Native Advertising: Traditional Advertising Online

Mashable recently asked the question, “Is Native Advertising Just Another Term For Good Advertising?” The answer is no, not quite.

From what I can tell, native advertising is a horrible and misleading term that is being used to describe something that may actually turn out to be a good idea — the application of traditional advertising principles to online advertising. Let me explain.

Online advertising was supposed to be interactive. It was supposed to rescue us from having to force people into looking at our ads. Consumers were going to want to interact with us, they were going to want to have conversations with marketers, they were going to want to have relationships with brands.

It was all fantasies and delusions based on naive interpretations of consumer behavior by people who had a whole lot of ideological commitment to the web, and very little experience with real world marketing.

Now we’ve learned that, for the most part, consumers want no part of interacting with online advertising. What we are calling “native advertising” is a recent reaction to this realization and to the very disappointing history of online advertising, particularly banner advertising.

Nobody seems quite sure what they mean by native advertising. But I think I know what they mean. They don’t know it yet, but they mean using traditional advertising strategy on the web.

Your obsession with pandering to 18-34 year-olds is decades out of date

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay One of the enduring absurdities of the marketing and advertising industries is the old wives’ tale that “people over 50 want to be like young people.”

Ask any brain-dead CMO of a car company why the people who inhabit his commercials are all young, when 18-24 year-olds buy 1% of all new cars, and you’ll get some version of that idiocy.

It’s what passes for “strategic thinking” in the Golden Age of Marketing Brilliance.

Yeah, I was having coffee with Jerry Seinfeld, Meryl Streep and Barack Obama the other day and they were telling me how much they aspire to be like the morons in Taco Bell and Coors Light commercials.

Online Advertisers Getting Hosed

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Here at Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, one of our axioms is that there is no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he’s missing a trend.

We’re starting to think that the same can be said of the entire advertising industry.

Our industry has been desperately trying to convince itself that the web is a fabulous advertising medium. We share each others’ anecdotes about the handful of meager successes (amid the thousands of failures.) We go to conferences and listen to case histories that are two standard deviations from normal and try to convince ourselves that they are typical.

But we can’t erase the facts. And the facts are dismaying.

Click-through rates are abysmal. The odds of breaking through on YouTube are in the million-to-one range. Facebook is a big fat turd that seems to have a new ad scheme every week. QR codes are a cruel joke. Content and social media are sounding more like religion, and less like business.

And now we’re starting to get a peek at massive advertising frauds being perpetrated on the web.

Ad Contrarian: Mobile Everything Everywhere

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay There is nothing dumber than a magazine with a vision. And there’s no kind of magazine with a vision dumber than a trade magazine with a vision. And there’s no kind of trade magazine dumber than an advertising trade magazine.

So today we are going to discuss an article that wins the triple crown of dumbness — an article with a vision of the future, from a trade magazine, in the advertising field.

The article is called: “MasterCard’s Vision for a Cashless, Cardless, World” and it appeared in Ad Age a while ago.

Like all these pieces it takes the flavor of the week, in this case “mobile,” applies no perspective, and elevates it to the status of earth-shaker. The guy who is peddling this nonsense escapes from the article unchallenged, and we are left with the impression that sometime in the near future we will be living in a “cashless, cardless world.”

Ad Contrarian: Success is never final

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay We like to think that history has an inevitability to it. We like to believe that there is an arc that goes from the bad old days to the good new days; that things move toward virtue; that freedom and prosperity will inevitably triumph and evil and depredation will ultimately be vanquished.

There is absolutely no reason to believe this. And yet we do.

It’s the same type of silly belief we have about evolution. We believe that the purpose of evolution was to lead to a grand conclusion — us. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are just the result of thousands of little contingencies. The world existed for 4 billion years very nicely without us, thank you.

Winston Churchill came as close as any one individual ever came to saving the world. Without him, the Nazis and their pals might very well have won WW II.

He was hailed as a hero. But was promptly evicted from office when his party lost the elections in 1945.

But Churchill was a realist. He said, “Success is never final.”

The Hidden Danger Of Precision Targeting

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco BayThere is very little difference between your customer and your competitor’s customer.

And get ready for a shock. To them there is very little difference between you and your competitor.

Most consumers are oblivious to the positioning subtleties among major brands. The average consumer has no idea why Coke is different from Pepsi, or Crest is different from Colgate. They see no difference between Jif and Skippy. They are unimpressed and uninformed about the arcane positioning distinctions between Bounty and Brawny paper towels.

Most of their purchasing habits are just that — habits. Interpreting their behavior as some sort of ideological commitment to your brand is a delusion.

The Ad Contrarian on in the murky world of online “ghost publishers”

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay I have to admit that I get a great deal of deliciously perverse pleasure from reading reports that online ad hustlers are picking the pockets of marketing morons and their clueless but oh-so-fashionable agencies.

Apparently there’s a lot of hanky-panky going on in the “murky” world of online ad exchanges. An article in Adweek last week had this to say…

“Indeed, while the Web has never been short of tricksters…a new breed of cheat is fast becoming a plague in the exchange world: the ghost publisher…very little of these sites’ audiences are real people. Yet big name advertisers are spending millions trying to reach engaged users on these properties.”

Janet Warren Likes Walmart (but does she?)

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Janet Warren was one one of those impossibly wonderful girls. Not just pretty, not just smart, but nice and pleasant and friendly. Often her father would have letters to the editor published in The New York Times. She was a cheerleader with actual cheer.

Naturally, she had no idea I existed. But she lived in the next building, and her sister was friendly with my sister.

I was in Los Angeles once, years after high school, and I saw her in a popular restaurant. She was with a group of obviously high-performance individuals, and she was the star of the crowd. I studied her from across the room. She was in her early 30’s and had an ethereal almost-hippie, almost-executive look and manner. I found out, years later, that she had been the producer of some pretty important movies.

Years passed and as circumstances sometimes unfold, I had occasion to have lunch with her. I explained to her who I was, and of course, she didn’t remember me. She was still lovely in that way that women over 50 can be lovely if they dress simply and tastefully and don’t have surgery and don’t try to be 20.

She had adopted a child. She was active in many organizations that worked for social justice. She was no longer an active producer, but still had great poise and presence.

We exchanged a few emails following our lunch. I wanted to become friends, but after a while she gracefully stopped emailing, saying she was too busy. I knew what that meant. Several months later I was surprised when she friended me on Facebook.

Lately, on my Facebook page, I find ads that tell me that “Janet Warren Likes Walmart.”

The Content Con

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that this year’s online magical marketing word is “content.”

All the hustlers who were selling us “the conversation” a few years ago and “social media marketing” for the past two years have suddenly all become “content” experts. The great thing about content is, it’s anything you want it to be. If you can upload it to the web, it’s content.

It may be “content” in the digital world. In the real world it’s mostly garbage. 99% of it will go unnoticed and will live and die anonymously.

Like all the online wonder drugs, there will be a few winners. They will be the same really smart people and the really smart agencies who know how to do things right. They will be a tiny, tiny minority.

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