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Purposefully Shitty Banner Ads
Thomas and I were just talking about banner ads, after I read this Digiday post on swapping billboards for banners (a tactic I totally agree with by the way).
And it got me thinking about three instances in which really (intentionally) terrible banner ads, did something that well-designed ones almost always fail to do. They got people’s attention.
Instance #1 - This one is from a little while back, and involves a sloppy MS paint version of a banner, pitted against a properly designed version. Guess which one outperformed?
Instance #2 - Louis CK, who now aside from being my favorite comedian, is also my favorite media disruptor, is running this ad to promote some of his newest content.
Instance #3 - Back when I was helping get Pangea Media up and off the ground, we were literally doing everything ourselves, in house. Coding, writing, designing, media buying, everything. And as is often the case in a small company, I found myself outside of my comfort-zone, and designing a banner ad one day (which is not my forte). My masterpiece is below, and to this day it is the single best piece of content I have ever created in terms of performance. It drove nearly 65,000 SIGN-UPS in a single day. Not impressions, not clicks, but full registrations on a silly IQ test.
If stuff like this works, why then, do we bother pouring time into meticulously designing banner ads? Fussing with copy, and calls-to-action, and wasting piles of money on things that people have become trained to ignore?
The “reach” of banner ads is more like “misses”. All that data and targeting. All that precision and insight. It’s like having a laser-guided, smart bomb system that drops an evaporating mist. The target remains untouched and oblivious.
Why Highway Billboards Beat Web Banners for Brands
George Lois On Creative Courage
That is what great products, great services and great advertising do brilliantly – they ensure that brands are always at the front of mind, not because of the recency of a brand experience but because of the longevity of a great brand experience.
Why ‘Always On’ Is Such A Turn Off
I’m Quitting Advertising
In case you missed it, That Damn Oreo Tweet™ recently won a Cannes Lion. Which puts me in an awkward spot personally I suppose.
Now it’s not so much the work itself that makes me angry. I think Oreo does really nice stuff creatively. It’s simple, it’s clever, it’s timely, it’s on-brand, and it almost always fits the medium in which it appears.
I have no axe to grind with Oreo.
My anger and disappointment is actually with the ad industry, that’s holding this up as something revolutionary. Something that deserves the grandest of advertising awards.
But the joke’s on us.
Because in bestowing this award on this piece of work, we’re actually exposing a really sad truth. That the advertising industry has become so top-heavy with cost and process and approvals and meetings and waste, that the idea of just making a simple image, and deploying it to a simple platform at an opportune moment, is considered at this point to be ground-breaking.
We’re so screwed, that we’re giving out awards based less on the work itself, and based mainly on the fact that someone (by all appearances) was able to dodge the bullshit and actually do something.
And it’s not going to get better.
The existing system is breaking. And though I am certainly not the first to say it, and definitely won’t be the last, I’m going to try like hell to do something about it.
I promised that if the Oreo tweet won a Cannes Lion, I’d quit advertising. And now I’m going to do that. Kind of.
I’m leaving my day job, and heading off to create my own agency (with my friend and now partner Thomas), and it’s going to be called Heart.
For now, we’ll just be two misfit planner/strategist/creative guys with a simple philosophy - In that we want to bring brand thinking to startups, and startup thinking to brands, by stripping away all of the superfluous things in the traditional agency model, that don’t matter to us and don’t work hard for you.
We want to work faster, smarter, and lighter. We want to work at pace with other passionate people. We want to make smart things that make our partners richer and famous-er. We want to work in the name of work that works.
In simple terms, we’ll be offering our deep expertise in brand planning, creative development and growth strategy, without the cumbersome ad agency model and way of working.
So here goes nothing. Maybe we’ll fail. Maybe the machine is the machine and the current current will be too strong for us to swim against. Might happen.
But we’re still going to fucking try and do this. Because we believe it and believe in it. Because we have heart.
Foursquare Check-In Ads
Last night, after I checked in at Clarke’s, I got a look at the post-check in ad unit on Foursquare. It was the first time I’d seen one live, and this one was for Captain Morgan. Below are screen grabs of the four parts of the experience (1. The initial ad, 2. The “learn more”, 3. The “save for later”, and 4. The resulting email after a save)
I personally think these are great placements. System knows I just walked into a bar, and putting drink suggestions in front of me, right at the perfect moment, is simple and smart.
I still think the DSP targeting data is the killer application for Foursquare though.
Media Placements (and Timing) Matter
As part of my 45,000 miles of flying this spring, I took six separate cross-country trips on Virgin America. And on each flight, while we were taxiing for takeoff, I was shown this ad for TripIt.
I’m personally a big fan of TripIt, and think it’s a fantastic tool for managing my frequently kooky and complex travel plans. But I feel like a lot of my oft-traveling friends and co-workers haven’t yet discovered it. So it was great to see TripIt spending some media dollars to get the word out.
But here’s the problem. While the placement of that video ad (on the seatback screen of a Virgin America flight) may seem clever on the surface, it’s actually really poorly timed.
