Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't trust an online advertising "expert"

A short conversation today quickly turned to discussing a supposed online sales guru with the last name of Blinder and how anyone with a couple years of experience in the graphic design industry knows what really works. Keep the animation to a minimum (don't make it annoying but use it when needed), don't be too fucking wordy and the most important point I brought up is that in the world of online users you have about a second to grab a reader's eyes and get them to pay attention to their ad. Don't use the same thought process that goes in to designing a typical newspaper or magazine advertisement because those are typically wordy and coming from a guy who reads fast, the shorter tidbits - no matter where I am reading them - get my attention first.

But back to Mr. Blinder. He and his team of "sales professionals" do produce results. They do so because they are overbearing, confrontational, aggressive and obnoxious (or so I've heard). They produce a shitload of revenue for their clients -- I've witnessed the results -- but they do so at a cost. That cost is the simple fact that your customers will forever associate online ads with the presentation they witnessed from the Blinder sales team. The Blinder team seems to make a habit out of over-promising results which sadly aren't achievable.

They promise that people will click the ads they are selling and drive traffic to customer's websites. Well, for that to happen the customer has to want whatever is being advertised pretty damn bad because plenty of websites out there are so bad that they shouldn't exist or so hopelessly outdated that the owner of them should bury their head in shame. This isn't a rip on local businesses because these very businesses keep a roof over my head and keep my co-workers gainfully employed but would you let your storefront display of Christmas items stay in your front window until May? I didn't think so.

For that matter, don't let your online ad fall in to that same outdated time warp. Update your ad and contrary to the advice of Mr. Blinder don't just change the background color. Simply changing the background color is fucking lazy. If I saw a designer doing this I'd be appalled for two reasons. The color should be thought out to a certain extent. Choosing a color, in my experience, is part of the overall design of a piece no matter how small or insignificant it is and changing the background -- the most dominant element -- can destroy a campaign and any business advertising should realize that a consistent look is what builds brand recognition. Change the color, disturb the brand recognition. It's pretty simple. Just look at what happened this week when Gap stores unveiled a new logo. That one move disrupted forty-plus years of history Gap had built. Don't tear down for the sake of tearing down, instead remodel, overhaul, refresh. The second reason is that this business' sales person isn't doing their job and is taking the easy way out. And if you have only one ad in your online arsenal, try harder. Multiple messages will allow website users to see something fresh. While sitting through TV commercials, I'd rather see two messages from the same advertiser than just one. Don't treat your online marketing any differently.

Mr. Blinder's greatest blunder is due to the fact that his ideas are displayed via Powerpoint. Sure, it's a decent enough program for conveying information but the way in which he does so is so ineffective that I'd rather sift through an endless stream of spreadsheets. The bulleted items are so vague that they could mean nearly anything if left open to interpretation. These vague points, after being given to sales persons, are then disemminated to potential customers. Cut through the bullshit and get real with customers. They want results but they also don't want to spend anything to achieve them because most businesses -- on a local level at least -- are so overtaxed financially that they aren't going to commit to a year's worth of advertising at any cost. I think most people would find it refreshing to NOT be sold a string of vague promises and numbers which mean nothing to them. A paragraph story in your ad -- no matter what its size is -- won't get read so keep it to ten words or less. I'll agree, though, with a point I read earlier this week about many advertisers having no fucking clue what CPM means and why they should care what it means so speak their language. To bring advertisers in to the fold of your website, be honest with them. They aren't going to get 10% of website users clicking on their ads. I've achieved that level once in a decade of experience with online advertising and that had more to do with the position and format of the ad than anything else. They wouldn't expect shoppers to bring their entire newspaper ad in to their store so why should click-thrus matter if your ad doesn't particularly lend to being clicked?

Expanding on that point, offer customers something they actually want. Click Here for a 50% off coupon is a good start. That will break the bank, you say? Have you heard of a disclaimer? Cap the savings amount at ten or twenty dollars and limit it to one coupon per user. Even grocery coupon sites like have print limits so don't say that it can't be done because it can. And to bring it full circle, if your website sucks, don't expect people to come back to it. You get but one chance to make that first-time visitor a repeat visitor. If your inventory is stagnant or doesn't change frequently, add something to your website that CAN be freshened frequently and promote that to the front page of your site. Maybe a blog about something relevant to your business. Trust me, your employees are the best source of ideas so ask them, hell, have them handle that aspect of your online presence because sometimes letting go of what you think is the only way to do things is the best thing to do.

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