This Is about Options

Living In The Past

Do you ever look through your favorite blog’s archives? Back in March 2008 Marshall Kirkpatrick published an article about the (then) new MySpace apps, and the conspicuous absence of a “long tail” in the adoption of apps by users. It was an interesting read, even though I didn’t think the title was justified by the content. That is not what this piece is about, however.

I’m a comment reader, and sometimes I even add a comment, myself. The first comment on Marshall’s piece was from Antonio Evans:

“When Myspace gets their self service advertising up and redesigns access to these applications we’ll see a great jump in applications getting well deserved installs.”

Self Service

That phrase, “self service advertising”, jumped right out at me. I even chuckled a bit. Self service advertising is exactly what we need, but not the way it’s being presented. Three generations of the current model of free content in exchange for ads has conditioned us to expect ads on our web. But the model is completely backwards for the 21st century. When will the marketing and advertising industry just evolve already, and realize that as consumers, we all want to choose our own ads?

We’ve been promised that targeted advertising will make our ads more relevant to us, more pertinent to what we might actually need, but I’m willing to bet that each one of you reading this has had an ad on your screen today that was totally off the mark. For instance, maybe you’re a married man, and you get the “meet singles” ad. That’s a really popular one. Ever wonder why that happens?

I have. It’s because of a couple of things, as far as I can tell. First, the technology just isn’t there yet to do what they’re trying to do. Evidently, from what I see and read around the web, no one has written an application yet that can truly understand who we are. In a way, I guess that’s a good thing. I don’t know how I’d like it if a computer program allowed somebody to understand me that well.

The second, and most important reason our online ads suck so much is that the concept is applied incorrectly. Targeting ads personally is a great idea. It’s win-win for everybody. But the way it’s being done doesn’t really work. I’ll assume here that marketing professionals are benevolent entities who really do want to help the consumer find what they are looking for. That’s what the truly great ones are doing, anyway. Hopefully some will read the next paragraph.

Essentially what I’m talking about here is a complete shift in the way commerce is done. So far, it has been such that the consumer is seen as being exploited by the companies. With self-targeted advertising, the consumer has more control, and the ads are more effective. More effective ads mean less investment in wasted advertising, and higher sales ratios from the advertising that is produced. Companies, by allowing consumers to take the role of exploiter, will boost sales while cutting costs. It is, for sure, a no-brainer.

Self Serving

We, as consumers, absolutely hate for a product to be shoved at us if it’s something we know we’ll never use. I mean, come on! I get ads served about Muslim singles, only because I once wrote about a Muslim holiday on my old blog. In a perfect ad-world, we could tell the “ad-universe” what we needed and it would respond with ads that were not only relevant, but right on time. Needless to say, it’s not a perfect world.

But if we can’t tell advertisers what we want, why can’t we tell them what we explicitly DO NOT want? Why isn’t there an “opt out” for these incessant singles ads? I keep “singling” these ads out, but you all know there are any number of intrusive and worthless ads shown to you every day. All I want to know is why we are still seeing such tripe. The answer is simple.

Advertisers are still operating under the 20th century notion that they are in control of the sales process. Advertisers, marketers, lend me your eyes! You are not in control! The consumer has the power to destroy you at a whim, and also the power to elevate you above your competitors. But only if you make us happy. You see, we’re growing up.

We’re not adults yet, no. But through the 20th century we were like small children. You could hold our hands and lead us wherever you wanted, and we went willingly. But we are growing up. We’re more like adolescents now, and we don’t like your hand-holding ways. We want some say in our choices. And if we don’t get it from you, we’ll go somewhere else. There’s always somewhere else. If there’s not, we’ll make one right before your eyes.

Why don’t one of you big guys create some way to get some consumer feedback? What if you could look at your clients and say that you could guarantee interest from your ads? You could have such a guarantee, if you let us tell you what we want. Just add something like “Don’t like your ads? Tell us what you want!” to your displays. Let us help you get it right.

That would be a step towards true “self service advertising”. What you’ve got now is mostly just self serving schlock.