Online Marketing

Have you ever clicked on an online ad purposefully? I never have and over the years have instinctively learnt to filter them out subconsciously; I simply don’t give them any focus or attention, I go straight for the content. I may possibly be atypical but this begs the question of whether pouring money into online advertising really brings a worthwhile return on investment. A recent study adds more fuel to the fire as it found that “only 6% of people online are contributing 50% of the clicks to display advertisements” and that the majority of these click-throughs did not convert into sales.

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Photo by dnorman

This is what my marketing profile looks like:

  • I don’t click on web adverts/sponsored links ever, if you force a pop-up ad on me goodbye
  • I don’t buy the special offers in supermarkets unless it is something I was planning to buy anyway
  • I don’t window shop, I know what I want beforehand, and I go get it (sometimes after viewing online)
  • I don’t follow fashion, I use things till they are worn out usually (exception: Apple)
  • I don’t read spam, you better have an unsubscribe option for your newsletter
  • I don’t like personalised advertising ala Facebook Beacon but I don’t mind Amazon-style recommendations

I am not a marketer’s dream. Maybe it’s a male thing?

Aside from this unfortunate reality, there is a side to marketing in general that I find particularly unethical; playing on people’s sensibilities to sell them things they don’t really need or want. It also sometimes feels like a lot of these things are targeted at those most vulnerable (e.g. children / those with low income) which is pretty deplorable if we contend with any notion of social responsibility. Even the concept of viral marketing has been sabotaged by those wanting to make a quick buck making me even more cynical about the whole business.

Coming full circle, the only real way to build an audience or a brand is to provide something which is genuinely useful to the consumer (What is good content?). If you can manage this then to an extent it will market itself. Gimmicks/promotions only have a short life cycle and presentation will only get you so far; once the illusion is gone those valued eyeballs won’t be coming back…

Feel free to comment if you disagree or have a different point of view 🙂

David avatar

5 responses

  1. Thanks for your insight Simon. I guess there will always be a need to weigh up commercial realities with artistic integrity ~ the two never sit partially well together with countless examples, both on and offline, where it has gone very wrong. Unfortunately there are no magic bullets in this respect when most people would sell their souls to get rich quick.

    I'm not sure if I would place all the blame on “Web 2.0”, I think there's a lot of interesting innovation going on at the moment but calling anything 2.0 is generally just a way of hyping thin air.

    As for Web 3.0, I'm afraid it's already been coined, otherwise known as the “Semantic Web” – some of the ideas floating out there are actually quite interesting, check out

  2. I completely agree, and I'm very much like you in terms of my 'profile'. This tends to conflict with my job though, as I work in a new media agency which essentially attempts to exploit viral marketing/social networking etc. as well as pushing advertising on behalf of our clients.

    I don't really see the point in banner adverts, especially the ones that use flash to take over the page that you're trying to read. They are just annoying, and like you say most people subconsiously filter them out.

    It even makes me feel slightly ill and annoyed when people take something elegant, that has evolved through community work, and abuse it for commercial gain, destroying the original idea in the process.

    I'm hoping bubble 2.0 will burst soon, so we can get rid of some of the crap that's clogging up the internet. And of course those of us who actually understand the way the internet works will come out the other side of the collapse and form what some marketing 'genius' will call Web 3.0.

  3. Fully agreed…

  4. Sounds like we're all on the same page more or less.

    I am still dubious of supermarket offers ever providing true value as most of the time 2 for 1 etc is just a way of getting people to buy more of what they usually don't really need or hadn't intended to buy.

    Sponsored advertising is just a way of the world but for the real sweet keywords you'll end up paying a fortune. Like you say monetisation is very tricky business.

  5. This is what my marketing profile looks like:

    * I sometimes click on sponsored links, I may hover over them to get the URL then use this directly so the company doesn't get paid for the click (I don't like wasting peoples advertising budgets, and in any case the Yahoo/Google etc have enough money)
    * I do buy special offers in supermarkets if it is something I will use and it represents a significant saving
    * I don’t window shop, I know what I want before hand (the exception to this rule is last minute gift shopping)
    * I don’t follow fashion, I use things until I'm bought new ones
    * I will occasionally skim through a spam message but 90% of the time just delete it
    * I don’t have much experience of personalised advertising, but I assume I wouldn't find it that useful

    I particularly dislike adverts aimed at lower income / lower IQ consumers where they can take on even more debts, at a higher rate, and get a free mystery gift.

    I do see value in taking advantage of supermarket offers where I'll use it and make a genuine saving. So yes to cheaper pasta, but no to chocolate/crisps if I wasn't going there to buy it.

    I find sponsored links at the top of search listings can be useful. Speaking as someone who's paid for per-click advertising in the past they are good for launching a company when you have no prior exposure to the market or search rankings.

    With respect to the content question, I completely agree that content is the only thing that matters in most cases. The problem comes when you are deciding how to monetise the website / fund the production of the content. Do you slap on some ads? Do you charge a subscription? Do you provide some kind of other service? Referrals to retailers? Tricky business..


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