Will Your Marketing Plan Fail Due to Subprime Attention?
We recently spent some time reading Subprime Attention Crisis by Tim Hwang. It’s a tiny book with an important message. The online advertising economy is doomed, and when it crashes it will cause massive financial repercussions. Part of the instability in the market is based on how our attention is packaged and marketed.
Sellers bundle consumers together using big data much like lenders bundled mortgages. When you bid on an advertising slot on a search engine or social media, you’re bidding on a bundle of viewers—but you can’t be sure which viewers you’re getting. The entire ‘free’ internet runs on advertising, but that advertising is being sold under false pretenses.
As any Facebook user knows, ‘big data’ is actually pretty bad at determining what you want. On a given day you’ll get ads for something you just bought, something related to a random article you read, and for things that random friends, acquaintances, or group members like. On Amazon or Google, you’re often shown ads for things unrelated to anything you’d want, based on your search. And don’t even get us started on those strange ads that appear at the bottom of articles. I just read a piece on economic trends and now you’re pushing an ad for “J-Lo’s 12 best bikinis?” How does this even make sense? Yet, some advertiser paid for each of these strange misreadings of our interests, and they did so under the belief that these ads were being delivered to the right eyeballs.
The message of Subprime Attention Crisis is that internet advertising is broken, that advertisers would be better off with untargeted ads, and that the whole system is bound to come crashing down in the near future.
So, what does that mean for you as you try to allocate your marketing budget?
Quick Takes on the Best Ways to Market
1. People are really good at ignoring boring ads. Either you need to be funny and clever enough to attract their attention, or you have to connect with people who already want what you have to sell and just aren’t sure where to find it.
2. Content, supported by social media, is still king. Instead of bidding for increasingly poorly targeted ad slots, focus on creating content that people will find useful or entertaining. It might not be directly related to your product. For instance, Steak-Umm is selling delicious sandwich meat by long-form tweetstorms on philosophy and other topics.
3. Instead of targeting based on “big data,’ try broader campaigns – for instance, using local media, popular groups for your area, or just plain old geographic targeting with no other qualifiers.
4. Make sure that you have a great website, so the people who come to you by organic searches or through your social media are impressed.
5. Multiple-touch marketing only works if you’re ‘touching’ the same people over and over, and if they notice those touches. Periodically focus on getting new local followers for your social accounts, but after that, focus on building relationships with those followers.
6. You’re not a national brand, you don’t need national marketing. Find ways to reach new people in your area. For instance, sponsoring sports teams, school plays, church bulletins, and town festivals. If people have already ‘met’ you in their daily life, they’re more likely to be interested when they come across your ads online.
Eventually, other advertisers will wake up to the bad assumptions underlying online advertising marketplaces, and the whole façade will come crashing down. In the meantime, spend your limited marketing dollars wisely, and where they’ll do the most good for your business.
See John at ILF
John Mundy will be attending the Indiana Library Federation conference in Indianapolis this month. If you have a project that you want to discuss with him, seek him out! He’ll be happy to help you figure out your next steps and to see whether Verbamundi can help you reach your goals!