Does Internet advertising work at all?

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson asks a dangerous question: Does Internet advertising work at all? My gut answer is that it can’t be terribly effective. Thompson sums up my personal instinct about advertising perfectly: “We seek information, so we’re more likely to trust it; marketing seeks us, so we’re more likely to distrust it.”1

Also, online advertising is plagued with problems like misleading stats reporting and the ‘I-was-gonna-buy-it-anyway bias’:

Let’s say I want to buy a pair of glasses. I live in New York, where people like Warby Parker. I’ve shopped for glasses at Warby Parker’s website. Facebook knows both of these things. So no surprise that today I saw a Warby Parker sponsored post on my News Feed.

Now, let’s say I buy glasses from Warby Parker tomorrow. What can we logically conclude? That Facebook successfully converted a sale? Or that the many factors Facebook considered before showing me that ad—e.g.: what my friends like and my past shopping behavior—are the same factors that might persuade anybody to buy a pair of glasses long before they signed into Facebook?

Maybe Facebook has mastered the art of using advertising to convert sales. Or maybe it’s mastered the art of finding people who were going to buy certain items anyway and showing them ads after they already made their decision. My bet is that the answer is (a) somewhere in the middle and (b) devilishly hard to accurately measure.

Nothing in this article was surprising, but it did make me wonder if this might be the most effective way to fight to get our online privacy back? In other words, rather than fighting Google or Facebook et al, why not reveal how ineffective the kind of crappy advertising that has made those companies some of the biggest in the world really is? If that money falls away, so will these corporate surveillance industries.


Dat footnote

  1. However, I do think that ‘brand awareness’ is a powerful side effect of good advertising, but this is hard to achieve with text ads or even flashing banners and annoying popovers.

“If I were a daily visitor to their site, I sure as hell wouldn’t put up with our ads”

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More truth from The Onion:

Ford Looks Down On Website That Would Let Itself Be Plastered In Ford’s Ads

DEARBORN, MI—Ford Motor Company officials chastised news and commentary website Masthead.com Friday, conceding they were embarrassed to be associated with a publication that would allow the entirety of its award-winning content to be hidden behind splashy, distracting ads for the Ford F-150.

According to the car manufac­turer, Masthead‘s decision to allow the “garish” full-screen advertisement—in which a red pickup speeds across news articles, overrunning them with tire-tread marks until readers manage to find the tiny “close” button—suggests the media outlet has zero respect not only for itself, but also for the amount of work that goes into its astute political and cul­tural coverage.

“They should be ashamed of themselves for letting us come in, plaster our logo everywhere, and, for a measly 50 grand, pretty much destroy the reputation they’ve worked so hard to build,” said Erin Robertson, an ad buyer for Ford who scoffed when Masthead immediately agreed to all of her terms and even sug­gested its creative staff could write articles mentioning the F-150. “Their coverage of the debt crisis has been pretty insightful, but then they cheapen it by allowing us to completely obscure their writing with a video of a truck bounding over sand dunes.”

Ford Looks Down On Website That Would Let Itself Be Plastered In Ford’s Ads – theonion.com

WordPress introduces WordAds

I’ve just submitted this blog to be considered for the new WordAds for WordPress.com blogs.

We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

My blog may get too little traffic or not be focused enough to easily pair the content up with appropriate ads (or the reviewers (hello there!) may simply not appreciate my post about the bad ads on WordPress.com), but I have my fingers crossed.

If you run a WP.com blog with a custom domain, you can apply for WordAds too.

Low quality advertisements are damaging WordPress.com

A shiny WordPress logo, ruined by obnoxious ads. It’s been nearly two months since I switched halfblog.net from Posterous over to WordPress, and I’ve been generally very positive about the change, with some reservations. The truth is, I don’t think I will be recommending it so strongly to potential new bloggers any longer (as I have done at Social Media Surgeries).

The various reasons probably justify a separate blog post, but one concern is looming particularly large right now…

The low-quality on-site advertising WordPress uses to support free blogs.

Continue reading

Natural Born Clickers: 50% drop in ad clickers

Heavy, Moderate, Light Display Ad Clicker Analysis
March 2009 vs. July 2007
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore
  Share of All Internet Users Share of Click-Throughs
Jul-07 Mar-09 Jul-07 Mar-09
Total Clickers 32% 16% 100% 100%
Heavy Clickers 6% 4% 50% 67%
Moderate Clickers 10% 4% 30% 18%
Light Clickers 16% 8% 20% 15%
Non-Clickers 68% 84% 0% 0%

[...]

“A click means nothing, earns no revenue and creates no brand equity. Your online advertising has some goal – and it’s certainly not to generate clicks,” said Starcom USA SVP/Director, Research & Analytics John Lowell. “You want people to visit your website, seek more information, purchase a product, become a lead, keep your brand top of mind, learn something new, feel differently – the list goes on. Regardless of whether the consumer clicked on an ad or not, the key is to determine how that ad unit influenced them to think, feel or do something they wouldn’t have done otherwise.”

(via comscore.com)

According to this, 8% of users are doing 85% of the clicking. Given that most email in circulation is spam, these few gullible clicker people have ruined the internet for everyone else…

“You can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter”

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[…] And commercial radio is really simple. Like many other businesses, it has products and it has customers. The audiences are not the customers, they’re the product. The customers are the advertisers.

via Myspace – now with glitter (via @Dizzyjam)

Excellent post about My_____. I’m a big fan of writers who can distil complex issues into powerful paragraphs.