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David Cushman, January 2008. There is a shift in advertising spend away from broadcast and away from interruption. The shift is toward conversation, toward brand advocacy. The yarn of traditional marketing is unraveling as the power of the network emerges. This document takes a quick journey through the problems facing traditional ad models, considers the new efficiencies made available by digital targeting and looks toward a future in which even ubertargeted ads are not enough. Finally, it seeks new rules of engagement – a set of guidelines for creating ad models which match the capabilities and efficiencies of the web.
The crisis of interruption
Interruptive advertising – of the any old kind, any old time variety was always an annoyance. If it got it lucky and found the right person at the right time, job done. More often than not, it didn’t. All the rest was spam. The more broad the cast, the greater mass the media, the less desirable the spam. Then came the internet and its ability to serve in-context, related ads. The gap closed. A bit. A specialist niche of the old school, with cutting edge in-context, related advertising tech deployed might, on a good day, hit a 1% click-thru rate. In the global microniches of ugc that the web spawns, the rate might – might – hit as high as 8-10%. And remember… all the rest is spam. So for most of the people, most of the time, on niche sites or even niche TV shows, the content gaps filled by adverts are nothing more than spam. Spam, that advertisers are wasting money on. Spam we more often than not ignore.
The emphasis on ‘reach’ and ‘eyeballs’ was always driven by the industrial mindset that gave us mass production and mass media. It really helped if we all wanted the same thing, too. And so we arrive mass media’s dependency on hit culture. And that simply does not fit with a networked world. The networked world is a participatory one. I referred to this in ‘the death of the hit’: http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/10/long-tail-and-death-ofpassively.html “Some things will always be popular. But the versions they are witnessed as will be myriad. The aggregation of these versions may approximate a 'hit' in the old broad model. But it won't be the same thing. There will be multiple community-niched versions of how we witness the same single 'hit' event. Advertising should be devised to suit each of these differently witnessed versions - if it wants to overcome the crisis of interruption… “…I can imagine 'films' created in a far more co-creational/ participatory way. Take a step or two down the road. Wouldn't it be more fun to step into the film, take part, shape its outcomes with your friends? SecondLife is but a baby step towards that. Wait till we get jogging along. Then, is it possible you'll still want to sit back and watch someone else's centrally contrived movie?”
What in-context related ads can do – and what they can’t.
Let’s assume in-context related ads get a new lease of life from recommend-by-a-friend updates, ones which are rather more welcome than the friend-spam (http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/11/friendspam-viral-aint-allgood.html ) that facebook deployed. Response rates should improve (70% of purchase decisions are made under the influence of word of mouth).
But there are still issues. Just because I’m consuming content, that doesn’t mean I’m planning on buying something. This is even more so when I’m both consuming and a creating content (as in social networks etc). What to do with the pesky miscreant who won’t sit and passively consume their ads? Ah, this must be the space for some ‘branding’ then – to keep your brand front of my mind when/if my mood/need changes and I do turn into a good old buy-buy-buy (what ever it is you think suits me) consumer. Translation: Here’s a space to con me in. Eg: Perfume advertising. There are those that believe that ads add value to products (eg the soft porn of perfume ads which transform a £3 bottle of liquid into a £50 fantasy fulfilled). But in a networked world in which we all join in the conversation, in which we can all be involved in co-creation, is anyone going to pay £47 for an image constructed for them and broadcast at them? The networked world will reveal the huckster in this.
The role of social data analytics
Knowing more about me makes you better able to serve me with what I want. Social data analytics makes this a real time enterprise. Applying this to social networks (in its widest sense) means your peers can help. Social data analytics – when used with the right touch – can deliver everything that in -context, related ads do, plus recommend-by-afriend AND the added bonus of recommendations by people who you didn’t know you needed to know (ie someone you ‘ought to trust’ based on profile info, shared tastes etc). A powerful mix. Used judiciously you could end up being served ads just in time, rather than just in case. And that’s just great. For now. And for a good few years to come. While there is still a large chunk of consumption going on (Nokia predicts 25% of entertainment will be co-created within five years – which leaves a hefty 75% to be consumed in the meantime.)
But as the shift towards co-creation gathers pace…the story must continue to evolve.
