All Rights Reserved © 2002 Thomas W. Day
The Internet economy died when marketing gurus decided that website ads were ineffective. How they made that decision is about as logical as all of the rest of marketing decisions.
Take, for instance, television advertising. Nothing costs more than television advertising, except government. How does a company know its advertising dollar produces income? The Nielsen Media Research rating system. How do the Nielsen ratings determine a program is "popular?" The criteria for a Nielsen'er "watching" a program is that the folks with the Nielsen monitors have left their TVs on a program for at least 5 minutes. Those five minutes don't have to be five minutes of advertising, either. Just any old five minutes will do. They don't even have to be in the room for those five minutes. If you turn on the tube, head for the bathroom, and leave the People Meter on that channel for five minutes, up go the ratings. This isn't a major sample, either. 5,000 television households with "People Meters" plus less complete data collected from 20,000 additional homes makes the rating decision for a nation of 280 million people.
Pretty scientific, don't you think?
The ABC attempt to buy Letterman to replace their evening news is based on the idea that people will go to bed, leaving their boob tubes on ABC (and Letterman, who certainly bores me to sleep), and wake up to Diane Sawyer. Bingo, they catch five minutes of "viewing time" before the viewer throws his shoe at the tube and money is made. That's all it takes to collect rating points.
What would you spend for the science behind that kind of advertising clout? Personally, I'd rather have a website ad. I'm not convinced that website ads work, either. I'm not convinced that any ads work at all. If they do, I'm specially discouraged with my fellow man (or men), since the majority of television ads target the boys-to-men crowd, between the ages of 15 and 35. If the crap I see on the tube actually convinced guys to buy stuff . . . I guess we're morons.
Moving off of that depressing thought process, I'll admit that, obviously, ads do something. Otherwise, George Bush II wouldn't be in office. Still, marketing gurus seem to think that the 18-35 year old male is especially stupid, vulnerable to advertising, in other words. I guess it's possible that 18-35 year old males elected Bush. I have to say that's a disturbing thought. On several levels.
The only marketing rule I sort of trust is that any positive publicity is Good; free publicity is Really Good.
Television ads, at their best, don't seem to amount to much more than Not Bad. Good simply can't apply to ad space that costs $500,000 per minute. Word-of-mouth is Very Good, because it's free and it has credibility. Paid media ads, again, barely crawl up to Not Bad because modern media has absolutely no credibility (somewhere under used car salesmen) and it's expensive. Even newspapers have managed to sell off their credibility as unbiased information sources in the pursuit of immediate cash. The best we can say about the "traditional media" is that they are well paid corporate prostitutes. I'll leave the worst for the imaginations of my friends and readers.
So, with that understanding in mind, why does anyone with good sense spend serious money on advertising? Some of these products are so awful that if it weren't for new suckers they wouldn't have any customers at all. Most advertisers depend, completely, on the concept that "there's a sucker born every millisecond" (modified to account for overpopulation) and the core corporate belief that "no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public." Those idiotic Mentos ads are the biggest waste of resources since the Vietnam War or proof positive that humans are direct-controlled by the idiot box.
I'm guessing that the answer to my question is that people spending really big money on advertising don't have good sense. In the last two decades, marketing folks have done a bang-up job of avoiding quality control and accounting scrutiny. Execs don't want those budgets examined closely because that's where the really cool corporate perks are hidden. Hanging out with media goofs, spending buckets of money on fluff and happenstance, engaging in activities that can't be quantified or even identified is the kind of life that people become execs to live. I'd do it, if I weren't busy cleaning my toenails and restringing my guitar.
If all that hasn't convinced you, here's my real, most incontrovertible evidence that marketers are brain damaged. It took 32 years for a car manufacturer to realize that Ides of March's hit, "Vehicle" was custom made to be a car ad. Sylvester Stallone (for his seriously awful movie Lock Out) even discovered the song a dozen years before the marketing experts. If that's not embarrassing, what is? Case closed.