they aren’t looking for an experience, just best price and opportunity.
    The real opportunity now is building interest and demand through brand experiences. The first step to getting consumers to participate is good advertising – non-intrusive, relevant and valuable.

  5. Speaking from the sales side of this equation, lately I have found myself wearing a marketing hat much more than my sales one. The reason for this is the clients that I speak with originally call me because they need help selling ads on their network, site or web series. The problem is every opportunity that comes along has the same kind of sales elements available to the advertiser – banners, boxes, buttons, links and maybe an integration into a video piece. The value proposition to the advertiser seems to be getting thinner and thinner by the day.
    After seeing dozens of these opportunities, I find that I spend more time encouraging these publishers to create a community before even thinking about selling ad units around their content. I agree with Rolf that brand experience is key to building interest and demand and I also believe that it is up to the publishers to create an environment that allows for this 1:1 relationship to be established between brand and user in the first place. Marketers can only be as effective as the opportunities that are available which means both sides of this equation need to become marketers and create environments where brands can start conversations with users rather than just spew messages at them.

  6. Businesses have got to learn that they can no longer control consumers – not their behavior and not what they say. Those who start LISTENING and replying instead of talking at their target audiences will benefit; those who do not will suffer as you have pointed out in other posts.
    Search marketing does not work nearly as well as it once did because the ppc engines are not targeting the ads tightly enough. I wrote about that specifically in the post I will link to this comment.
    The real solution consumers and advertisers could most benefit from would be highly targeted Social Networking ppc ads. There is a link to a post I wrote about why and how that would work at the bottom of the ppc post.
    Social Media sites like StumbleUpon already have quality, targeted content that would be the perfect fit for consumer interest and provide excellent opportunities for advertisers. I wonder what is taking them so long to create that type of offering.

  7. @internet strategist “Those who start LISTENING and replying instead of talking at their target audiences will benefit”
    brilliant way of stating the simple fact that people don’t care what you say until they know you care.
    its all about relationships

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