As any skilled online advertiser will tell you, the smart money is on the ability to measure and optimise activities on the fly. Does this mean that a lot of dumb money goes into random display? I guess there must be another award ceremony for search going on somewhere else, because it’s not getting much airtime on the Croisette.
When we pitched a major mobile operator last year, the online advertising investment (display/search/affiliates) was 40 30 30 in terms of cost, but 20 50 30 in term of effectiveness. I thought afterwards that we should really have looked into this as a primary problem, rather than get tied up in the creative discussion about how best to present the brand offers without resorting to even more template wallpaper. Spend more on search, I said. Spend less on offers, more on engagement.
Pondering this today through a mild reality distorting field of haircuts shouting loudly in the Martinez bar, it occurred to me that we only celebrate display, and not search. We don’t think enough about the intelligence required to serve ads to people looking for something they want. I love the idea of advertising that isn’t advertising. I love the idea of search that isn’t search even more. And what’s the end game for all this as we start the probably impossible journey to reducing wastage in advertising from 99% to nil?
Through my reality distortion field, I imagined receiving stuff I wanted all the time. Some sort of magical CRM world, where my bank offered to reduce my mortgage, crème brulée would arrive endlessly and I could spend the whole day seeing no advertising at all. Would it be hell or would I crave some distraction of a bright and breezy display ad for something I didn’t want? As Joni Mitchell sang, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I think I would miss it.
We mustn’t let the good intention of metrics eradicate the magic of invention and entertainment. But we must adopt more intelligent ways to advise clients on whether the work is actually any good or not. We have to help clients sell stuff. Every skilled online advertiser will tell you that.