Social Advertising: A Poisoned Chalice
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Social Advertising: A Poisoned Chalice

It’s controversial, but has to be said. Advertising doesn’t work. It is not a reliable option for businesses, and not just because people hate it (although that should be reason enough if you care about your customers). Brands get pulled into advertising online because you can micro target people using 3rd party data and it is easy, the other option is brand invisibility unless you work REALLy hard at organic engagement.

However, brands rarely see the benefits they expect because most people hate being advertised to.

Banner Blindness

Research shows people are getting ever more ‘banner blind’ where they avoid anything that is even in a place where you would normally see an advert and finding ever more clever ways to avoid even seeing adverts at all. If a brand is going to advertise, it has to be genius, else people won’t care and won’t remember and anything less than genius will backfire and cause brand avoidance. And the way that the algorithms target people doesn’t work as well as most brands hope, because the granular data might not be reliable, it’s not easy to set up properly, people see it far too often, and because most adverts are really pretty boring. Consequently the conversion rate is only a tiny amount more than an organic conversion.

This is even more important than ever right now because 3rd party advertising is failing. Apple’s privacy changes are going to knock social advertising across the board. Google’s changes to cookies and the EU privacy data laws are all going to have an effect as well. Also, research shows that programmatic ad spend and social ad spend often funds hate and division despite brands trying to be ethical.

Brand Invisibility

Because the tech giants have set up the algorithms to de-prioritise anyone who doesn’t advertise, most businesses are invisible unless they advertise (which tends to piss people off) or they have invested heavily in Social Traction. Social Traction happens when you have everything working together organically (or with a genius advert to give it some va va vroom) to answer the questions people have on their way to make a decision to purchase something. This means that businesses have to be more human and approachable and walk alongside their clients so they are there when they are asking questions and not conspicuous by their absence. However it’s a lot of hard work and most businesses do not have eeh resources to do so. So they advertise.

Advertisers Hold the Power

What this means is that Facebook, in particular, is set up to stop people seeing brand posts unless they are paid for, which means that advertisers – brands – are actually the clients of social media, which makes everyone else and their data the product, which isn’t a comfortable thought for most people. What it does mean however, is that it puts a huge amount of power in the hands of advertisers, which they can use for good or ill.

Time for CEOs to put on. their superhero capes