Current digital advertising lacks innovation

By | June 4, 2010

I came across this interesting blog post on Monday Note entitled “The lethal self-complacency of advertising“, later posted on the Washington Post as “Why is digital advertising so lousy? Industry is too smug to innovate“, but Frédéric Filloux.  I agree with his conclusion that online ads are not innovative in the capacity that they could be, and I think product simulation advertising (or marketing) is the kind of innovation which would deliver much better results (as I’ve seen with my own informal work).

The author’s prognosis is on the basis of digital media not delivering results, stating that an “electronic reader brings 15 to 20 times less in advertising revenue than a print reader does.”  I can believe it, but I don’t know exactly where to put the blame.  Fortunately, he posits some thoughts as to why he believes that digital advertising is getting poor results.

Number 1. Poor design.  Essentially, he bemoans the lack of creative talent in the current crop of ads–banners, skyscrapers, sliders, pop-up’s, etc.  They act as reader-repellants and fodder for ad-blockers.  I don’t think we can do a lot for the containers, though perhaps there is some room — ads have to be placed somewhere, and there has to be standardization for sizing, just like in print ads. I think if you ask about the creativity of the content within the ad, I think the point is valid–we need to get beyond the ‘in-your-face’ style of text, flashing things, etc.

Ultimately, in our search-driven online world, I think that the best type of advertising is one that engages the viewer with relevant content.  After all, isn’t the best time to present your product or service when someone is looking for it or something like it?  It’s no wonder that search advertising is so strong in the online world.  I don’t mean all advertising has to be focused on the specific product, but I think if advertising were designed around where the products or services are being used, in other words, scenario based, and if the advertising delivered some useful content, then the advertisements would not be so repelling to viewers because the viewers want to see or use that content.

Therefore, I hypothesize that content-based advertising, or in the case of products that can be simulated, ‘product simulation advertising’, will be a potent and effective form of advertising that takes unique advantage of the medium both in terms of interactivity and measurement (of course the latter is all-important in a marketing world).

[Update 6/17/2010]

I was reading some comments from Frederic’s post, and a response from “Matt” caught my eye.  He responded that we ought to point a finger at the container problem, not the digital ad problem.  In other words, it is the business model of “ads in a container” that is likely the root of the issue Frederic complains about.  I agree with Matt — my observation was a roundabout way of seeing that.  The problem is that we have generally taken the ad model from print — ads on the fringes of reading materials — and stuck that in a digital world that is not constrained by those boundaries.

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