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I’m A Marketer, But I Hate Advertising

I have a confession to make.

I’m a marketer, with well over 15 years’ experience and I really, truly hate advertising.

I’ve worked with many marketers over the years and it’s apparent that there’s a lot of marketers out there who loathe advertising as well. 

Cyris McCormick said: “Trying to do business without advertising is like trying to wink at a pretty girl through a pair of green goggles. You may know what you are doing, but no one else does.”

I’ve always been a bit of a winker and whilst I do love goggles, you should get the point.

But like Bill Gates said: “The future of advertising is the internet.”

Everyone knows about online advertising now. We all love – or probably hate – those ads that follow us around, retargeting us with products we vaguely had some interest in about 500 days ago.

Of course, as a marketer I probably hate advertisements more than most. In the same way that a painter and decorator never wants to have to decorate their own home.


Should We Call Them Ads, Adverts or Advertisements?

When I was the Brand Manager of We Buy Any Car, I was creating the TV launch campaign and I kept referring to the ads as Adverts. Each time I wrote or referred to TV ads as adverts I was instantly shot down by the Marketing Director who had a total disdain for anyone who dare pronounce the shortened version. Ad is ok. Advertisement is OK. Adverts in not OK. Apparently.

Every time I hear the word advertisement, I remember those lessons. I’m ashamed to say I’ve perpetuated this with many marketers I’ve worked with and managed. And I don’t know why…

Red london bus with advertising on the side.So we may have a professional antipathy for advertising, but it’s what our audiences think about it that really counts. Right? Well guess what? It looks like most of the audience don’t like ads either.


Who Even Likes Advertisements?

Something like 28% of people say they’re actively trying to hide what they’re doing online from advertisers according to Pew Research Center.

This research also found that over a third of all teenagers are engaged in the act of hiding their activities from advertisers. And these guys are the future of our audiences. PageFair’s report suggests ad blocking is growing at over 40% every year. That’s huge!!

The thing is, in the past people put up with ads. Now people are able to actively find ways to block ads and hide themselves from advertisers.


How Is Advertising Changing?

And this changes the advertising consumers’ understanding of their relationship with advertising. They are no longer passive subjects to be advertised to. They are starting to choose to see ads or not to see ads. This also means they have to make an active decision – or thought process at the very least – about what they feel about the advertiser.

Advertising billboard in an airportMore and more marketers are having to find new ways to communicate with their audience and again and again we’re trying to come up with something that’s not advertising. And that’s because there is a big knock-on impact for publishers who aren’t able to pay for their content creation through advertising and who are also competing against all those businesses out there who are able subsidise the publishing of more content than most niche publications ever could.

Forrester research published a stinging report: “The end of advertising as we know it.”

“The end of advertising is coming because interruptions are coming to an end,” wrote co-author James McQuivey.

“It’s the casual indifference to advertiser interests… that will enable consumers to finally inhabit a world free of advertising. That casual indifference is only possible because people will spend less and less of their time doing interruptible things on interruption-friendly devices,” McQuivey wrote.


Is Content Marketing Advertising?

So we’ve all been talking about content marketing.

I remember starting to carry out content marketing activities for the benefit of SEO in 2008. I don’t know if we called it content marketing back then or not. But this was a time when content marketing worked. I could create content that I could get to easily rank for certain keywords, which brought people to the website, which then converted.

That was 10 years ago. Both the punters and other marketers have all got wise to content marketing. I’m still amazed at how many marketers talk to me about creating a handful of blog posts. They talk about that amazing piece of content but guess what? That one piece of content that’s carefully crafted, that time has been taken over, it’s not good enough. Volume is more important. You’re going to have to put out so much content it’s scary. I remember writing over 600 blog posts in 14 months and it only contributed towards a 20% increase in sales. From a profit perspective, that’s probably not even washing its face for most businesses.

Content marketing is a long term strategy though. If you created content today, you will still be benefiting from it in years in the future. If you stop spending on an ad, you’ll lose the halo effect in days or weeks – OK maybe months or years if you’ve come up with something genius, but most of us won’t deliver anything that’s genius – it’s 11 years since I wrote the creative brief for the We Buy Any Car TV campaign and that’s still by far one of the greatest successes I’ve had. The planets aligned that day.

Tube train tunnel with advertising boards on the wallsThere are a lot of executives that still don’t believe in content marketing. And that’s probably not helped because a lot of marketers out there are still doing it wrong. Often the thing is, marketers are being pushed hard to drive direct acquisitions rather than creating something of value that will keep your customers coming back time and time again to your website.

On the other hand marketers sometimes don’t create content strategically enough, they create anything thinking they’re adding relevance to a website – which is great and will help SEO – but it’s providing those evergreen pieces of content that are well-aligned to the product and service, and that answer questions your customers are asking.

And whilst my colleagues and I tend to hate advertising as much as our customers, it’s undeniable that there are elements of it that still work.


So Should We Stop Advertising?

Of course, marketing and advertising are two sides of the same coin. They are connected and advertising should still play an important role in your marketing plan.

David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

The thing is, we’ve spent over a hundred years consuming mass-market advertising and we know all its tricks. Very rarely do we even acknowledge the most creative advertisements with more than a shrug. Times changes and the rules of advertising aren’t immutable. Entertainment now is important, because that’s going to get an ad spoken about. Creative entertainment is what sees ads shared on social media and talked about over the office water cooler.

And it’s all about where your customers are in the funnel. If they’re at the bottom of the funnel, you want some clear CTAs that direct your prospective customers swiftly in a simple manner. If they’re higher in the funnel, then you want to be going out with non-brand-based content that absolutely has its foundations in the requirements of the audience.

And whatever you do, remember that a customer requires something like seven touch points before they make a buying decision, so you need to make sure everything is well aligned. And that means applying the same principles that you would to content, to your advertising as well.


Get In Touch

What do you think about advertising? Do you love it or hate it? Are you still doing it or have you stopped?

If you’d like to let me know, find out more, or just drop me a line and ask me a question, you can contact me directly by emailing sd@growtraffic.co.uk.

Alternatively, you can email one of the GrowTraffic team on info@growtraffic.co.uk.

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