Advertisements were once very simple. You told people your name. You told them what you did. Maybe you told them where to find you if it wasn’t already obvious. And no one threw fruit at you when you did this. Take out an ad in the paper, display a sign outside your shop, or maybe post something to the village bulletin. That’s it, you’re done. Now wait for business to slowly trickle in while you cobble shoes or sew bonnets for the rest of your life.
Small towns where advertising like this still exists (I’m looking at you, Family Restaurant place mats) are only a piece of the puzzle these days. With mass printing and distribution came print ads that could reach the whole country. With telephones came telemarketing. With cinema, TV, and radio came commercials.
Then came Al Gore…
And with the internet came banner ads, pop-ups, interstitials, video ads, emails blasts, and sponsored search results. Advertising has become not only more complex but also widely looked down upon. It was once just a way to let everyone know you were in town to repair their shoes. Now, it’s considered a nuisance and some go as far as to call it malicious.
That’s why internet users take care of ads with ad blocking software. It stops advertisements from showing up and chokes the revenue stream some websites depend upon. I won’t sit here and try to convince you that ads are a way of life and ad blocker is the devil. It’s not. If corporations want to continue bathing in advertising money, experts agree that they’ll need to get more creative and show web users greater value.
First Step: Accepting Ad Blocker is here to stay
I read an article recently where the author – while raising some great points – essentially tried to chuckle AdBlock out of existence. You can take that chuckle to the bank, buddy; see what it gets you there. Software that makes an internet user’s browsing experience slightly less annoying is an absolute delight for basically any web user on the planet. I can’t imagine a single demographic or purchasing group who would rather see ads than not. Sure, they might have bought into the very real fact that certain of their favorite sites would die without ads, but that concept is as abstract to many them as the internet itself.
Ad blocking software is used by over 30% of the online community. While it usually has no affect on sponsored search engine results, ad blockers and their ilk can keep pop-ups, video ads, and even email blasts at bay. While we can’t be responsible for shadier websites and their intrusive advertising practices, there are a number of ways you and I can hold on tight to our 70% and maybe even get some of our 30% back.
Truth in advertising
Remember those humble village artisans? Maybe we have a cabinetmaker and a town barber. They’re not trying to trick people into haircuts and furniture. They just want to make a living. Rather than giving your audience flashy BS, maybe try being honest with them. We’ve talked before about Avis’s genius in broadcasting their second place in the market share of car rental services. They used it as a sign of greater effort – their employees have to try harder to get your business, so the service would be better. Well, it paid off!
There’s something to be said of adverts that use brutal honesty. They take a weakness and show the strength behind it. There is also something to be said for ads which don’t try to push their product on users. When you get into daytime-television levels of forced value proposition, you can lose your audience. Instead, keep it simple. We’ve all seen those billboard ads: “Hurt in a wreck? Call Jeffrey Lawyerman.” The simplicity of these ads makes them easy to read, understand, and make use of. You’re not claiming to be the best, just that you’d like the reader’s business.
Offer immediate value
Sometimes advertising is best paired with something worth real money, like a $10 off coupon, or a free consultation. What if the ad itself has value?
Achieving this can be done in old school ways, with an email that’s also a coupon or a flyer that’s a coupon or a TV ad that’s… also a coupon? On the other hand, this is where the creativity can really shine. How about a flyer that can be made into a paper airplane or a hat? How about a video ad that’s so hilarious you have to share it with all your friends? Why not an AdWords result with a silly pun in it or an interesting fact?
Value isn’t just about saving money. Like when Smash Mouth CDs for your summer garage sale, value is really up to the consumer. Just because you say this priceless copy of Astro Lounge is valued at over $50 doesn’t mean the patrons of your garage sale will think you’re sane for asking that amount. The opposite is true as well: a worthless old accordion might have sentimental value to an eclectic shopper or a nostalgic musician. In a world where many see ads as pointless to their daily life, its value isn’t a series of digits, but a hearty laugh, an interesting read, or even a good cry.
This is part of the reason comedic commercials have exploded over the last several years. Think of the Superbowl: some viewers check it out just for the commercials. If you think about it, that’s insane. Some websites and content creators have made the choice (I call it a mistake) to put valuable or entertaining content behind an advertising interstitial or a pop-up light box. Nothing frustrates users more than a delay in immediate internet gratification. Why not make the advertisement itself the content they’re looking for?
How do I make my ad stand out?
That’s the question on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s search history (note the reason we used it in our article). What’s the magic ingredient in an advertisement that does the trick? These days, the secret sauce is made up of honesty, value, and a bit of fun. If your law firm is trying to interest web users with a court date in their near future, maybe skip that last ingredient. Fun isn’t quite the right word. How about personality?
Add to that personability! An ad should be as unique as its creators. Design it to fit both your company and your audience, and you’ve created a conversation, a handshake if you will. Give them content they are going to enjoy or take interest in without hesitation. If your audience comprises squeaky clean government employees in their 40s, show them how alike you both are and how secure working with your agency can be. If your audience is mostly parents who are hesitant to bring their little ones on a business trip, make your ad family friendly and show your audience the mothers and fathers who built your company.
Want to disable AdBlock? Make better ads.
If your ad bores your audience to tears or becomes too salesy, they’ll turn away. Even a single whiff of talking yourself up, and they’ll run. Don’t do it. Focus on the value in your promotion, and suddenly your ad doesn’t just become another bit of content, it stands out as a piece worthy of a user’s time. A number to call in a crisis is good to have on hand. Funny commercials tend to go viral. An infographic on the process of winemaking could keep visitors on your site for unheard of lengths of time. This is what will make you stand out and keep users invested.
When you make your ads worthwhile, people will know what your selling is worthwhile too.