How Advertising Lost Half Its Credibility

Photo cred: Scotty Perry

Advertising has gone through some huge changes over the last few years.  Today, we’re seeing major brands dropping their Superbowl ad spots, newspapers quickly declining in numbers and even online ad spending has dropped for the first time since 2002.  Do you think advertising is failing? Perhaps only part of it…

Advertising tends to follow a simple model: provide entertainment to catch people’s attention, then make the pitch.  It essentially aims to accomplish two things: Increase Brand Recognition and to Convey a Message. I’ll argue that the latter is no longer effective.

The advertising message is dying.

Today, if you put up a commercial of a guy getting rocked in the balls, people will watch, and probably be entertained, UNTIL you try to sell them the cup. That’s where they tune you out.

So, if people pay attention to the content and ignore the message, we can understand why advertising on the internet is failing. Online, the content isn’t in the ad, it’s on the page. Internet ads, usually just make a sale (there isn’t much room for entertainment), which is what we’ve become so good at ignoring.  Online, it’s very easy to take in content without paying any attention to the ads.

One area of advertising that continues to grow is in online video ads and that won’t change soon.  As more viewers move from the television to the internet, so will the advertising dollars.  Watching a show on hulu feels just like watching it on tv, just with less ads (for now). Similar to television though, the message will be lost.  It’s even easier, since you can click on something else for 30 seconds.

It comes down to credibility.

Brands shoot for two kinds of credibility with their advertising campaigns:

  • Credibility as a brand
  • Credibility in the message

Seeing a well produced ad (especially on television) lends credibility to the brand name.  It lets the consumer know that the brand is the real deal. So credibility as a brand is still gained through advertising.  Whatever they have to say about their product in that ad, however, has no credibility, and would be lucky to make it in one ear and out the other.  Credibility in the message…cut.

Brands, I don’t care what you say your pill does, or how much your competitor sucks.  Hearing about it from you, or the actors in your ads, means nothing to me.

So is advertising still worth it simply for the brand credibility? Would businesses be better off investing in other platforms to share their message?  How will advertising campaigns adapt to these changes in 2010?

Why Won’t Bloggers Dig Into Detail?

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Photo cred: Damien Sachs-Dromsön

Do we care more about the popularity of our content than the advancement of our industry?

In order to appeal to as many people as possible, professional bloggers have to make sure that their content can be consumed by readers of different levels of experience.  The beginners have to be able understand what they’re talking about.

The issue is then, what about the more experienced readers?  When the “thought leaders” limit the depth of their thoughts and advice, experienced readers get to a point where they can’t learn any more from reading blogs.

The growth of the industry is halted.

I think that blogging is slowly becoming the heart and voice of so many industries as more and more professionals are turning to blogging to learn, share and grow.  If we don’t help them grow beyong the “beginner” level, the advancement of the industry will suffer.

It’s not just blogging.  Look at conferences. Same speakers, same topics, same shit every time.  Makes sense…if a conference wanted to dig deeper, “beginners” wouldn’t find it valuable.  Less money to be made.

Will this problem become even greater as blogs grow in popularity and influence?  Could young and upcoming professionals become so used to learning and researching with blogs and social networks, that they’ll forgot how to conduct research using other methods?

For contrast, look at the science world. My friend Jon just started a blog that focuses on bridging the gap between the ivory tower and the common man.  This is because when scientists and academics write about their work, they don’t write to get more readers, they write to be acknowledged for their innovations within their industry.  They don’t dumb it down at all.  Sure it created a disconnect with the common man, but science continues to grow and innovate as a result.

If you’re used to information always being brought to you, it’s very hard to go back to seeking it out.  When there’s nothing left to learn from blogs, where do they go to continue to learn?

Help me out here…share your thoughts.

Are you Seeking Value, or Waiting for it?

When I was much younger, my parents took me to Las Vegas on “vacation” (my dad was there for a business conference).  We took a trip over to Lake Mead, which is southeast of Las Vegas, and is known for the carp and other fish that congregatelakemead next to the dock.  Though I was very young, I remember vividly how I could barely see the water in between the thousands of fish squirming by each other, battling to get closer to the dock.

Tourists would visit, and buy bread to feed the fish.  When they’re not eating, the fish just swam around aimlessly, knowing that although there wasn’t anything there, if they stick around long enough, they’ll get some food.  When you dropped a full piece of bread into the water is when the real magic happened.

