Advertising Agencies Just Want to Make Ads

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Social Media  |  Worst Practices  |  Case Studies  |  Marketing  |  Advertising

shutterstock_128250248Yesterday morning as I normally do, I checked my Twitter feed first thing while enjoying a cup of black coffee. I noticed the following tweet from @petermccormack: @dmscott would love your thoughts on my article about the failings of online advertising. Peter included a link to the article.

Peter was advertising his product - a report called Online advertising does not work using traditional online advertising techniques! I gotta dig deeper on this one! So I grabbed a second cup of coffee.

My immediate thought was that this approach was spammy. It targeted me directly as an @ reply and came from somebody who I was not following nor who was following me. I get this sort of approach dozens of times a week and normally just ignore it. But since the tweet referenced “failings of online advertising” and asked for my thoughts I checked Peter’s twitter feed and sure enough he had targeted other people like he had targeted me.

Online advertising does not work

tweet_with_repliesThe report Peter was pimping Online advertising does not work is a well-argued manifesto including many topics I’ve been writing about for more than a decade.

Peter writes: “The world has changed significantly with digital, and this has in turn changed customer behaviour. The problem is that agencies haven’t changed — either because they don’t know how to, or because to do so would erode their margins. Applying the same old advertising methods to this new world just doesn’t work, nor does jumping from innovation to innovation. The proven tactics of digital marketing do already exist, they are just not wrapped in adverts. Successful digital marketing will be driven by those who are neither slaves to their past nor victims of fashion.”

For example, I wrote in a 2011 post Advertising agency campaign mentality that advertising agency staffers “rely on interrupting people to get them to pay attention to a message. (We’re ad people after all. We are good at interruption.)”

Since I considered Peter’s tactics of promoting his article about the failures of online advertising using an online advertising technique (interrupting people you do not know with a brand message) rather ironic, I replied back with my thoughts as he asked. We then had a conversation over several hours, which I have included here.

The Sharing More Than Selling Rule

As I said in a post last week titled The Sharing More Than Selling Rule, as a way to think about your social activities, I’d suggest you should be doing 85 percent sharing and engaging, 10 percent publishing original content, and only five percent or less about what you are trying to promote.

In my opinion, Peter has been operating in advertising mode on social networks in the way he targeted me, pushing out his messages to a target audience who do not know him.

So what could Peter have done differently?

1. He could have referenced one of my tweets or posts or one of my books in his tweet to me to put into context why he was targeting me.

2. He could have followed me first, tweeted about something else to me, and then promoted his report.

3. He could have commented on one of my hundreds of blog posts related to what his report is about and included the URL.

4. He could have blogged about his report and included quotes from the people like me he targeted as background information in the blog post.

Essentially, Peter should have engaged first and sold his report second.

But it has been my observation that this is really tough for advertising agency people to do. And that’s the subject of Peter’s report. 

In one of his tweets to me, Peter said he wanted to start a debate surrounding his report. He’s succeeded in doing so and therefore, perhaps, online advertising techniques do work. But I’m not sure this is the sort of debate Peter was looking for.

So what do you think? Was Peter’s approach acceptable to you? Are advertising agencies starting to understand the digital channel is more than interruption? What would you have done?

Image: Shutterstock / Maksim Kabakou