90 percent of web interaction starts with search (Source: Pew Internet). When you search, you're looking for information or entertainment, you don't want to be sold to.
Yet, all over the Internet, I keep seeing the same badly written ad with a cartoon captioned: 'One weird old tip of a flat belly.' I haven't ever clicked to find out what it means. Have you?
When you watch a YouTube video that gives you the chance to 'Skip this ad,' do you ever wait and watch it?
Did you know there are now free browser add-ons such as Clea.nr that 'remove the clutter' from websites like Amazon and YouTube?
All those poor advertisers are trying so hard to get our attention and make us buy more stuff, but it's just not working any more!
- When you go to the cinema or rent a DVD, it's to watch the film, not to see the ads.
- When you watch TV, it's for the programmes. The ads are your opportunity to boil the kettle and make a cuppa or go to the loo.
- When you listen to a chat show, it's for the celebrity insights you might get, not the obligatory 'plug' they give for whatever they're pushing.
Many of the big brands have realised they don't need to 'sell' online. They now use their websites for interaction with their existing customers, not for advertising to new ones. For example, instead of solely focusing on the product, the Coca Cola UK website has main navigation tabs about health, environment, community and Olympic Games. The Innocent Drinks website has links for 'bored?' and 'kids' as well as conventional 'press' and 'careers.' Kew Gardens has a 'tweet & grow' game.
On my own website, my Analytics show that more people click for 'free stuff' than any of the more sales-y pages, and I have plans to make the site more interactive and engaging over the next few months.
My apologies to anyone who sells ad space, but when clients ask me to write or design an ad for them, I always ask if they've contacted other advertisers in their sector to see if that medium works. Usually, they're told: "We've had nothing but sales calls, it was a waste of money."
I've had my own 'Bad Ads' blog since 2007, where I feature the good, bad and ugly in UK advertising and what business-owners can learn from it. These days, I'm finding it harder and harder to find inspiring ads to write about. It might be because I'm watching less TV, or perhaps it's because the ads have become so mediocre I can't think of anything interesting to say about them.
There was a time when people would claim: "The ads are better than the programmes." For example, see the 'For mash, get Smash' ad on You Tube. Those were the days!
You don't need a great fortune to create a great ad, you just need a great idea. But, as advertising becomes less effective, ad spend reduces, and so the ads get worse and the downward trend continues.