Worse Than Spam

Like most of you, my weeks are jam-packed, so when Saturday morning rolls around, I won’t say no to a few extra hours of sleep. However, this past Saturday the telephone on my bedside table started jangling at 9:02 a.m.

As I fumbled for the receiver, my mind ran through its morbid checklist of wondering which family member had just suffered a tragic accident or other disaster that needed my attention. It turns out that it was just a call from “Heather,” a friendly sounding customer rep alerting me that she was calling about my credit card account. Actually, Heather wasn’t necessarily calling me, since she was just a recording, nor was she calling about any of my existing credit card accounts. Instead, she wanted me to be aware of my eligibility to sign up for the credit card that her shadowy lending organization felt necessary to tell me about via telephone on my only morning off.

While my first urge was to see how many separate pieces my telephone handset could convert to if I bounced it off my bedroom wall, I patiently waited for an opt-out option (fat chance!) so I could make the annoying telemarketers go away. After hanging up, I decided my time would be better spent “stewing” about just how damn annoying it was to be treated like this by anyone who really thought they wanted to do business with me.

I’m going to guess that I’m not the guy they were looking to talk to anyway. I have a single credit card that I keep around for emergencies and keep the balance paid off. I don’t buy anything through my telephone and I really don’t respond well to being treated like I’m a demented mouth-breather by people claiming to want my business.

I have little doubt that any of these considerations will prevent Heather and her ilk from calling me again real soon.

In the digital realm that we all share, we see plenty of examples of horribly poor campaign planning that is based on antiquated models that are disrespectful to consumers, interrupt them, and are often so irrelevant that it’s hard to find a reason why that consumer would ever need to do business with the advertiser. But, as we all know, knowing that there is a problem is the first step to solving that problem.

Here are a few thoughts to share:

  • Effective digital marketing (and it can be argued any other type of marketing as well) is about starting a meaningful conversation with a consumer that leads them toward a buying decision.
  • The reason why marketers need to clearly identify the consumers they want to start a conversation with is that not every consumer cares about every offer. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all marketing.
  • Starting a meaningful conversation with a consumer starts with respect for that person’s time, attention, and intelligence. This means that if you decide to use a pop-up ad to get the ball rolling, you’ve probably already screwed up the opportunity to make a good first impression.
  • Ads that are designed to interrupt consumers are so 1990. If you want to capture the attention of the “best” online consumers, you need to give them a reason to get involved. Otherwise, they are free to totally ignore your ads or anything else you try to put in front of them. Forever. With no remorse.
  • Placing ads randomly on pages with the hopes that the right consumer will see that ad and respond to it is about as limited a marketing plan as calling people randomly on their telephones to get them to sign up for a credit card. It’s purely hit or miss. Mostly miss. And it’s generally annoying.
  • If you ever want some great insight on how a campaign will play in the real world, ask yourself if it would make you want to join the conversation. If you can’t remain objective enough to test an ad on yourself, then share it with somebody whom you respect and see if that sense of respect remains intact.

Effective audience targeting today is based on a lot of data, feedback loops, and powerful platforms that work to get the right message in front of the right consumer at the right time. But before it ever gets to that point, there needs to be a concerted effort to make sure that the ad creative, concepts, and marketing goals are all based on a solid understanding of what happens after you get a consumer to join the conversation. In most cases, you’re only going to have one chance to do it right.

By the way, asking Heather to make the call on your behalf probably isn’t your best option.

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