Monday, July 21, 2008

Spending or Earning?

The web is not an advertising medium. Come again? Well that's a shocker since so many advertisers seem to be taking their traditional ad dollars online. Can they all be wrong?

Of course not. But let's make a distinction...two really:

1. Advertising does not equal marketing
2. Buying something is not the same as earning it

First, marketing is more than advertising. Marketing encompasses all the activities that go into selling something...advertising is one small part of that. Here's a sample point of view on what marketing is, and is not, at (it seems a bit more practical to me than the American Marketing Association's definition).

Second, traditional brand advertising models have generally been based on the idea of buying attention (in the form of impressions, reach or frequency). Online (and in direct response), you can't buy attention. You have to earn it.

Problem is that many of the online advertising models are struggling with this notion...that a user who controls his or her own online experience can't be bought. In fact, attempts to buy attention--via banner ads, intrusive popups, unsolicited email--might even create a positive perception. The very old saying that any publicity is good publicity is, well, very old and very outdated.

But there are methods for earning attention. One is to be relevant. That requires listening. Another is to be responsive. That too requires listening.

Maybe that's why pay-per-click works. An individual provides a marketer with something worth listening to--the search query--when the marketer responds with a relevant response to the query (as in a sponsored link), the conditions are right for being invited into the consumer's click at a time.

The smartest marketers know that display advertising and pay-per-impression models online fall short in a medium that demands--and offers--more to those willing to market.

For an research-based take on the effectiveness of banner display advertising, see Jakob Neilsen's Banner Blindness article on

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