How’s This for a Response?

We just celebrated Independence Day here in the U.S. The weather has been gorgeous at approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Life has consisted of barbeques, sun block, and a couple days off for the holiday. Guess what? I’m still hung up on an article I saw before all the fun in the sun. I just can’t let it go. Was I the only one who saw it? The title read, “Online ads, email don’t click.” Ironically, it appeared in the online version of The Wall Street Journal.

Rather than plugging this naïve columnist by getting into too much detail, I’ll just highlight the gore oozing through the article:

  • Consumers aren’t clicking on much of anything, including banners/ad units and email links.

  • People are just not attracted to email offers and advertising messaging.
  • The industry is based on hype.

In the article, the writer refers to online advertising as annoying. It’s funny how online editorial is fine, as far as she’s concerned. How ironic that we’re seeing such blatant ignorance from someone who writes a column that appears online. Puhhhhhhhhhhhlease! I won’t even go on.

Been There, Done That

My pal Doug Weaver, president of the Upstream Group, nailed this issue on the head months ago in his newsletter, saying:

Nobody clicks on ads. Never. Not ever. Not when hell freezes over. Doesn’t happen. Won’t happen. Ever.

Somehow in our youthful exuberance as an advertising and marketing medium, we kind of missed this basic fact. As the euphoric dotcom marketing budgets of 1998-2000 enveloped us like the mythical fog that enshrouded Brigadoon, we were willing to believe — almost for the sake of believing — that consumers would somehow react to our advertising in a way that they’ve never reacted to any advertising form that preceded ours.

What I Can’t Say

Here I sit yet again, shaking my head in disbelief (and I’m sure I’m not alone) as I prepare to protect our turf another time. I bite my tongue as I try not to slam other media. I try so hard not to insert my cannibalization of other media chart. You know I have it, just in case. But I haven’t forgotten my day job is that of a VP of interactive media for a full-service agency. So, you see, some things I just cannot say.

What I Can Say

What I can say is this: No kidding! Didn’t offline direct mail have that it’s-so-new-I’ve-never-seen-it-before-I-must-open-it kitsch? Didn’t that lead to disproportionately large open rates? Jim Nail, senior analyst at Forrester was quoted as saying, “The same thing happened to paper-based direct mail when it first became popular in the early 1980s. By the mid-1980s, scores of companies were doing it, and everyone’s mailboxes were jammed so they began standing over their trash baskets making the quick decision. Today, they are opening their email boxes, and often they are just hitting the delete key.”

My mantra is that I never complain about something without offering insight or some sort of a solution. For what it’s worth, I agree with the following:

  • Online media people must try harder today.

  • We’ve all admitted the industry sold itself on click-through rates, and, simply put, it was stupid.
  • We need a better way to measure campaign effectiveness for both direct response and branding.
  • In case we haven’t beaten the dead horse already: Interactive media can achieve direct response and branding goals.
  • A lot of crappy Web sites and Web-based businesses are still out there.
  • The key to the success of any form of advertising (on- or offline) is cutting through the clutter.
  • The message is in the medium.
  • The market is beginning to thaw; ad revenues are showing a slight uptick.
  • Most of the strong (people and companies) have survived.
  • We need to stand up in defense of our business and squash the negative cocktail conversation.

The bottom line is the WSJ article is news that may have surprised us three years ago but shouldn’t now. Still, I read the damn thing anyway. Dear readers, please chime in and let me know I’m not alone in my frustration.

Related reading