Within seconds, the entire crowd of fish would swarm, climbing onto each other to get to the bread (just like in the picture).  Within seconds the bread would be gone, and the fish would go back to swimming around aimlessly.

Lake Mead fish at Marina
Om nomnomnomnom...

Looking back at this experience today, I see a lot of parallels in how we consume content and seek out value today.

We gather on social networks, and “shoot the shit” with our communities, until a new piece of interesting content comes out, and we frantically rush to be the first to read, write and discuss.  Then, as soon as the new content isn’t so new anymore, we go back to aimlessly chatting, until the next big piece of content comes out.

I don’t think this is a good thing.

The smartest fish would break away from the group that has become so used to being fed by tourists, and go searching for its own food in a lake full of delicious little plants and animals.  I would think the most successful business owners/bloggers aren’t the ones that wait around for the next big thing, but go searching for value.

Are you just waiting to jump on the next big thing, or are you taking the initiative to break away from the “dock” and seek out what’s valuable?

Further question from Lauren Fernandez’ comment: Is rushing and fighting to get to the topic first really in the spirit of building a community? Or are we only looking to better ourselves?

Why Scribnia Is Valuable To ME

scribniaIf you haven’t heard the big news from my last post, I’ve been hired as the community manager for Scribnia.  Perhaps because of my newly acquired position, you may think that a review of Scribnia on my blog may be biased…fair enough.  I hope that if you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I wouldn’t post anything that I didn’t think would be valuable to the community.  Either way, I’m not going to tell you that Scribnia is awesome, or that you have to go sign up, or even that it would be valuable to you as a blogger/reader.  I’m going to tell you why Scribnia is valuable to me, as a blogger and reader, and I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s valuable to you too.  Fair?

Value as a Blogger

  1. Transparency. One of the big values of “social media”, bloggers are expected to be transparent and gain respect and loyalty for doing so.  I’m open with my community members about who I am, my honest views, or any bias that I might have.  When people write a review about me on Scribnia, they are increasing my transparency, allowing new readers to feel more comfortable when visiting my blog for the first time.
  2. Learn how I’m viewed by my readers. I might have a bias that I didn’t realize existed.  My readers might be looking for different kinds of posts.  They aren’t necessarily going to come out and tell me what they think of my writing.  Scribnia is a call to action, where your readers are asked to share their opinions.  You can add a “rate me” widget to your blog and encourage your readers to share their thoughts.
  3. SEO.  My Scribnia page will come up when people search for my name on search engines (once the site goes public).
  4. Engage conversation about YOU. I’ve told businesses before that their customers are talking about their brand online and that they need to engage the conversation.  Time to practice what I preach.  If my readers care enough to share their thoughts about me as a blogger on Scribnia, I have the opportunity to convert negative views into positive ones, and to further engage with my community.  Danny Brown does a great job of joining the conversation about him and responding to reviews of his work.

Value as a Reader

  1. Find new bloggers. A lot of recommendation engines that I’ve seen base much of the recommendation on content, without really taking into account my personal reading preferences.  Scribnia takes the reviews that I’ve written, and based on how high or low I’ve ranked different aspects of each author, other authors that might be valuable to me are proposed.  I can also browse by category or industry to find new bloggers and publications.
  2. Share. I love to suggest bloggers that I follow to others.  When Scribnia users view my profile, they can see all the reviews that I’ve written, which bloggers I like or don’t like and why.  Linking people to other bloggers is great, but it  helps to show them why I like those bloggers.  (Tip: Try it out on Twitter… next #followfriday, give your recommendation’s twitter name and provide a link to their Scribnia page)
  3. Preview bloggers.  There are a lot of author profiles I have come across that don’t have a very good “about” description.  I’d have to read multiple posts before really understanding what the blog is about and the blogger’s style.  This is especially time consuming when doing blogger outreach.  Bloggers typically condemn misplaced pitches to their blogs and the last thing you want is to anger the bloggers in the community you’re reaching out to.  By reviewing an author’s Scribnia profile, you can learn a little bit more about a blogger before contacting them giving you a better understanding of what they find valuable.

All in all, I accepted the job of Community Manager for Scribnia for a number of reasons, one being because I thought it provides a valuable service that bloggers would really appreciate.  We are trying to build a blogging community for authors, readers and their networks to connect, share and grow.  Once we have developed a solid amount of quality content, Scribnia will be open to the pulic.  If you think you’d be a quality contributing member of the alpha community, send me an email at dspinks5@gmail.com for an invite.

You can find my Scribnia page here.  Review me…I dare you. (=

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