Grubby behavior


From the department of faster horses*, Robin’s post about the new ad format from Yahoo! The Smart Ad reminds me of a few quotes:

Firstly, when VCCP (where I worked) announced it was starting its own search specialist, Rob Forshaw of Grand Union was quoted as saying  “The move is potentially very lucrative, although I’d have thought it was too grubby for VCCP to get into.”

Secondly, John Wanamaker, famously said “I know half my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half”.

Thirdly, and finally, a quote from Beavis and Butthead: “You can’t polish a turd”.

The idea behind the  Smart Ads, is using the total knowledge of the user’s behavior (including for example, their last search or which of  the Yahoo! sites they have visited and with what frequency), to influence which ads are then shown. Smart ads allow those ads to be configured on the fly to include a relevant offers or promotions. The constituent parts, presumably are to be made up in Digitas’ Greater China Sweatshop (as we saw with Publicis’ digital strategy):

David Kenny, chairman of Digitas, said technology platforms like SmartAds hold the promise of bringing the hyper-targeting and effectiveness of search into the 95 percent of Internet pages that are not search results.

Has anyone at Digitas seen a single eyetracking survey? Users simply tune out visual advertising? They do this because they’ve learned that it’s normally not relevant. This is why AdSense works. It looks like links – which customers are used to finding useful.

But why are ad agencies so obsessed with it being visual anyhow – even if the idea of a simple insight driven message is gone? Isn’t this just a desperate attempt to keep the old norms of advertising intact?

And they don’t work. If John Wanamaker’s quote were being applied to online display advertising (or direct marketing), he would have had to have said, “I know 98% of my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which 2% are not”.

If advertisers are now so interested in targeted messages, perhaps a few of the agencies should simply reconsider their reticence over grubby targeting advertising.

* Just in case you’re not aware of it. Henry Ford famously said, “If I’d asked customers what they want, they would have said ‘faster horses’