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If you were allergic to ads you’d be dead by now! We’re exposed to about 3,000 ads per day. Everywhere you go and everything you do is permeated with millions of messages carefully designed to make you buy something. The onslaught begins the moment you get up in the morning. From product placement to commercials, billboards, street furniture, radio, print, online, to coffee holders and clothing; your sensory system is taking in more information than your mind can even process. According to AdAge, U.S. companies spent more than $147 Billion to place ads in 2011. That doesn’t even include the political ads placed to buy your vote. News analysts expect campaign ad spending for the 2012 presidential race to exceed $1.2 Billion. Big business and politicians spend billions of dollars to reach mass demographics at work, home, and play with ads that run constantly — 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
The mass media scattergun approach began after the second World War, when radio and television became ubiquitous, and continues today on an increasing scale. So much advertising money is wasted sending messages to people that aren’t listening, watching, reading, or clicking. In order to save face, marketers try and justify their waste by intellectualizing. In 2007, Professors Dr.Kenneth Chow and Donald Baack introduced a pyramid called, “The Hierarchy of Effects” which explains how ads weave into a person’s psyche and effects their buying behavior. The model indicates that there are five psycho-emotional steps that a person passes through before buying a product (awareness, knowledge, liking, preference, conviction, and finally purchase). The “hierarchy of effects” is a long-run advertising strategy whose goal is to build on each subsequent step with ads tailored to win miniature battles. For example, “Knowledge Ads” aren’t intended to win a purchase, but rather to simply help you understand the utility value of the product (features and benefits). Marketers absolutely love this model because it’s scholarly, long-winded, and 100% unquantifiable. If an ad is a waste, they can easily classify it as a “liking” or “preference” investment, and nobody questions it. WHY? Because business people believe that mass media is the best choice in a pool of bad options. The “hierarchy of effects” is just a coping mechanism. Everybody knows mass advertising is broken. Al Morris Hite said it best, “advertising is salesmanship mass produced. No one would bother to use advertising if he could talk to all his prospects face-to-face. But he can’t.”
Mass advertising is broken because it fails to relay a timely and relevant message to a specific audience. Time, relevance, and specificity are the fundamental elements needed to maximize your advertising return on investment. A timely ad is always welcome by the customer, and is delivered when the customer is actively researching, prospecting, or “in the market” to purchase a solution. Seth Godin reintroduced and popularized the concept of permission marketing. He says, “permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” Customers give permission by giving their personal information directly to marketers. They subscribe to newsletters, sign-up for free trials, or pull ads from search engines and listing sites. A relevant ad clearly communicates the value proposition. What are the benefits of the product or service? And lastly, specificity is the process of segmenting markets, gathering data, and targeting niches with a propensity to buy your stuff.
Google is the most efficient online media outlet in the world. Adwords delivers immediate sponsored ads to customers that search “keywords,” which strongly relate a category of commercial products or services. Marketers can restrict their ads to certain locations and languages. Adwords also allows them to remove their ads from certain neighborhoods of the internet map via IP exclusion filters. By clicking on the sponsored ads, people give marketers permission to advertise to them, guaranteeing that the ad message is delivered to a willing recipient.
Facebook is a utility. It is a tool that brings people together around a common experience, interest, problem, or cause. The key to Facebook is the social graph. Similar to a decision tree, a social graph is a series of nodes and connections. The nodes are the individuals and the connections are the friendships. By connecting with your friends on Facebook you assemble a social graph, and you can distribute any kind of information through your connections. Social graphs are assets, and collectively, they represent the core business of Facebook. All of this information is collected by Facebook and leveraged to deliver timely and relevant ads to a specific audience.
If there is anything that businesses can learn from the success of Google and Facebook, its the importance of ad placement. The “throw something up against the wall and hope something sticks” approach of mass advertising has given way to a more efficient model. It’s only a matter of time before other media outlets incorporate time, relevance, and specificity into their placement methodology. Your business can be ahead of the curve. Be like Facebook. Gather information about your target customer. All information about your target customer is good information because it makes you a more informed, and therefore more creative, marketer. Social media gives you the tools to engage and listen to your target customers. Be like Google and deliver on-time relevant ads. As you learn more about your customer, their buying happens and their lifestyles, you be able to place better ads. Its all about your customer data. At Route Norte, our motto is “better data yields better business.”
 David Kirkspatick, author of the Facebook Effect.