Yes, you’re hitting a traveling audience (I’m on a plane!) with an ad for a clever travel-organizing app, but you’re running a piece of media, asking me to download an app, at the exact moment the flight-crew is telling me to power down my app-having devices.
The chances of me remembering that ad, let alone remembering to download that app, 6 hours later when I land? Slim and none.
And yes, I know there is wi-fi on a lot of the Virgin America flights. But if you’ve ever tried to download an app to you’re phone over airplane wi-fi, you’d know that this isn’t exactly a smooth experience.
You don’t have to work for the biggest agency in the world or be the best art director on the planet to be successful and happy. You’re not going to be Bill Bernbach anyway, so forget about it. If you’re doing work that is respectable, and you’re not suffering 90% of the time, you’re way ahead of most of the poor bastards in this business. Enjoy it.
The Seven Secrets Of Lazy-Ass Bums
Don’t ever leave the agency with work that you believe to be less than Great. Whatever pain is necessary to avoid being a hapless messenger, take it. Agency pain is always less severe than client pain, as long as your motive is better work rather than an easier life, and it doesn’t scar so badly. Heated disagreement with colleagues is far preferable to disappointing a client.
(CEOs) Conducive Environment Officers
Your Technical Ignorance Is No Longer Acceptable
If you work in advertising in 2013, it’s is your obligation to be at least conversant in current technology and aware of possibilities that this technology provides.
The “I don’t get that stuff” or “I’m not good with the technology” is no longer an acceptable attitude to have in this industry.
To be amazing at your role, let’s say as a board director or a leader of a business or department, doesn’t require you to be a programmer. But to navigate this sea change and how it’s impacting your business and day-to-day life, you need to be literate and quite skilled at tech, and not be afraid of it.
Directors train to speak like the geeks (from The Sunday Times)
Today’s Social Media Tips
Two quick thoughts on social media for this Monday morning.
First, we need to stop checking boxes, and start thinking a bit more. Or maybe it’s that we need to start thinking a bit less. Not quite sure.
Either way, I see far too much social media “strategy” that goes like this, and it needs to stop.
- List out all of the “current” social media platforms that we an think of (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, etc).
- Try and find/make things to put into each bucket.
We need to cut that shit out.
Instead, start with an idea, a goal, or a desired outcome that you want your brand and messaging to have when someone encounters it. Now go out and make things that drive towards that outcome. You’ll figure out which channels/platforms to use, and which to ignore.
Second thought, is that we need to consider social media as being bottom-up as much as top-down. Maybe even more.
What I mean by that is this:
Top-down is explicitly driven by the brand and pushes the user to do something. Think contests and calls-to-action, that sort of thing. Brand tells user what to do, when to do it, and where to do it. If you rely on this method, there’s a good chance that you and your brand are inherently uninteresting.
Bottom-down is creating awesome products and experiences, that have talk-value naturally built in. Your brand becomes social because people want to talk about it, not because they’re part of some Pavlovian Facebook experiment. Strong, confident, secure brands and strategists love this approach and do it well.
This is actually hilarious.
Nice work for Carlsberg beer. Via @mayzyap.
I think it might be time to stop putting hashtags in television commercials. Or maybe it’s just time to get a bit more honest about what their place is, or isn’t.
For starters, putting a hashtag on the end card of a tv spot is not a social media strategy. It’s a ham-fisted thing that marketers do, so they can somehow map tv spend to any associated social media conversation as a means to better quantify ad performance. At best, it’s an awkward swing at adding a tracking and measurement layer to the campaign, that everyone can see.
It’s sort of like if your end-card URL had ?src=AdCreative1&medium=television tacked onto the end of it, and you expected viewers to run to the web and type that exact string into their browser bar so you could better track how the spot was working.
The wonderful @fart (yes, I am quoting @fart to make a point), put it a bit more succinctly:
In my opinion, the big issue here is that a hashtag in a tv spot only provides value to the advertiser, and gives nothing back to the viewer. It’s really just our way of instructing users on how to tag their conversations, so we can more easily organize and count them. There’s nothing in it for the consumer at all.
Where things get really silly, is when we go off and talk about how “effective” a “strategy” that this is, getting all self-congratulatory about it. Somehow connecting the spread of hashtags in Superbowl spots, to brands “getting” social media. It’s a completely false premise.
To me, an uptick in hashtags on tv spots doesn’t in any way demonstrate that advertisers are now better getting social media, or that users are caring any more about brands than they did before. It just means that like all good marketers, we’ve found a neat trick to get people doing something, that we can all count.
And to be clear, I’m talking about advertisements, not television shows or content. In those instances, there can (and often is) actual community and conversation, the organization of which, does in fact provide real value to the user.
If you’re a startup, vendor, ad agency, or anyone else that’s looking for some new revenue streams, here’s a free Saturday morning idea for ya - in presentation purchases.
As an advertising strategy wank, I run a lot of client meetings, where I present ideas and insights, that ultimately lead into strategies. I always thought it’d be fun to treat these presentations like app makers and publishers treat freemium content.
Meaning, give the audience just enough of a presentation so that they want more, and then charge them (in the meeting) to unlock the content that they really want to see.