Advertising has been around so long, they measure the prices in Roman numerals.
CPM is a mark of how much it costs to run an ad that appears in front of 1000 people (M is for thousand). Until recently, a full page ad in a national magazine that reached two million people could easily cost $80,000 ($40 cpm times 2000 thousand). (Much of what I say below applies to TV ads as well).
I started my career buying ads for $50,000 a pop and then made the transition to selling expensive online promotions to big brands. The opportunity was clear: find an audience, make a significant profit selling ads.
When the web was young, marketers like Yahoo said to P&G and Ford, "buy our banner ads, they cost about the same as a magazine ad, but people can click on them as a bonus." And so banner ads at the beginning were incredibly lucrative–easy to make, sell them for a lot.
Today, banner ads might sell for a tenth that, or, if we count ads on Facebook and the like, as little as 1% of the cost of a magazine ad on a per person basis. But of course, it's not a fair comparison, for a bunch of reasons:
- Magazine ad pricing counts the entire circulation of a magazine, even though very few people read every single page of the magazine. Web ads, on the other hand, measure how many people look at that precise page.
- A web ad salesperson can say, "well, even if one in a thousand people click on a web ad, it's still better than how many people click on a magazine ad." The problem with this is that while clicks are proof that something happened, they're rare indeed. Magazines don't offer advertisers clicks, but they do offer them hope, something advertisers love to buy.
- Magazines have always embraced mass. Advertisers pay extra for big circulation magazines, even though that means less focus. Even a magazine that's focused on a given topic (surfing, say, or gardening) can't distinguish whether the ad is being seen by a man or a woman, or by someone who just bought a new car. The web offers all that and much more, but advertisers are radically undervaluing this focus, because they grew up in a world of mass. It's fine to have a very fine focus, but if you're selling to people with blurry vision, it doesn't help much.
- And lastly, magazine ads were largely sold, not bought. Conde Nast and other big companies happily wined and dined ad executives for years to earn the huge buys (more than 700 pages in the new Vogue) that appeared in their magazines. Web sites, on the other hand, are inherently digital, and would like to be bought, not sold, which gives advertisers an enormous amount of choice and leverage.
The short version is that magazine ads were expensive because they were scarce, they worked (maybe) and they were sold, hard. Web ads have long been dramatically undervalued as measured media by people who don't want to measure, as focused media by people who want mass.
Magazine ads were great, a perfect industry, one that's being replaced by something impossible, something that doesn't work for all parties yet.
The result is that tonnage, huge ad inventories, inventory in the billions of impressions, are at the heart of much of what is currently paying the bills in web advertising. Which pushes advertisers to show you more pages, interrupt you when they can and try to keep you inside their site, clicking around. Most people are never going to click on an ad, even an ad that they will ultimately remember.
Google's Adwords is one exception to the tonnage rule, and, if it's not pushed to scale too much, opens the door for advertisers to start measuring the value of what they get when they buy a direct response web ad. Buy an ad for a dollar a click, and if you make $2 in profit, buy more ads! But this only moves the measurement argument forward, as these ads are only attractive to advertisers who measure their results. Most ads don't work because we click on them, though. They work because we remember them, or because they change our perception or tell us a story.
Until advertisers start to value the focused, memorable, impactful opportunity they have in buying the right ads in the right place for the right audience, web users are going to be stuck seeing irrelevant ads on sites that don't respect their time and attention as much as they should. We have salespeople and investors and agencies and buyers that come from a world of mass and scarcity, and the opportunities of focus and connection and abundance are taking a while to sink in.
Since advertising is paying for a big portion of the consumer web, it's being built to please advertisers. Right now, though, what advertisers are used to buying isn't what the web is good at building.
There's huge progress being made in perceptions, but there's a ways to go. Which is why, "we're ad supported" isn't as obvious a strategy as it should be.
In the connection economy, there's a dividing line between two kinds of projects: those that exist to create connections, and those that don't.
