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Average Ads for Average People

Actually, it should be "Above Average Ads".

Robert Dow wonders about SpotRunner. The idea is pretty simple. With the explosion of cable and other local media, there is a huge inventory of local ads, which means that they’re cheap. So businesses that might not never have run TV ads (local real estate brokers, or IT geek squads) are buying local TV.

Just because it’s local doesn’t mean it has to be bad.

SpotRunner has a slew of beautifully-filmed innocuous ads on file. Find one, they personalize it at the end and you’re in business. Suddenly, you’ve got tree frogs in your apartment finder ads, while your competition is running homemade stuff.

The good news here is that:
a. it becomes astonishingly easy to test local TV. And if you’re local, you should (you must!)
b. it raises the game for the quality of media in every market.

The bad news is that these are, by definition, standardized, sort of average ads. Ads that don’t spread, ads that get you part of the way, but not all the way to what a great ad can do.

Houses used to be designed one at a time, by architects. Clothing used to be tailored, one at a time, by tailors. Dinner used to be cooked, one plate at a time, by chefs. Mass markets reject handmade, one-off craftsmanship. It’s inevitable that ads were next.

Getting from here to there

So, a few times a day, I hear from a reader who wants my advice on how to be Google. Or Reddit. Or Scoble.

There is a good place to be. There is traffic and attention and influence and profitability. Here, on the other hand, is nothing special.

If I could only get to there, people sigh, then everything would be fine.

Check out this chart of the traffic of fotolog.com. They’re now 33 in the world. What’s neat is that the progression from one place to another was pretty linear. No miracles, no interventions, no tipping point or inflections.

The reason is simple and one that’s worth understanding:
At every point, fotolog worked. It worked when it had one user and it works with millions of users. One user found it convenient and helpful and yes, remarkable. It was worth sharing. So it got shared.

The mistake bloggers often make (actually, all marketers make sooner or later) is the believe that being popular is its own reward. That once every one does their line dance or visits their restaurant or wears their fashion or reads their blog, then it will be popular for being popular.

Stated so baldly, it’s pretty obvious this doesn’t work, mostly because you can no longer afford to prime the pump. So, instead, we’re left with bloggers like Hugh, who got to the top of the list by creating a blog that people wanted to read, regardless of who else was reading it. Not only that, but they wanted to share it as well.

Will it blend


[UPDATE: You’ll find my favorite WILL IT BLEND video by clicking here.

The magic of the Internet is this… more people end up (via Google) on this blog post than any other of my 2,000 plus posts. That’s because "will it blend" is a popular google search term and this post managed to make the front page. If you are possibly (though it’s unlikely) interested in my riffs on marketing–which is how I discovered the videos so early–feel free to click on the archives to the left. Thanks for visiting.]

Michael sends us this YouTube ad.

This is exactly the sort of thing we’ve been expecting. If it’s worth watching, people will watch it.

PS my friend Michael Cader gave me one of these blenders. They rock.

Coloring inside the lines

People who want to do a good job are more likely to follow instructions that they know they can successfully accomplish, while they’ll often ignore the ‘softer’ tasks if they can.

If you’re marketing a product or an idea to a group of people and you juxtapose two ideas–one obvious and simple while the other is challenging and subtle, you can bet the mass of people will grab the first one (if they don’t ignore you altogether).

Example: it’s easy to get people to wake up early on the day after Thanksgiving if you offer them a TV at a discount, the way Wal-Mart does every year. It’s a lot trickier to challenge consumers to figure out which one of the eighteen refrigerators you offer is likely to offer the best price/performance ratio.

The first task requires nothing much but effort and that effort is likely to be rewarded. The second task takes judgment, and the opportunity for failure is much higher.

If you’re a teacher and you give your third graders instructions for an essay, the motivated ones will listen. If you ask them for vivid, creative writing, and also let them know it must be five sentences long, in blue ink and with not one word outside that little red line that marks the margin, guess what sort of work you’ll get back? Writing in your format is easy. Being vivid is hard. It’s easy to focus on the achievable, the measurable and the simple.

I thought of this as I braved the insanity of JFK for a quick JetBlue flight. The instructions to the TSA folks probably fill several looseleaf notebooks, but I imagine that they can be summarized as follows:
Volume 1: Identify suspicious people and be on the lookout for bad people and new and unimagined threats.
Volume 2: Stop anyone with liquid in their bag.

Guess which volume got read?

The guy in front of me got busted (aggressively) for having a 4 ounce can of shaving cream. Isn’t it OBVIOUS that the limit is 3 ounces? I could hear the TSA thinking, What’s going on here!! At the same time that scores of expensive, trained teams of inspectors were focusing on interdicting the forbidden liquids, no one cared very much about ID or travel history or what that item on the x-ray actually was.

The same thing happens on your website every day. Sure, if I work my way through the sitemap and pay attention to your carefully crafted copy, I’ll probably find exactly what I need. But it’s way more likely I’ll just click on that cute picture or leave the site altogether.

People want to feel successful, but they’re often unwilling to invest the time in doing something that might not pay off.  It’s not fair, but that’s the way it works.

The unlimited power of enthusiasm

Normally, people just show up. They show up at work, or at a conference. They show up on vacation or even sometimes they show up at home.

They aren’t doing anything special, they’re just doing.

Well, I spent the day with several hundred enthusiastic people.

This group, led by Jennifer Young, didn’t just show up. They arrived. They were purposeful and positive and prepared and in a hurry… but in a good way.

It didn’t cost anything. It didn’t take any more effort (in fact, it probably ended up being less of an effort.) They got more out of me, more out of each other, more out of the day.

Enthusiasm has a lot to be said for it.