I love advertising. TV spots that only have 30 seconds, a page in a magazine, the homepage of a website, a beautiful app on my phone. Sometimes they make me smile, think, move me, I can dream of new possibilities.
Ads can concentrate messages that are sometimes complicated. I like those pieces that can communicate a lot of things with few elements.
But online advertising is not attractive for consumers.
The other advertising
Because I love advertising, I hate when I have to stand for another kind of ad. Whether I like it or not, I have to consume many things that are monotonous and boring. It is a type communication that is only looking to make money. They show data and repeat it with no mercy.
In the mainstream media, there is a lot of advertising that is not attractive. At the same time, you can also find some pieces that are just fantastic. They are a minority, but they are there.
The new advertising, the one we see on mobile devices, is lead by Google and Facebook. It is not entertainment. They do not even try to be. The goal is money. Google and Facebook are huge business successes. They have enormous benefits. They are some of the fastest growing stocks, and it's all thanks to advertising.
The new advertising, is it useful?
It is useful to advertisers, corporations, and entrepreneurs. The advertising helps them to present products or services to their audience. They can reach specific segments at a low cost. They can focus on defined groups of any size. That makes Google and Facebook cheap and especially suitable for small businesses.
It is evident that this advertising is useful for Google and Facebook. It is their principal source of income, and it works well for them.
But is it useful for the user? I mean, for us? We can have a free service in exchange for our personal data, part of our privacy and the time to see the ads. It seems like a lot of people accept the deal.
It is necessary to say that there is a significant social pressure to use their services. It is almost impossible to survive in our society without Google or Facebook. They are quasi-monopolies, each one in their sector. That exchange of personal data and time for service, I think, it is not transparent, nor fair.
Google, Facebook, and the others
If someone wants to publicize a product or service they can use different digital media. The best known are Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yelp. The first two have a significant advantage over the others. They are large, reach a lot of people, grow fast and earn more money. They have a clear dominant strategic position.
We could apply most of the things I explain here to all the social media platforms. For the limitations of space, I will concentrate on the two first.
Advertising on Google
The advertising on Google is not intrusive. It integrates well on the page. It has relation to the subject you are searching. But on the other side, it is easy to get confused. It is not clear what is advertising and what is information.
Some people, in some moments, can distinguish the two options. But, even in those cases, it is probable that they will make a mistake. We all have clicked on an ad by accident. Sometimes for ignorance, and other times because we go too fast, or just because it is near. That confusion makes everything too close to manipulation. Things are not clear, and that is not right.
Advertising on Facebook
To be on Facebook, you need to give your personal data in detail. They use that information to make you a better victim of their ads. And they are very efficient doing that.
Advertisers can determine the target audience that will see the ads. They can choose a group of people defined by geography, sex, and age. That makes them a cost-effective media. They can have advertising that reaches a small group, for a short period and a defined zone.
Facebook ads are ugly and often, even offensive. We consume things that, in another context, we would feel intolerable. These ads sometimes include images and text of bad taste. Other times, they are repetitive and tedious.
If you do not like it, you can go somewhere else, someone could say. But, can you? These businesses are almost monopolies. There are no competitors at the same level. On the other site, depending on which sectors you live or work in, you can't survive without them.
Historical and cultural factors help to explain why they do this type of advertising.
They all began offering the product for free. Both focused on growth and increasing the user base. If a lot of people use the service, they can figure out a way to monetize it later. For a long time, they did not generate any income and investors were more than happy. What mattered was that they were growing and very fast.
First, the product is free. The user base grow. They generate habits and needs around the product. They create a dependency. Then, the company can reap what they sew. They introduce the ads. At that moment, ads are a burden for the users but smaller than the hustle that means stopping the use of the service.
Firms do not need to strive, to do it better. They do not have to look for a better revenue model. They do not even have to think about a better way of advertising. They make money, a lot, they keep growing their user base and their shares rise in the stock market. If it works, they have no reason to change.
Those are firms founded by developers. The founders of Google and Facebook studied computer science. That has implications that go beyond what they learn in university. That means a way of seeing the world.
The first versions of their websites were ugly. They took care only of functionality, code, and features. Until recently, they had an absolute lack of interest in aesthetics. Now, they have great designers. But many times, I have the feeling that they tweak what engineers do. It seems that their role is not in the inception, the concept. Art direction, aesthetics, visual and form is not in the origin of what the company does.
All firms live from the culture that founders create. Marketing, communication, and creativity are not essential elements of their interest. They do not start with this vision. Some people there, tweak, add and improve upon what programmers do. But marketing and creativity do not seem to be at the same level. They are not in the creation and first concept of what they do.
I say that with all my respect. I think that Google and Facebook have incredible people in all areas. They do impressive things. What I mean is that those are values that are not a priority in the founder's culture. It is present throughout the organization. I think this is something that anyone can notice at first sight.
The first stage
Those firms are in a phase in which they do not concern about that issue. They are growing, and advertising quality is not a priority. In the future perhaps there will be new competitors that could make things harder for them. Sooner or later, the sector will be in a mature stage. When this happens, margins will be small, and profits tight. Perhaps then, they will pay more attention to creativity and advertising.
On the other side, users do not complain. As they are free products, they accept some inconveniences. As a result, the level of loyalty towards the brand is not tight. I know nobody that loves Facebook or the Google search engine. We need them; they work, and that's it.
Giving our personal data and our time to see low-quality ads does have a cost. I hope new companies will offer a better product at a fair price. We live in incredible times; changes are fast. Those firms can evolve, or new entrepreneurs can come up with new ideas.
Pay or quality
Other business models are possible. If you want a service, for me it is fair to pay for it. In those cases, the exchange is clear and transparent. When something is free, it is not clear what you have to give in return. In fact, there is nothing free.
Another way to make a product or service that could survive is advertising, but with quality. But defining quality is a complex issue. In any case, this is a difficult choice. I understand that Facebook, Google, and others use ads just as a mean to make money. Then they use that money for other things that interest them more.
Despite these limitations and difficulties, users have the right to another type of advertising. Ads can inform of new products and ideas. They can entertain, communicate feelings and values. They can make us feel well about ourselves. Communication could build a relation between the firm and the user that could be fair both sides. That kind of advertising needs more time and money. It makes everything more difficult, but I think this is the path.
There is a need for a different advertising on mobile devices. It is an opportunity to create something to satisfy it.
I have different posts related to different aspects of online advertising: