How do you say “bad marketing” in French?

Razor1I don’t claim to be the savviest marketer in the world, but as a consumer, I do know what annoys me – and generally it falls in the category of being mis-targeted. I can forgive traditional media for its transgressions by showing me commercials that aren’t meant for me (hey, we’ve all mistakenly watched a full year of Grey’s Anatomy before, right guys?). But when online ads are blowing it, I blow my lid.

With all of the information that I am giving away through my email account – where I received this electric razor ad (click here to read my article on Google reading your mail) – How is it, in this era of enhanced targeting and data capture that I could possibly receive a display ad in French? Is it because I’m Canadian?

For those who aren’t aware, Canada is bilingual, so French is on everything. I remember 25 years ago when growing up in Canada I had a McDonald’s t-shirt featuring the lovable, purple, milkshake-addicted Grimace. Only on my shirt, his name wasn’t Grimace, it was Le Grosse Douceur. Even my favorite cereal, Rice Krispies, had French on it. The boxes weren’t always adorned by Snap! Crackle! and Pop! Sometimes they were replaced by an exuberant trio of elves called Cric! Crac! and Croc! 25 years ago we were used to seeing French stuff on things.

But this isn’t 1984. This is 2009, and I don’t want to see French anymore. And the fact that I no longer live in Canada makes this online ad even worse. So if I were the good folks at Remmington or whoever created this display ad, I’d ask for an explanation from my media agency. Especially if they’re being charged by CPM. Because if I don’t understand it, I’m not going to buy it.

Obviously I’m not the only one who is put off by bad targeting. This is a funny post about Facebook’s Ad Fail.

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Stop asking for something ‘viral’

SprintThere seems to be a misnomer out there, shared in client circles (and exacerbated by the media), that they can ask their agencies to create viral campaigns for them. Mediapost has just written an article about Sprint’s new viral campaign, on the day it launched. They must know something I don’t because to me, viral is a result, not a tactic. Calling something viral before it has launched is like picking the Superbowl winner in March (congratulations Redskins).

If you’d like to see Sprint’s new campaign, click here – it’s geared towards mobile users who are frustrated with their cell phone carrier. You can get Sprint to change you to their network, and then send your mobile carrier a goodbye song. Not exactly a new idea (and not likely to go viral).

So clients: let’s agree on this distinction. Viral is something you see a campaign do, not something you can request, like out-of-home or radio commercials. And if you’d like to see something go viral, you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little and do something edgy or really innovative. A milquetoast campaign like Sprint’s isn’t going to cut it.

And by the way, I get the irony of distributing the link to a supposed viral campaign I am critical of.

3 not-so-simple ways to improve online display advertising

doubleclickIn its battle for display ad supremacy against the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft, Google has just launched its DoubleClick ad exchange, which industry experts are touting as the ‘best advertising base’.

According to a Business Week article, Google hopes to diversify its revenue because it still relies on 95% of its revenue from search ads. Neal Mohan, Google’s vice-president for product management was quoted as saying that “Display advertising is still not living up to its full potential.”

I don’t claim to be an online ad expert, but I get the sense that search ads do very well for certain reasons, and that to ‘live up to their potential’ and level the revenue playing field at Google, display ads will have to adopt the same model as search:

1. Let everyone play
Here’s my beef with ad networks. Generally speaking, they require a minimum spend in order to get your ads served. That can eliminate participation of a good portion of small businesses (under 10 employees) in the US, which make up about 67% of employer firms. So it’s not that small business doesn’t want to get online, it’s that it can be cost prohibitive. The reason why search ads work so well is that there is no minimum spend. If the new ad exchange works this way, then everyone can participate.

2. Eliminate the acronym ‘CPM’
Search ads work incredibly well because you only pay if someone clicks on your text ad. Cost Per Click (CPC) is also a great way to measure ad effectiveness. So why is it that so many display ad networks insist on keeping the CPM model around? It’s basically transferring old world thinking (see: Mass Media) and its metric of ‘impressions’ to Online Media. If Online Media is really so persuasive at converting consumers, then the payment model of display ads should be CPC (or PPC). An effective solve for these ad networks could be a blend of CPM and CPC, which would expire ads after a certain amount of impressions or clicks. This could eliminate types of fraud, or lousy display ads that no one wants to click on.

3. Let us tell you where our ads are going
Many ad networks won’t reveal which sites your display ads are appearing. This shroud of secrecy has to go. Letting advertisers choose where their ads go in terms of sites and geography would be a welcome change, and allow advertisers to use their knowledge of relevant interests/sites for their products. It also allows advertisers to ensure their company stays on brand. Of course for those advertisers who don’t know how to place their ads, offering a behavioral model for a higher CPC could be a suitable option.

Like I said, I’m no expert, but I believe that display ads can do much better by increasing their appeal to advertisers, large and small, if they adopt the previous steps. Display ads will never quite be as effective as search because of their push model, but any online media buyer would tell you that a blend of search and display is critical for campaign success. Here’s hoping this new ad exchange lives up to expectations. If it does, we’ll see Google grab even more of the online spend, and maybe even revolutionize online advertising in the process.