Use Online Advertising to Connect to the Future

  1. Jill Andrews
  2. April 19, 2016 9:51 am

It seems like the current goal of online marketing efforts is not really the achievement of quantifiable sales but rather the production of measurable interim performance metrics that “prove” how successful a wide ranging digital ad campaign can be. In effect, all of these digital metrics are nothing more than an online equivalent of hitting the “on” button on the TV remote.

On television, placing ads with a specific program means that everybody who views that program is going to be exposed to it. This is not the case in Online Advertisingdigital marketing, where different viewers to the same website will, to some degree, see distinct messaging designed to push their particular buttons. While this offers the promise of a more focused appeal, it comes at the price of a statistical diminution of the number of people who will, in fact, see that particular message.

Given the relative density of a television audience and the relative dispersion of an online viewership, this means that an advertiser is going to have to shotgun their efforts all over the place in order to reach the same mass that can be found on a single television episode. In addition, the customization of ad feeds means that many people are bombarded with the same “chosen” ads everywhere they go. While this creates density towards that individual, it also means that others who might become interested in the product despite their alleged profile may never see it at all.

It is this ceding of the serendipity factor in favor of a ruthless scientific micro-targeting that restricts the growth of digital methods into a true rival for television’s ability to provide mass numbers with but a single injection of the commercial serum. In effect, digital mediums are leaving the field of widespread mass appeal to their greatest rivals in hopes of coming up with a better business model through the use of superior analytics which are only possible in the interactive platform.

It may well be that these efforts will eventually overcome the numerical advantages enjoyed by mass entertainment venues but it is likely to be a long hard slog. One thing that can greatly increase the impact of online targeting is to develop a method of making the targeting more forward looking as opposed to backward looking.

For example, everyone has suffered under a maddening barrage of ads for something that they purchased YESTERDAY. Rather than annoy the potential customer by endlessly dunning them for something they have already purchased, advertising needs to look at the end state as well as the search record so that ads are targeted for follow-up products more than for comparative matches to something that the poor online consumer has already searched for and settled upon.

The problem with such an approach is that it requires a degree of cooperation and data-sharing that jealous online rivals are hardly likely to divulge to their competitors. They may even regard it as desirable that their rivals expend their online ammunition on a target that has already been captured by another player in the game. This provides them with a competitive advantage in that THEIR advertising can work on follow-ups while everyone else is still stuck on cookie-sniffing for clues as to what sort of ads Jane Doe really wants to see.

To put this another way, online advertising has an incredible potential to not just supersede but to annihilate the traditional mass media marketing campaigns that currently reign over the basic consumer. Yet they are still feeling their way forward more than they would like to admit. The ever-tricky balance point between mass appeal and artfully-presented personal presentation has yet to be fully solved—although the experience already won is leading to an ever-increasing narrowing of the difference in results obtainable between the two competing platforms.

For now, online holds an advantage in data accumulation that will eventually allow it to conquer. Yet traditional TV advertisers continue to stick with their seemingly archaic efforts for no other reason than that they produce superior sales results on a quantity basis. It may well be that online ads produce more sales from each persuadable customer, but that customer base is much more widely scattered and has to be approached with a wide net rather than a single focus. TV relies on the simple science of numbers. X number of viewers produces an average of Y number of sales. Online is looking to produce sales from every viewer and will eventually bury the old propagandistic statistical models once they become perfected.

Until they do, it is wise for most players to stick with online ads simply to stay abreast of the latest trends and to make sure that they will have a front row seat once the curtain finally rises on the big new show.