When Ads Go Wrong

By February 17, 2009 Digital Marketing No Comments

It is widely said that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’. But is the same true of ads? If you get your company name on a billboard on the Harbour Bridge, is it good exposure regardless of the content?

The annoyingness of ads comes to me every morning recently, as I read the Sydney Morning Herald online. Now, I am not sure how long the SMH has been doing this, but over the last week or so, sometimes when I click on a story, a little movie pops up. It used to be that you would have to click on the little play triangle to make any video ad start, but now they are automatically starting, and it is annoying if your volume is up, if you can’t find which tab it is on, just annoying in general that the ad is intruding on your relaxing morning read.

So, is this video negative advertising for the company? Well, luckily for them (?), I have never watched the entire ad, I switch it off as fast as possible and their name isn’t mentioned in those first few seconds.

So, do they pay for that video to get started? Do they have analytics in place to be able to measure who stays long enough to view the whole ad? SMH or the ad sellers might report to the company that their ad was viewed 2,000 times in an hour, but how many people would actually watch the whole thing, or even enough to find out what the ad was about?

This experience now would make me cautious about placing a video ad which doesn’t have the customers opt in of that little triangle play button – but of course this is my own personal opinion.

Other ads annoy me too.  I always respected NRMA as a staid old Australian company…until the UnWorry Ads. I have taken violently against them, I think they are stupid, irritating – and while that might be the point of the ads, because people certainly remember them and discuss them – I really think that in my mind their brand has taken a bit of a battering because of the ads. They seem less professional than I once thought. Of course, that might be because they are focussing on a completely different market to me. Maybe the younger market (sigh).

So, after a couple of paragraphs of ranting, what does this have to do with search marketing? Ad Copy of course. Those 35 words you get in AdWords, or the slightly longer snippet you get in the natural rankings. Do you make them demanding, attention-seeking, action-oriented ‘pick me’ buttons? Or do you go for the classy, explaining, restrained message, that retains some dignity?

It is a difficult choice to make, because around your brand, other ads are no doubt clamouring for attention, how could your restrained ad be seen among it? You need a strong message, even if you do want to set yourself apart from the spammy ads.

The answer for all this is a lot easier than for the NRMA billboards – luckily.  Because with internet marketing you have almost real time results – you can see exactly what people think of your ads, and you can test them.

You can put your unworry message in an ad for a couple of days and see how it goes. Compare it with other ads. How many impressions did it get – Google AdWords tends to show better performing ads more often. What click through rate did each get? What about conversion rate, because this will tell you whether you are attracting really valuable customers? Also, use your analytics package to see what the bounce rate was for the ads – this will tell you if the ad message was inappropriate for your website.

AdWords is so flexible that you can quickly and easily change the copy in your ad so that you can actually be a bit experimental and risky. When ads go wrong in Google Adwords, you can easily switch them off before they do too much damage, so you may as well test lots with different kinds of copy. Let your imagination run wild and you might be surprised at what works best.

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