Monday, April 12, 2010

Consumer speaks: Four Principles for Ads that Work With Me

...we'll be hearing a lot about ads and ad models this week as Twitter announces the rollout of its own scheme for advertising revenue.  Although I've never been a big fan of the advertising industry and when I meet former players from that game, they invariably exited with a bad taste in their mouth, I have to say that it's becoming an increasingly interesting (and relevant) area for me. (I wrote a little bit about it earlier here.)

The industry (like many others) is undergoing a revolutionary transformation.  With the shakeups that came from TiVo, from Google, from Amazon, and from Hulu, there is bound to be some churn here that will invalidate many sacred industry practices. Customer evaluation and interaction with advertising, micro-distribution points (which this blog could be, although it's not), customer generated advertising -- the number of revolutionary forces is increasing.

Here are some principles I currently hold about advertising. Perhaps your thoughts on them will contribute to the consideration that is sure to be amplified this week on the heels of Twitter's news.

First principle: Ads are not implicitly bad. I operate a business myself and need a way to tell my customers and potential customers what I have for them. Ads are a way to do that. While I object to most of the practices used in the business over the years (high saturation, manipulation of media program volume, unwanted intrusion of popovers and animated bugs), I believe there is an honorable way to advertise.

Second principle: Ads are best when they're relevant to me. The work done at Google and Amazon with affinity mapping are a good thing in my opinion. Some people think it's creepy that a computer uses a mathematical formula (an algorithm) to find out what you like and then deliver relevant ads.  Some people offer the weak criticism that such targeted advertising fails to deliver them information on things outside their normal behaviors. I just know that I'm not that interested in pharmaceutical industry ads (particularly about ED remedies or women's hygiene products) and effective systems for targeting advertising omits those from my space.

Third principle: Ads have less clout with me than trusted endorsements from my network. This doesn't mean that businesses should simply hope that top mavens talk them up on Yelp! and Twitter.  It is possible to use wholesome practices in the marketplace to invite consumer endorsements. This is where the industry should be focusing its efforts.

Fourth principle: New methods are available to measure consumer response to ads and these methods should be used. I am a super fan of the feature in Hulu that allows you to rate ads. I compulsively stop the stream and give the thumbs down to the ads I hate or the ones I've seen way too many times now.  I am hoping that this element of ad delivery will evolve to become more sophisticated. If Hulu wants to offer me uninterrupted viewing of a movie, I'll spend up to 3 or 4 minutes interacting with their ads at the beginning.  In fact, I would allow the application to turn on the webcam and track my eye motions if they like. (But you'd better give me a lot of uninterrupted viewing credits for that privilege.)

Bottom line, I'm not antagonistic to business or advertising. I am simply one of those who insists that the industry find progressive and effective ways (versus manipulative and intrusive ways) to deliver a merchant's message to me.

Hell, maybe we'll even discover a way to televise soccer in this country.