Connecting with consumers online — without being annoying

The other day my 9-year-old daughter surprised me with a tirade on advertising.

“Dad, don’t you think there are too many ads?” she asked me in an annoyed tone. “There are ads online, ads on TV, ads in magazines, ads on billboards. Seriously, there are way too many!”

“And,” she added, “they’re not convincing. Why would anyone believe what an ad says?”

I’m going to resist drawing the neatly wrapped conclusion that my daughter’s comments prove you can’t reach younger people with traditional advertising — that they want only content they’ve chosen at the time and in the format they’ve chosen.

She doesn’t text or tweet, and isn’t on Facebook. In fact, when we were toying with dropping our newspaper subscription a few months ago, she insisted we keep getting the paper — because she loves reading the comics every morning.

So she’s not exactly the poster child for new media. Still, her comments got me thinking about the way in which companies deliver their messages in our changing communications landscape.

TV still dominates national ad spending with about 60 percent of the market, according to Interpublic Group, one of the giant holding companies that control most of the nation’s advertising business.

But digital and online advertising is up to more than 10 percent of the ad spending, and is the only category that’s gaining market share. What’s more, online advertising is increasingly moving away from banner ads, popup ads and other vehicles that really are nothing more than old advertising formats translated into pixels.

A greater-than-expected share of online ad dollars are moving into videos and custom sponsorships. Sometimes called “private label media” or “owned properties,” these channels exist for the sole purpose of displaying the sponsor’s product or message.

It’s a challenge for both marketers and clients, because these properties can be a slow build. With millions of Web sites on the Internet, adding one more is like tossing another grain of sand onto the beach.

That’s where creativity, content and knowledge of one’s customers come into play. Relevant content, memorably presented and smartly targeted, can bring in the consumers who are most ready to hear your message.

It’s too early to put the cart before the horse — the reach of traditional media is still long. For example, research shows that websites do much better when they’re promoted on TV. Direct mail, e-mail and point-of-purchase marketing remain powerful.

But in this time of change, smart marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with consumers online in a way that ensures they’ll be welcomed, not viewed as annoyances — all while controlling the message and the way it’s presented.

I’ll ask my daughter about it the next time she visits Pokemon.com.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by leslie johnson on 11/09/2009 - 10:04 am.

    Three media will survive 10 years from now:

    We are all heading to WebVision. Combining tv with your computer. At that point, 180 cable tv channels will turn into a highly interactive medium. Networks and cable companies will have to adapt or die in the very near future.

    Cell phones will be important to everyone with contact, email, music, directions, etc.

    And the Sunday newspaper…I love comics too and the inserts (sorry, I like the feel of print…printing coupons costs too much with paper and ink).

  2. Submitted by John Reinan on 11/09/2009 - 01:38 pm.

    Ha! I think you’re on track with the first two. The Sunday paper … I hope you’re right.

    I frequently bemoan the rise of the cell phone for a very practical reason. I have giant sausgae fingers and it’s very hard for me, physically, to use the keyboard.

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