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Commercials Are Loud and I Don’t Like Them

October 16th, 2009 by

These days, I take in most of my information through my trusty Google Reader, various iPhone apps, and occasionally Hulu. I have cable (and if anyone can shed some light on why high-speed internet is a billion times cheaper if you get cable with it, let me know), but I usually only tune into the old-school tubes about once every couple of weeks. On those rare occasions, I usually shut it off within 5 to 10 minutes, and not because of boredom or a small attention span—it’s the commercials… frequent, incongruously loud, repetitive, poorly timed commercials. It would seem that this kind of marketing has the exact opposite of its intended effect on me (although, I’ll admit that I can’t stop thinking about the Black Jack Taco from Taco Bell. I don’t even like Taco Bell).

So why doesn’t traditional marketing work for me? First of all, the delivery tends to be… well, rude. Yes, I understand that television is ad-supported, and yes, I understand that this is by no means a new concept. The great thing about taking in my information, media, etc. via the ‘tubes (the inter-ones) is that, for the most part, I can view advertisements on my own terms. For example, Hulu often gives viewers a choice regarding advertisements: Would you like to view this program with normal commercial interruption, or would you prefer to see one longer commercial at the beginning and then enjoy the rest of the show uninterrupted? While I view this as a step in the right direction and appreciate being given an option, I usually find that the advertisements (however brief) aren’t relevant to me as a consumer (again, Black Jack Taco).

Recently, social media sites like Facebook and Digg have started responding to this need for relevant content. Facebook started by basing the advertisements a user sees on the content in his/her profile. They went a step farther by allowing users to “vote” on whether or not they like these ads. So, for instance, when I log into Facebook and see three adds for various Acai-berry diets to the right of my profile, I can click the a little “x” button on each one and then state why I don’t like them (unfortunately, there’s no option in the drop-down for, “Seriously, why do you guys think I need to go on a diet?”). While it took a few weeks, after hitting the x button and choosing the options “Irrelevant,” “Offensive,” and “Repetitive” a few dozen times, Facebook no longer suggests that I lose a few pounds. I’m happy to report that I feel a lot better about myself now.

As we know, advertising is everywhere (really, everywhere… ever heard of “whisper marketing”? Yikes). It’s nice to finally have some modicum of control over how I take ads in. What I like and respond to even more, though, are marketing materials that tell me something useful about the product/service/idea/whathaveyou being advertised.

[Note: This is the part wherein I promote content marketing (more specifically, the content marketing services offered by the company by which I’m currently employed). Remember when I said advertising is everywhere? This is so meta, my head’s about to explode.]

Let’s consider this hypothetical situation: Imagine that I’m interested in purchasing a stand-up kitchen mixer (that part’s not hypothetical… I want one really bad). They’re a little pricey, and I’m hesitant to make such an investment when my desire to learn to bake might not even see the end of the week. So I’m doing some internet browsing, comparing brands, prices, etc., and I end up at the website of a company that makes this kind of mixer. I notice that this site has a link to a “Resources” page, so I click on it, and there are all kinds of links with titles like “Adding Flour to Batter Without Getting It All Over Yourself,” and “Pancakes: Don’t Get Tough, Add Fluff,” etc. Guess what happens when I click the second link? I learn that over-mixing pancake batter results in tough pancakes, and that I should only mix until the ingredients are just combined. I learned something… how exciting!

Having well-written content about your products or services has a couple of benefits. First of all, it’s the perfect avenue for you to emphasize your product’s benefits, rather than just list features. Second of all, it can be optimized to make it easier for readers to find. More importantly (IMHO), presenting helpful information makes you a resource, rather than just a retailer. If the information is good enough, someone like me might just come back to your site for more.

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