Yet Another Blather About Why Performance Digital Advertising is a Crack Cocaine of Iterative Delight, Whereas Spray & Pray Traditional is Not


Driving around in the beautiful sunshine, you tend to see a lot of billboards.

And if you’re an AdWords junkie, you tend to notice a lot of ads that would never work if their performance was tested.

Contrast that with the stinging pain of real time feedback from digital advertising prospects who must click (let alone, buy).

We don’t get to fire up nearly as many new, unusual paid search accounts as we used to; proportionally, we work on accounts for a longer time and often inherit accounts that have been poorly or inadequately managed in the past. Fresh new ones are a challenge, to say the least.

The fun of rolling out new ads, keywords, etc. pointing to “virgin” landing page never gets old. Well, actually, it’s no fun. (The fun part is when you manage to make headway out of the Quality Score Doghouse and kick competitor butt, leading to client profit. 🙂 )

In the ‘no fun’ file this week, I got to face up to the fact that certain keywords just wouldn’t work. Certain landing pages that had poor headings and confusing cues to users. And ads that didn’t merit a click. On the flipside, finding what does work is more invigorating than a shower in a waterfall with Irish Spring Soap. “Manly yes, but I like it too!” OK, OK, tee hee, have your fun. Moving on…

Back to the traditional no-test world of “ad creative.”

How do you like the tagline on the Audi A5 Cabriolet billboard:  SPF meets OMG.

Now if you happen to “get” the ad right away, you can appreciate that you’ll be out in the sun with the top down, in a car that is so, like OMG, good-looking it will blow your toupee off.

Unfortunately stuff like that doesn’t usually work any better for people hurtling by at 70mph than it does for people scanning a page of SERP’s quickly. How can I prove that? Well I can’t! And the people who wrote that can’t prove it does work.

I’m here to posit that “SPF meets OMG” seems really plausible if you wrote it, but you lose 70% of the audience that is actually reading it. SPF? Most people know what it is, but the point is it doesn’t *read* well. As logical as it is when you work through it, abbreviation-laden, “clever” ad copy is simply inscrutable to those quickly scanning. “Am I applying lotion to the windshield? Does the car actually come with sunblock technology? I thought I read about that somewhere!” And you’ve whizzed by (in your existing, less flashy, vehicle) without even considering why some 14-year-old girl has written the remainder of the ad.

What’s worse by far is that the writer has actually smuggled an objection into an advertisement. The fact that you’ll have to slap on greasy sunscreen every time you get inside your vehicle might have just convinced half of the remaining 30% (5% of whom are in the market for a convertible in their lifetime) to think twice about buying a convertible at all. “Won’t sun damage compromise my efforts to impress a date? Isn’t that greasy crap going to get on the (white) leather seats, and become a magnet for dirt?”

Your billboard is now, at best, addressing 0.75% of the drivers on the road — and at that, only to consider buying an Audi if they (anytime in their life) purchase a new convertible. That could have been 1.5%. The ad sucks. And you haven’t even tested which color of Audi might have the most positive impact on those viewing the ad. Probably, that hasn’t even occurred to you.

AdWords taught us all that. We know it because we have data.

Traditional advertisers, it appears, are still running on fumes.

Fortunately, that billboard — which could be considered a hybrid of an ad and a landing page all rolled into one — will be testable in the future. Worlds colliding? I can’t wait.

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