The internet is a connection machine. Virtually every single popular web project (eBay, Facebook, chat, email, forums, etc.) exists to create connections between humans that were difficult or impossible to do before the web.
When you tell us about your business or non-profit or public works project, tell us first how it's going to help us connect. The rest will take care of itself.
Really? Is that really the attitude you want your audience to take? That they should be wary of what you say and what you offer and what you promise?
How about “buyer trust”?
How do you deal with customer disappointment or buyer remorse? It’s the difference between “tough luck, you should have read the fine print” and “oh no! How can we help?” If people know you will always make it right, they will beware less and trust more.
What do you have to do to create trust? How much would it cost and how often can you produce it?
Whatever it costs, it’s a bargain.
Art is best done all in, as if everything is on the line. When the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, you know you've commited to whatever it is you make.
Marketing strategy and communication, on the other hand, is best done with discernment, a strategic game to be understood and tested. The more you need to (must!) succeed at bringing the idea to market, the less success you'll encounter, because your fear will come through.
Patience, awareness and skill matter, and you are best at this if you are prepared to fail without dying.
So, go do your art and make a difference. But don't expect to be good at marketing if you have only this one and only moment to do it.
Most people don't care enough to make a difference.
Most people aren't going to buy that new thing you're selling.
Most people are afraid to take action.
Most people are too self-involved to do the generous work you're hoping for.
Most people think they can't afford it.
Most people won't talk about it.
Most people aren't going to read what you wrote.
Fortunately, you're not most people. Neither are your best customers.
[click pictures below to advance…]
In order to use the slicing blade on my Cuisinart, I have to attach it to a little stalk first.
I used to have an old model and a newer one too, and of course, they had different blades and different stalks. If I was having trouble hooking the two pieces together (which was every time), after a few seconds I would come to the conclusion that I had the wrong stalk… and go back to the drawer and start over.
Ever since the old one broke, though, I find that I'm far more persistent in fitting the two pieces together. Obviously, I say to myself, they have to fit together. It's certainly possible, so I persist.
That's the benefit of having a hero, a case study, a role model for what came before. The fact that it's been done before makes just about any task more amenable to persistence.
And it also means that doing something that's never been done before is even more valuable than you'd guess, because your peers and competitors likely gave up long before you did.
Who are you?
Do I trust you?
Am I afraid of it?
Will this work for me?
Who says it's important?
What will my peers think?
These are all variations of one complicated thread: how will this process make me feel?
Even though that's all we care about, marketers seem to think it's fine to spam, fine to focus on specs and important to talk mostly about price.
It might not be warranted, but you won't get far without it. Don't bother going to that meeting or reading that book unless you can momentarily assume the message comes from a place of goodwill and generosity.
Skepticism doesn't help you hear.
is way more interesting, more fruitful and more fun than being number three in a larger market.
When you're the market leader, you set the agenda, you attract the leading customers and you are the one who gets targeted, picked on and singled out. The stakes are higher and so is your impact.
The easiest way to become #1 is to redefine your focus and the way you serve your customers sufficiently that you redefine the market. Harley Davidson isn't #1 in the market for motorcycles, but they are certainly #1 in the market for the kind of motorcycle that they sell. The other bikes may have two wheels, but they're for different customers with different needs.
Mass ennui is defeated by focused passion every time.
A tattoo is basically forever.
You should think pretty hard before you get one, because it's largely an irreversible decision.
Just about every choice you make with your project and your career, though, doesn't last forever. And the benefit of taking a risk is significantly higher than it is with a tattoo. A landing page, a pricing move, a bit of copy–they don't last much more than a day, never mind a lifetime. Higher benefits, lower risk, what are you waiting for?
So go ahead and act as if your decisions are temporary. Because they are. Be bold, make mistakes, learn a lesson and fix what doesn't work. No sweat, no need to hyperventilate.