So I've been thinking about this for some time now, and it's become a topic of constant frustration. The way online advertising is being done right now isn't efficient, and we all know it. We buy these banner ads and these facebook ads, thinking that they will drive awareness or whatever it is that the campaign goal is. But the truth is, they don't. CTR (if you're still judging by CTR) are at .03-.05%. Which is atrocious. Brand studies only tell so much of the story. The problem isn't with measurement tools, although they certainly can be improved upon, I think the problem rests with us, the media planners, the advertisers, the brands themselves. We are trying to use the same old advertising model for a medium that requires a completely different kind of model. It's like fitting an old key into a new lock, it just won't crack open that way.
Traditionally, there have been 5 main outlets of media -- Print, Out of Home, Direct Response (mail), Radio, TV. These channels all share something in common -- they are all one way streets. The consumer can't take actions against the ads, or they can't take actions immediately after the fact. This inspired a very simple media formula: put the ad in front of the consumer; just make sure the consumer sees it. There was no more needed because the traditional channels could not provide anything more than an outlet for advertising. However, with the emergence of the digital space, this formula needs to change. The internet has revolutionized a fundamental structure of society: communication. Instead of the one way street, we now have two way streets, intersections, communication highways. Not only can people respond to each other in a matter of seconds, multiple people can respond to multiple other people in a matter of seconds. This upgrade to the way we communicate to each other has been ingrained into the newer generation, and as they grow up with this kind of technology, our old formula of just putting stuff in front of them will not work anymore. There is already a lot of banner blindness and a lot of disregard and insensitivity around the types of creative in online media. Who notices the bottom 728x90 anymore? Who cares about the skyscraper on the left side of the page? We need to be more direct with our consumers. The internet allows for immediate and intimate connections to be made, why not use that to evolve advertising? Why can't we upgrade the media formula to unlock the full potential of the internet? The new age of engagement is here -- we need to get the user to participate in the conversation around the brand, not through blunt force (like pre-rolls or homepage takeovers with no close out button), but through active Q&A. We need to find out what interests our target audience, what drives them to participate in the activities they do online -- what will make them take an action on behalf of a brand? Why is someone brand loyal to one product but not the other? We need to do a better job of understanding what factors go into our consumers' decision making when they are buying something. We can't just segment them into adults 25-54, interested in xyz, lives in so and so house. We need to define them differently, instead of demographics, we need to look at a mixture of psychographics and behavioral data.
This is getting too philosophical, but humans are creatures of habit. We don't like change, really, unless it has to happen. We're happy with the status quo because we are comfortable with the status quo. The saying past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior didn't just come out of nowhere. This is why theoretically, behavioral targeting should work -- we look at these data points, put you in a bucket, and then show you ads that are supposedly of interest to you. However, the algorithms don't always work -- the frequency and the recency of the data don't always play important roles as they should. Plus, we are still showing the consumers display ads, and helllooo? Weren't we just talking about banner blindness and the awful CTR? Furthermore, you're only looking at online behavior, that is only one aspect of the person's life. Sure, they may browse online for Vuitton bags and Tory Burch flats; but in real life, they're probably shopping at Target or Walmart for look a likes. (Speaking of look a likes, my rant on look a like modeling to follow in a couple of days). Anyways, my point is, online behavior data only tells the advertiser so much -- there are so many other aspects of a person's life you need to look at in order to serve up advertising that is relevant and will get the consumer's attention and interest. To fill that gap, we should be looking at psychographic data - we need to merge the field of psychology and advertising together to come up with a model that actually will help advertising become more relevant. In order to do this practically, we survey a pool of our consumers, the same way psych researchers conduct their tests, and we form a psychological profile of our consumers. After we have that profile, we then match it to the online behaviors of our test audience, and then wa-la, we have a new way of defining the audience. We should do this constantly to keep up with changing consumer behavior -- as the economy gets worse/better, consumer attitudes will change, online behavior will change, this is the nature of the internet, it's constantly changing and evolving, and we need to keep up with that to the best of our ability. This way, we can make our ads more relevant and decrease the level of skepticism and negativity surrounding advertising. Because I do believe in the value of advertising, I believe that it serves as a powerful communication channel between brands and consumer, and that the online medium can make it even more powerful and positive - if we do it right.