The end of marketing
Marketing is an invention of the supply chain. The Cluetrain Manifesto refers to this. When you bought your pots from the man who made them in the village marketplace there was no requirement for spin. Where was this pot made? Over there on my potters wheel. What’s it made of? The clay I dug from here. Is it any good? Ask these people, they’ve been using my pots for years. Then came the camel train. The supply chain had arrived. The longer it got, the longer the yarn that was required to be spun, the yarn, we call marketing. Where was this pot made? In the fine city of er…hang on… er… Timbuktu. What’s it made of? Oh um… really good clay, er, honest. Is it any good? Oh yes sir, the very best ever constructed, rolled on the mellow thighs of maidens etc etc (I’m getting the hang of this now). The arrival of the web closes the gap between people to zero globally. Which means you can have that authentic conversation with the man who made the pot again. The yarn is no longer required.
The rise of engagement
What’s required is a way of connecting with that human, authentic voice. Widgets offer the latest best guess in the continuum of personal voice. We started with CRM, moved through corporate blogs and now we have widgets. From Wikipedia: “Engagement marketing…is a marketing strategy that invites and encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand. Rather than looking at consumers as passive receivers of messages, engagement marketers believe that consumers should be actively involved in the production and co-creation of marketing programs.”
Widgets force you to think in engagement terms. Is the widget useful/fun/worth sharing/ can you create a personal outcome? Getting this right in the eyes of your users reveals what the brand means to those consumers. Allowing them to shape the outcome (create their own versions/subvert the message or create their own) reveals what they think about your brand and creates an ever-more-authentic, community led brand voice. Widgets rely on virality to have a life at all. Which means if they don’t like what you are offering all is lost and or can’t change it to something they want to offer, all is lost. As detailed in this post: http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/12/how-to-go-viral-lose-tv-envyand-tell.html 1. Speak in an authentic voice (close the gap between creation and marketing) 2. Lose the TV envy (think relevance over quality) 3. Give people tools to make it their own (that which we create, we embrace) 4. Don't bother with urls, links or 'brand messages'. (We don't do spin) If people are interested they will search. Buy the keywords if you want to make it easier for them.
A new ecology
The power of the network, enabled by the web opens up a new world – a new ecology. It's not just about new ways of making content. It's about new ways of making. Everything. It's not just about new modes of advertising. It's about new modes of production.
Why even uber targeted ads won’t be enough:
If you are wedded to the notion of selling mass produced products to mass audiences, you're likely to be tied to the ideas of mass markets, mass media and attention for eyeballs. To grasp how things are going to change assume that the same thing that is happening to media (ie disaggregation, co-creation, the use of platforms to serve communities of shared interest, setting their own agendas and creating their own rules, content (and yes, 'adverts') will inevitably happen to all mass produced things. How do you sell a mass produced one-size-fits-all product to people who want their content disaggregated and delivered to them exactly where they want it, when they want it, and honed to the interests they self-select and/or navigate to/discover through trusted communities? One answer might be to tailor the advert to the segmented user group. But this doesn't address the fundamental miss-match - that we're trying to sell the same mass produced product to different people by effectively pretending (spinning that) it's a different product. It ain't, it can't be and it won't be until you let the community of shared interest take a stake in the creative process. Context is not enough. How does that work in the production of things in which mass means affordable - cars for example? Well, on a niche global scale, a group of people sharing the same interest in developing the perfect car for a family of 3, which also uses it for the weekly shop and occasional trips to the dump etc could be huge. Certainly large enough to benefit from economies of scale. If you have that community engaging in the process of design, assessment, testing etc they'll not only become your ready-made market, they also become your ready-made marketing force. They already have a personal investment in the future success of the product. Powerful.
New rules of engagement.
Understanding how the world has changed and looks set to continue to change – how we are rejecting interruption and embracing participation, how we are moving away from control from the centre to the dominance of communities, what should we do? I see three immediate routes and believe each is worth pursuing. Each represents a significant shift from traditional, interruptive advertising. Each represents something other than business as usual.
1. Widget Marketing: Make use of the current advertising space
and populate it with ads which follow the best practice of virals and widgets. 2. Engagement Marketing: Involve communities in the building of the brands they use – connect them to your authentic voice. 3. No Marketing: Instead, apply the new mode of production the web enables. Communities as producers of that which they desire. No ‘marketing’ required.
Widget Marketing is the easiest to achieve right now. It fits with the how advertising is currently done – creatives can be done, space booked and paid for. But we will need new measures of success – not necessarily how many times your ad is seen, or how many clicks it generates (though these will still be important). A further key measure will be engagement – how many people use the tool you provide and to what effect, how many people play with it, shape it as their own, and as a consequence forward it, or display it on their own webspace? While the url remains a significant element of web architecture, route 1 will retain strong economic value. So what should we do? Create widgets instead of standard display adverts – no matter how in-context and related you can make them. (I appreciate you’ll need a period of both, I’m not suggesting you ditch all that in-context stuff over night).
