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If advertising no longer works? What should we do?

Dr. Awesome
Friday, September 13, 2002

What should you do?  I recommend using your TiVo to by-pass commercials.  And don't feel guilty about, either -- the ads don't work anyway, so why watch them?

J. D. Trollinger
Friday, September 13, 2002

I think he meant "What are we supposed to do to get people to buy my product?".

I guess the only thing left to do is go grass roots (kinda like this site).

How did AMD catch up to Intel?  Not by advertising.  I don't think I have ever seen a TV ad for AMD and have only recently noticed print ads.  I think they caught up because everybody roots for the underdog and they actually were able to deliver.  I think it was somewhat of a grass-roots geek campaign.

Friday, September 13, 2002

> I guess the only thing left to do is go grass roots

My guess, too. As Joel said, ads stopped working because we stopped trusting.

OTOH, if we get a clue about a product from a friend, we give it a lot more value.

So, the ultimate plan will be for companies to employ everyone as their sales force :)

You sell product XPTO to a friend by giving him a coupon for it, with your salesman ID in the coupon. He goes to the store, picks it up, and the company sends you a check home with your fee.

And your portfolio will contain everything, from tennis shoes to cars.

OK, just a little nonsense. More seriously, now. When trust is lost, it's nearly impossible to regain it. I really don't know what companies can do about it, however they don't seem worried about it. You still see a lot of marketing campaigns going around.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")
Paulo Caetano

Paulo Caetano
Friday, September 13, 2002

Actually there are some things we can do. In the US, as I understand it, advertising is very little regulated. In Europe it is much more so. For example, in the UK it is illegal to run misleading ads. Not so in the US, I believe. Ads are more trusted in the UK, though not much (and Brits, you won't believe how bad the advertisements are out here in North America if you haven't seen them).

David Clayworth
Friday, September 13, 2002


We have systems like this. They are called 'Network Marketing', and they suffer from the same fundamental problem.

One of the reasons why we trust our friends to recommend products to us is that we know they are not being paid to recommend products to us.
As soon as I discover that someone has a financial interest in my buying a product, my trust in his recommendation would go down.
Surely the only effect of doing all word-of-mouth advertising is that instead of not trusting adverts, we wouldn't trust anybody.

David Clayworth
Friday, September 13, 2002

We should hire an army of fake "friends" that will befriend our target market and "advise" them on things they have bought to make their lives much better. Just like a secret agent they will infiltrate and influence the decisions of our target market leading us toward our end goal - world domination, oops, I mean world peace...

Now that I got my mandatory sarcasm out of the way I would like to say that I actually prefer targeted ads over ads I could care less about (read:I prefer seeing women/ beer/trucks over tampons/ass cream/adult diapers). I don't mind when they show me something I might like (based on past preferences) and I get to make a decision. I usually get targeted for tech purchases for example, which I like (if you can "like" such things).

I dislike the databases these advertisers are creating. I dislike people calling me by first name in my anonymous email address, somehow they had to put those two together. I don't like them tracking my buying purchases across store/market boundries. I don't want to walk into a store, purchase a slurpee then get asked if I would like to buy another hustler because I have for so many months in my home town.

The way these advertisers write you'd think they didn't have a nation of lemmings lined up to buy the next shiny bubble. Gimme a break.

Friday, September 13, 2002

> We have systems like this. They are called 'Network
> Marketing', and they suffer from the same fundamental
> problem.

Yes, I remember some 10 years ago, stuff like am-way was the thing du jour here in Portugal.

> Surely the only effect of doing all word-of-mouth
> advertising is that instead of not trusting adverts, we
> wouldn't trust anybody.

Well, I was just saying some nonsense, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone tried it - given enough PowerPoint presentations, almost anything can become a promising revolutionary idea ;)

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Friday, September 13, 2002

The next time an overly friendly blond sidles up in a crowded bar and asks you to order her a brand-name martini, or a cheery tourist couple wonder whether you can take their picture with their sleek new camera-in-a-cell phone, you might want to think twice. There's a decent chance that these strangers are pitchmen in disguise, paid to oh-so-subtly pique your interest in their product. Their game, known as "stealth marketing," is one of several unorthodox ploys that Madison Avenue is using to get through to jaded consumers.

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, September 13, 2002

"Get through jaded consumers"

Oh, and these consumers won't be even MORE jaded when they realize you were trying to con them?

Lucas Goodwin
Friday, September 13, 2002

Advertising doesn't work.  That has got to be the single most stupid statement I've ever read on this site. 

I loathe advertising and am extremely critical and aware of it.  Take a step back and look at the irrational behaviour many people exhibit every day, much of it is driven by motivations fed by advertising.  See the teenage girls starving themselves?  See the family go into debt to buy the bigger house they don't "need"?  See the dork try and impress people he doesn't know with his 5 series bmw?

