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Does Online Advertising Work?

In my role as a marketer, I get to see mountains of data. Online advertising does work, but its incredibly inefficient. Chris Anderson – the TED guy – has some interesting ideas as to why it is so ineffective. It’s a must watch for any marketer. He notes:

  • the advertising value associated with one hour of an Internet user’s time is less than $.10 and one third of that goes to Google. This number is low even compared to the challenged performance of television which comes to $.25 and print which is $1.00.
  • current solutions, to impose a 15 or 30 second ad in the form of a video segment, is designed to engender frustration and even hatred, worse than pop up ads

One reason he cites is a preoccupation with reach and attention with little consideration with intensity. In other words, we do little to engage and create a relationship, instead favoring the impression or opportunity to see. And he is right.

Great ads tend to still be measured on their ability to secure attention – through creativity – rather than build a relationship through engagement. He has thoughts on how to solve this – and Aker expands on this over on his blog:

  • Become part of the community rather than transmitting to it.
  • Embrace radical openness – just like you see at TED conferences. While the conferences only touch 800 members twice a year by putting them online the talks engage more than 320 million viewers. I like his idea that firms have employees talk about their values and experiences, to let the audience inside. Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com may be a role model.
  • Recognize why people attend to stimuli and are motivated to pass it on. Within our tech communities at Dell, for people to engage they have to be motivated to showcase their knowledge and smarts. Small rewards help with that. But the real driver is the simplicity and transparency of the tools.

For me it’s less a question of whether online advertising works or not, it is a question of how efficient it is.

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