Useful Advertising?

Last week I sent you an email about advertising and riding the waves as they come, but there's more to the story. It's not just a matter of riding the trends as they come and optimizing.

The fact is that as consumers most of us don't want to see ads. We fast forward through TV commercials or skip them altogether via Hulu/Netflix subscriptions. Hell, Netflix added a feature just so people don't have to watch the intro of a TV show they like. We wait 5 seconds before skipping ads on YouTube. We use adblockers when surfing the web. We'll go to great lengths to avoid a lot of ads. We feel they have nothing useful for us. Much of that is born out of tradition TV advertising being generally sucky, poorly targeted, and a waste of our time.

And yet, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, etc are booming.

More advertisers than ever are just throwing money at those platforms.

I've run my fair share of ads over the last 6 years. I've managed 6-figure ad budgets and generate tens of thousands of leads on Google, Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn.

While I feel like those platforms tend to miss the mark with effective advertising, I think much of the blame lies with individual companies.

It's all about making a dollar now and not about building something that really matters. 

I think the responsibility among brands and ad platforms has to increase. 

I’ve been doing some experimenting with LinkedIn Ads for some work projects. In some recent campaigns the targeting was geographically based and aimed towards employees in specific roles at specific companies. I got a decent amount of traffic for not a ton of spend, but I found myself wanting more. I was pleased with the click throughs that we got for our ads considering our target audience was relatively small. 

I found myself wanting more insights. In fact, I would pay a premium to know exactly who clicked on those ads. 


Those are the people who expressed an interest in our ads. Even if they took no other action than clicking through the ad to our landing page, they showed an interest which indicates that a conversation might be beneficial for both us and them. Allowing me to connect directly to that person means I could spend time thoughtfully following up. At the very least I could learn from their experience. WHY did they click the ad? What made them interested in learning more? What did they do after clicking the ad? Why didn’t they contact us?

All of that is rich and valuable information to marketers and sales people. So why not just go the extra step? LinkedIn could undoubtedly tell me the specifics of WHO clicked those ads. For all I know there are regulations or restrictions that prevent me from accessing that type of information, but if not it would be invaluable.

What if you could serve ads to a specific demographic and then engage the people who interact with you ads via a personalized email campaign?

Obviously retargeting helps with this, but I think it goes a step further and allows responsible brands to build connections that matter with potential customers.

If anyone can go out on the internet and scrape business contact information, which leads to cold calls and other crappy forms of introductions...why not allow me to see who clicked our ads so I can have a deeper conversation and possibly a meaningful connection?

The problem is that the people at the bottom of the barrel will ruin it for those responsible enough to use those kind of features ethically.

So yes, there is such a thing as useful advertising. Despite customers not really knowing what they want or need, advertising can help establish that for them. When it's done right.

But the digital advertising industry as it is today is broken.

It allows the lowest of the low to do whatever they want whenever they want.

I think there's a better way and we'll see that manifest as things continue to develop in the years to come.