Advertising works too well.  Joel, you don't even notice a tenth of the advertising your brain receives.

gimme a break
Friday, September 13, 2002

gimme wrote: "look at the irrational behaviour many people exhibit"

I'd say that people were pretty irrational even before advertising started to permeate our lives.

The Myth of Advertising's Effectiveness

It's ironic that advertising can be so expensive while yielding such poor results.

The argument made by the proponents of advertising is almost pathetically simple-minded: If you can measure the benefits of advertising on your business, advertising works; if you can't measure the beneficial effects, then your measurements aren't good enough. Or you need more ads. Or you need a different type of ad. It's much the same type of rationalization put forth by the proponents of making yourself rich by visualizing yourself as being prosperous. If you get rich immediately, you owe it all to the system (and presumably should give your visualization guru at least a 10% commission). If you're still poor after six months, something is wrong with your picture. It reminds us of the man in Chicago who had marble statues of lions in front of his house to keep away elephants: "It works," he said; "Ain't no elephants in this neighborhood."



Alex Chernavsky
Friday, September 13, 2002

There have always been people that say ads don't work, you can find the exact same speeches 100+ years ago. To say that no one 'beleives' ads anymore, is not understanding the medium. It isn't about information at all - if your ad is about information, no wonder it doesn't work. It is about getting people to buy your product, which has a lot more to do with emotion and motivation than information.

What has happened is the ad market has become fragmented, which is good for the niche products, and a challenge for Coke. Assuming the niche player understands advertising that is, which often they don't.

Robin Debreuil
Saturday, September 14, 2002

I think Robin is on to something. Advertising works at many levels, most of them below our awareness (not subliminal, just not a conscious factor in our rational thinking process).

There have been very, very few instances where an ad has led me *directly* to buy something immediately. (usually it's because of an incredibly good price on a product that is a known quantity to me, like hard drives or rifle ammo). But I have no doubt my decision-making process is always influenced, to some extent, by the ads I've been exposed to.

Consider that when a friend says, "let's go get a soda," you might instantly get a mental image of Coke/Pepsi/Dr. Pepper/etc. But you are unlikely to envision a bottle of Wegmans Classic Grape Soda. (even if it is right there on the store shelf)

Joel's sources are probably correct in pointing out that buying *enough* advertising to have a strong influence on many potential customers is very expensive - especially since Internet advertising has generally been over-valued.

Dan Maas
Saturday, September 14, 2002

Advertising may influence some people, but that's not really the issue here.  The true issue is this:  if you spend X dollars on advertising, do you get at least X additional dollars in profit?  It's not at all clear to me that you do.

I used to work at a pharmaceutical company.  I spent some time working with a team of people trying to determine whether direct-to-consumer advertising worked, and if so, how well it worked.  The upshot: we couldn't decide, in any sort of rigorous fashion, whether we were getting a positive return on investment, and we certainly couldn't decide on a method for determining the optimal amount of ad spending.  It was all voodoo.

Alex Chernavsky
Saturday, September 14, 2002

Advertisers are well aware of the fact that advertisements do not work. Joel linked to a book on PR by a PR firm.

If you want to see the more dastardly side of PR, you should read "Toxic Sludge Is Good For You" by the good folks at PR Watch:

It details how PR advertising works and techniques. They know that "consumers" (aka, you and me) don't trust advertising any more. So they try to create fake grass roots campains (this is known as "astro-turfing") and plant news stories which are run completely uncredited but mostly unedited.

In short, after you read this book, you will be amazed at the amount of "news" which is planted directly from advertisers.

It's worth checking out from your library or picking up at your local bookstore. You owe it to yourself to read this book. There's more information and excerpts available here:

Luke Francl
Saturday, September 14, 2002

Luke, good point.  Here's more:

====Begin quote====

Community leaders decry lobby firm's fax

Apparent support of prescription plan really a move by foes

By Tim Craig, Baltimore Sun Staff

Originally published March 9, 2002

Donna J. Stanley, director of Associated Black Charities, was ready to mobilize for political battle after she received a fax marked "urgent" this week.

The fax told her she needed to sign an attached petition "today" to prevent 600,000 of Maryland's poor and disabled from losing access to affordable prescription drugs. The fax, sent to dozens of community leaders, had the markings of a grass-roots effort, including grammatical errors and a handwritten cover letter.

But the appeal was actually generated by a sophisticated Washington lobbying firm trying to defeat several bills before the General Assembly supported by advocates for the poor.

"This kind of politics is the most deceitful, underhanded brand of politics that can be practiced," said Bishop Douglas I. Miles, pastor of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore, who was also contacted.


====End quote====

Alex Chernavsky
Saturday, September 14, 2002

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