Share Ads

not cookie-cutterI've been thinking about ads as engaging content. In a world of pop-up blockers, PVRs, too many channels, and spam filters, you can't hope that your ad will reach people. However, if your ad is the event, instead of something that is interrupting the event, then you have a chance.

I don't mean just good ads. Though this is what this ad is. So, flip ad making on its head: don't build ads to sell your product. Build ads that people will share. This is really just viral marketing applied to banner ads. And you need to think about ads - all content that you want people to listen to - as a contest where you have to win their attention.

The catch?

It's really, really hard to make ads that people want to share. You come to an ad thinking "what do I want to tell my audience?" instead of "what do these people want to learn about?" Look at YouTube. Some people watch a lot of YouTube. I've just recently "got" it (I knew what it was but never visited). Some of the videos are long-form 30 minutes or longer. Others are snippets - 30 or 90 seconds. The whole " Will It Blend?" series might be a good example. There are people (-guilty-) who watch those. And really, they are just ads - sure they are funny and over-the-top and mini send-offs (does that word date me?) of infomercials. But they are compelling and so well-done (in a stylistic sense: right on-target).

Exit Interruption Ads

I think it boils down to the facts that ads-as-interruption are dying. We keep coming up with technology that doesn't support them. Browsers get smarter about blocking ads (pop-ups or in-page), PVRs killed TV commercials, the Kindle can kill magazine ads (or does the Kindle have ads?), car automatic-pilots might kill billboards.

Why? Because that's what technology does: it makes our lives better.

So, instead, we need more relevant ads. Ads or sales suggestions that we want to hear. Like all our digital information today: we need demand more signal and less noise.

Darren Barefoot posts about an email that was sent to him by a service he used based on his location:

Whether this is the right sample, it's just a sample. Another: the iPhone can tell you that you are in Starbucks and "click here to buy the song that is currently played [or just played]."

But the fact that the ad is based on location in these examples is just the method of trying to determine relevance.

Amazon does it by the book you are looking at (and, sometimes, by what you've bought or are in your wishlists). Netflix does it by finding other "like" users and suggesting movies that they liked. Tivo, stumbleupon, and also try similar things.

  1. My gas station pump always suggests that I buy a car wash with fill-up - even though I never have (the one down the street is better). Why don't they look at what I have bought and suggest something from that list? Or maybe let me personalize my profile with them - I carry their EasyPay RFID fob (in exchange for a few reward points, of course) and they'd know my car type. Or my rewards preference (suggest that you have a sale on the bottle Starbucks Mocha Frappucinos and I'm likely to bite).
  2. My mile-long grocery store receipt always has coupons on the back - which I never read. What if you did just 1 coupon: for something I liked instead of whatever local business just wasted spent money on the promotion? What if you looked at what I bought (again, I carry your store's privacy-invading-profile-monitoring card) and find similar buyers... and suggest based on the patterns.
  3. Or my favored bookstore (interesting stat I heard recently from an ex-Chapters exec: the average Canadian visits a bookstore every 3 weeks!). Why don't you use that card I carry - it's got a magnetic stripe already - to allow me to swipe in your kiosks and retrieve my stored wishlist that I built online over the last few weeks. Think remembering a book will increase my chance of buying? You bet.

It's really a difference of stance: instead of standing back telling me something through a bullhorn, you're leaning forward trying to hear what I say I want and making suggestions.

Saturday, April 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: cars, collaborativefiltering, friendfeed, iphone, RFID, starbucks, webadvertising, wisdomofcrowds