Soap operas

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So Ted McConnell, P&G’s general manager for interactive marketing and innovation has just told a conference audience that he didn’t want to buy any more ads on Facebook (thanks to Dan W for the link).

He succinctly summarises his thinking:

“What in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?”

This might come as more of a shock if anyone were actually currently buying the endless inventory of Facebook. Despite the fact that you can theoretically target your audience by the colour of their pubic hair and their cat’s favourite cheese, most of the ads I see (and lets face facts, I barely even notice most of them) are for… Facebook ads:

Facebook ad for facebook ads on Facebook

I really hope someone can tell me that ad has been taregeted to me (twice).

The truth of course, is that the last place you can reach your customers before they search, is on Facebook itself – they’re way too busy finding out which of their friends is now in a ‘complicated’ relationship or is playing a new game of scramble.

McConnell hints at the very conceit in the constuction of the phrase ‘social media’ and ‘consumer generated media’. It may be both social and consumer generated but that does not mean it’s a place where people want to hear about low-fat yoghurt or taking part in medical trials.

Social media banner placements are so woeful they make traditional online media placements look good. But, we all know most banners are still ignored. In a social setting, they are completely invisible.

Of course, this is good and bad. Its good because hopefully it will reduce the amount I need to learn about teeth whitening, sanitary protection, mid-sized family vehicles and no-end of products which simply are not relevant to me.

It’s bad to the extent that virtually every good idea we hear about on the internet is supposed to be supported by advertising. And of course, now we’re in GRAVE FINANCIAL PANIC, it’s no longer fashionable to have no viable business plan. It’s like the dull old early noughties all over again, for heaven’s sake. Facebook, presumably, can go on for quite a while selling pieces of itself to MIcrosoft for eye watering sums. But what about the other poor souls. Who’s going to stump up for the Twitter SMS bill? Will you buy just one advertising campaign for this poor suffering dot.com. Your £15,000 can pay for a branding exercize for a start-up today!

Economics, presumably, will do its thing. As more inventory arrives on more and more sites where the user will work harder and harder to assiduously ignore the ads, the price for impression will fall forever lower. What’s the lowest it can be bought now? 5 cents CPM? 3? Soon, Startuplr.com will need to show 100,000 terrible, ineffective impressions to make $1.

At these sort of rates and responses, direct mail is starting to look pretty sexy again. As is prayer. And of course, all the while google get to charge upwards of $20 CPC for some of it’s best  keywords.

To get back to he point, the interesting question is where will P&G spend their money. Utopians might say ‘on the product’ or ‘on utility’ but the truth is that branding and brand promotion must still exist. And it must still exist because consumers use non-rational methods of making decisions (debate). And so, it still makes sense to try and add to the pure satisfactions of the product or service.

I think we’ll see lots more experimentation and some pretty bad mistakes. We’ll see lots more ads, and ignore almost all of them. And , at some time in this period of self-imposed adversity over the next 14 months, someone will find a way to more perfectly capture, understand and influence users’ intent and interest. This will keep Facebook’s over ambitious promise of capturing users before they acutally search and will make someone new a great deal of money (incuding P&G’s). Unless Google gets there first.

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