Has Targeting Ruined Advertising?

As we draw closer to the day of the Super Bowl in the United States, old advertising hands can’t help but remember the glory days when Super Bowl ads went viral and memorable creative was the norm. Those were the days when people didn’t hate advertising.

Why didn’t they? Because TV ads were bought to reach a huge audience, and they were only roughly targeted. Oh sure, in the early days the brands that bought ads tended to appeal to males, but even that went away as marketers realized most Super Bowl parties were coed.  What’s more, most of the ads did not expect you to act on them during the game; no one could imagine a consumer leaving the game to go to the store, much less change her insurance.

They were brand ads, and expected only that you would think favorably of a brand the next time you went into the store.

Digital advertising changed all that, because advertisers could pay only for clicks, or nowadays on CPMs.But if a customer doesn’t click on an ad, does that mean the ad was useless? Intuitively, we know that is wrong, because we remember about brand advertising. And if as an advertiser you pay the lowest CPM, are you doing your brand any good?

The traditional metrics of CTR and CPM are increasingly meaningless as mobile customers block ads and stop clicking because they are tired of being data points, targeted and retargeted when it might be as inconvenient to interrupt their activity as it is during the Super Bowl. What has happened to marketers, they ask, when all they’re concerned about is stalking me to make me buy?

Data has removed the nuances of marketing, favoring only the numbers. This has totally changed for the worse the way consumers think about brands. Almost all brands are now thought of as potentially interruptive and dedicated to gathering and using consumer information for nefarious purposes.

It’s sad, because brands have always used consumer information to influence purchase decisions, but the consumer perceptions have changed and things have backfired.

We have a suggestion; why not try a philosophy of ‘less is more” as your mobile strategy. Use banner ads that don’t slow pages down or auto-play audio, and get  yourself some kickass creative. Buy only premium sites, and measure by attention or engagement, not by sheer reach or micro targeting.

This is the year to stop the mad stampede of consumers away from digital advertising. We need to win back trust.