These widgets must speak in the authentic voice of the people who make the products you are selling. That means involve those people in the ‘creative’. Don’t interrupt the conversation with your own spin. They make the pots let them sell them. Each widget should allow a personal outcome. That is, offer tools so the user can personalise, add to, subvert, so that it becomes something they actively want to pass on. Example: The Pampers campaign (http://us.pampers.com/en_US/poelanding.do?utm_source=EDS&ut m_medium=email&utm_campaign=POE ) in the US at the end of 07. Because your ad is a widget, the user can place it where-ever they wish – on their own profile page on social networks, for example. In doing this they offer their own endorsement and share it with their network of trust – the people they connect with who share their passions and interests. It is trust which makes recommended-by-afriend work – not simply discovery (and it is perhaps the trust element that was missing in the friendspam of facebook’s initial poke at SocialAds).
This can be harder. It’s certainly harder than selling or creating for display space. First, sort your head. Start listening. Let the community take control. Er, and that’s it really. Everything flows from this change in mindset. Your brand is not your own. It is ours. Cornflakes are a breakfast cereal not because that’s what Dr Kellogg ‘made’. Kellogg was in fact out to create a food which would suppress your sex drive. That’s not what the community of users have decided it is! Lucky for Kelloggs that they chose to allow that development of the brand! Engagement marketers work on the assumption that they are dealing with converged individuals – people who are rather more than simple passive consumers – of product or message. An engagement marketing approach would open up the creation of our widget marketing to the community in the first place. A
competition with rewards for the person who makes the mostengaged with widget promoting a brand, for example. In fact an engagement marketer would be sitting down around the campfire with the community to help decide whether a widget competition was the right thing in the first place. Simple rules: 1. Put the community first 2. Listen 3. Change
In this model there is no ‘advertising’ or ‘marketing’ as we have understood it during the mass industrial interruption. It has nothing to do with supply chains, value chains, or chains of any kind. It is about webs – of supply and value. It takes advantage of the match between the way in which both the economy and the web work to create extraordinary efficiencies and ultimately greater value. To take advantage you must create platforms which bring together co-creating communities who share a purpose and offer them the tools of collaboration. We're getting better and better (and will get better still) at delivering the right commercial messages at the right time and to the right people, by focusing on communities and making use of social data analytics. And perfecting this has big wins for ad agencies, marketeers, commercial enterprizes and media... and this is a fantastic leap forward compared to the interruptive advertising that has gone before. But the ultimate wins are about people taking control of the creation of the product they want to own. If a community is involved in the co-creation of the products and services it has decided it needs to call into existence, this has two key impacts.
1. It has the potential to be a perfect fit. The people who’ve been
involved in the co-creation of the product or service that results
will love it and 'buy' it (that which we create we embrace, as Alan Moore likes to say). They will also rave about it – recommending it to other like-minded people, attracting more with the same passion/purpose to join their niche global community of collaborators. 2. Doesn’t co-creation of this kind imply a perfect fit between supply and demand? What's the need for traditional ads. The community does its own marketing - and it's powerfully peer-topeer and with all the ramped-up trust that implies. What is required to make this function? 1. Communities (what makes great communities http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/09/what-makes-goodcommunities.html ). 2. Tools which allow communities to self-form into groups of their choosing around purposes of their selection. 3. Tools which allow them to share and collaborate to produce. Suggested reading: Cluetrain Manifesto: http://http//www.amazon.co.uk/Cluetrain-Manifesto-End-BusinessUsual/dp/0738204315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=11960671 75&sr=1-1 Communities Dominate Brands: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Communities-Dominate-Brands-MarketingChallenges/dp/0954432738/ref=sr_1_1/203-37433048821563?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189085223&sr=1-1 Wikinomics: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wikinomics-MassCollaboration-ChangesEverything/dp/1843546361/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid =1196067029&sr=8-1 The Origin of Wealth: http://http//www.amazon.co.uk/Origin-WealthEvolution-ComplexityEconomics/dp/0712676619/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid =1197882728&sr=8-1
FasterFuture posts Why targeting the ad message can never be enough http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-targeting-ad-messagecant-be-enough.html How to go viral http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/12/how-to-go-viral-lose-tv-envyand-tell.html Thoughts from Widgety Goodness http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/12/video-and-thoughts-fromwidgety.html How facebooks social ads SHOULD work http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/10/facebooks-socialads-howthey-should.html