Seeing the Porsche banner ads this morning got me thinking: Why hasn’t anyone ever asked me how I like to consume advertising?
My goal is to share some of my thoughts on the subject of advertising. I’m new to Jalopnik, but based on comments in a few of my previous posts I’ve concluded that strong feelings regarding Kinja are alive and well. In this case my historical ignorance might be a good thing.
I just ask that this not turn into a “OMG! ADS! KINJA! DOOM!” debate and rather a healthy discussion on consumer expectations when it comes to advertising.
I’m not a journalist, nor did I study journalism. I’m not an advertiser, nor did I study marketing. Most of my career has been spent either wearing a military uniform or in some capacity helping our service members. Like most of you I'm just a car guy. Lately though I’ve become fascinated with the evolution of media and have started reading books on the subject.
Historically I’ve always viewed journalism as a truth filter. Corporations and governments would distribute messages or make decisions and we would pivot to the media to separate the fact from the fiction. The media looked out for us and we in turn rewarded them by subscribing to their content.
There is an assumption in that logic that corporations, automakers in our case, would or could not be honest because of their product bias. There is some truth to that. If General Motors told us, “This car is a better car than the one made by Ford” should we take their word for it? Of course not. Instead we turn to an independent voice for confirmation, a neighbor or in most cases the media (automotive reviews).
For years automakers only had one way to reach us - static advertising. But that one-way street of communication has evolved opening up more and more direct lines of communication between consumer and brand.
Which has more value to me?
The image above is the debate I’m having in my head as to which ad offers more value. That's a tricky question because there are three players in the game of value – the reader, the brand and the media.
The banner ad has advantages. It’s cheaper than writing custom copy like a post shown in the image above. And because it's an image it's easier to spread across the web and resize for other uses like mobile, YouTube, etc. It also reaches more eyeballs than a single post that will be scrolled past in 2 hours.
There are advantages to having the same banner stalk you on the Internet. Marketing data has concluded that banner ads with multiple impressions, especially when worked into varying mediums, having higher click-through rates and conversions.
Fun Example: Go to cars.com, search for a few vehicles then click over to Facebook. You’ll notice the ads on Facebook are of the same cars you were previously looking at only now they say things like ‘Great deal! Click here!’
I like the idea of hearing directly from a brand rather than a journalist, even knowing the brand is trying to sell me something. This only holds true if the message is genuine and not canned marketing speak. It sounds silly, but the notion that I have a one-on-one connection with a brand makes me feel appreciated, even if I'm forking over tens-of-thousands of dollars. To think, a brand is making an attempt to connect with me on a personal level. Thank you, brand. Sure, take my money. I feel good about this.
There are others that argue brands don't need relationships with customers. That is true. This wouldn't work with every automaker and certainly not every brand. I don't know if I need a relationship with the brand who makes my yogurt, but hearing intersting things from them time to time would keep their brand top of mind when it comes time to buy more yogurt.
I noted the manual transmission and three shades of brown in the image above as an example of how a brand could take a seemingly meaningless message and connect with me, a car guy. This method takes time, money and even more time.
Trust isn't something a brand can earn overnight, but it can be earned (and destoryed much quicker). The value to me as a reader to see humor, care and interest from a brand, even while trying to sell me, is ten folds the value of a banner ad.
Sponsored content isn’t new
I laughed when I read comments on the Ford Fusion video that was done by Top Gear USA, Ford and Jalopnik. "Sell out", "in their pocket" - just a few of the things I read. But this type of content isn't new and it certainly isn't limited to a single media company.
I could make the argument that any time a media company loans a writer a vehicle it’s sponsored content.
This wasn’t something new; it was something old just on a very new level.
But if media companies allow brands to publish on their platforms, how can it be monetized? Would it be a reward for a larger advertising commitment or would brands pay not for the ability to post, which would be free, but rather the ability to ‘sticky’ a post to the top?
All good questions, none of which I’m remotely qualified to answer.
The brand also has to weight its risks. They are waiving to a mob of skeptical sharp-tongue critics who don’t take kindly to advertising. It’s like walking into a bar in Ann Arbor wearing an Ohio State shirt; it could end in all-out bloodbath or a new friendship.
The easiest thing to do is, nothing. Leave it alone. Brands will continue to provide products to the media letting journalist tell the stories. Not because the media is a truth filter, but because it’s cheaper to put a few cars in a fleet than it is to create and develop a personal relationship between brands and people.
Those are my thoughts. I look forward to yours.