David Ogilvy’s Secret Weapon of Advertising

In 1962, Time magazine called David Ogilvy “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.” In this 7-minute “We Sell or Else” video, Ogilvy discusses his “Secret Weapon” of Advertising.

David Ogilvy Video Transcript

I wish I could be with you today in the flesh, as they say, unfortunately I’m in India. Ever been in India? It’s very hot. If you don’t mind I’m going to take off my coat.

You know in the advertising community today, there are two worlds, your world of direct response advertising and that other world, the world of general advertising. These two worlds are on a collision course.

You direct response people know what kind of advertising works and what doesn’t work, you know to a dollar. The general advertising people don’t know. You know the two-minute commercials on television are more effective, more cost-effective than ten second commercials or thirty second commercials. You know that fringe time on television sells more than prime-time. In print advertising, you know that long copy sells more than short copy. You know that headlines and copy about the product and its benefits sell more than cute headlines and poetic copy. You know to a dollar.

The general advertisers and their agencies know almost nothing for sure because they cannot measure the results of their advertising. They worship at the altar of creativity, which really means originality, the most dangerous word in the lexicon of advertising. They opine that thirty-second commercials are more cost-effective than two-minute commercials. You know they’re wrong. In print advertising, they opine that short commercials sell more than long copy. You know they’re wrong. They indulge in entertainment, you know they’re wrong. You know to a dollar, they don’t. Why don’t you tell them? Why don’t you save them their follies?

For two reasons; first because you’re impressed by the fact that they’re so big and so well paid and so well-publicized. You’re even perhaps impressed by their reputation for creativity whatever that may mean. Second you never meet them. You inhabit a different world. But the chasm between direct response advertising and general advertising is wide. On your side of the chasm I see knowledge and reality. On the other side of the chasm, I see ignorance. You are the professionals.

This must not go on. I predict that the practitioners of general advertising are going to start learning from your experience. They’re going to start picking your brains. I see no reason why the direct response divisions of agencies should be separate from the main agencies. Some of you may remember when television people in agencies were kept separate wasn’t that idiotic? I expect to see the direct response people become an integral part of all agencies. You have more to teach them than they have to teach you. You have it in your power to rescue the advertising business from its manifold lunacies.

When I was 25, I took a correspondence course in direct mail. I bought it out of my own pocket from the Dardnell Corporation in Chicago. Direct response is my first love and later it became my secret weapon. When I started Ogilvy & Mather in New York, nobody had heard of us. But we were airborne within six months and grew at record speed. How did we achieve that? By using my secret weapon, direct-mail.

Every four weeks I sent personalized mailings to our new business prospects. I was always amazed to discover how many of our clients had been attracted to Ogilvy & Mather by those mailings. That was how we grew.

Whenever I look at an advertisement in a magazine or newspaper I can tell at a glance whether the writer has had any direct response experience. If he writes short copy or literary copy it is obvious that he has never had the disciplines of writing direct response. If he has had that discipline, he wouldn’t make those mistakes.

Nobody should be allowed to create general advertising until he has served his apprenticeship in direct response. That experience will keep his feet on the ground for the rest of his life.

You know the trouble with many copywriters and general agencies is that they don’t really think in terms of selling. They’ve never written direct response. They’ve never tasted blood.

Until recently, direct response was the Cinderella of the advertising world. Then came the computer and the credit card. And direct marketing exploded.

You guys are coming to your own. Your opportunities are colossal.

In the audience today, there are heads of some general agencies. I offer you this advice, insist that all your people, creative, media, account executives, that they’re all trained in your direct response division. If you don’t have such a division, make arrangements with a firm of direct marketing specialists to train your people. And make it a rule in your agency that no copy is ever presented to clients before it has been vetted by a direct response expert.

Ladies and gentlemen, I envy you. Your timing is perfect. You’ve come into the direct response business at the right moment in history. You’re on to a good thing. For forty years, I’ve been a voice crying in the wilderness trying to get my fellow advertising practitioners to take direct response seriously.

Today my first love is coming to its own. You face a golden future!

Internet Fraud and Work-at-Home Scams

Consumer scams are not new.

As an example, in the 1920’s, the Ponzi scheme (bogus investment swindle) was a notorious way to bilk individuals from their savings. However, the idea of that specific scam goes back earlier, to 1857, when Charles Dickens described it in his novel Little Dorrit. Back in 2008, Bernie Madoff became the operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a testament that old ideas can be given a fresh suit to steal from people anew.

Of course criminal behavior goes back much earlier than Charles Dickens depicts. One of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not steal”) is indicative of how long criminal acts have been problematic to Mankind.

Nowadays, a modern way for criminals to put on a new suit is by cloaking themselves behind the Internet.

Examples of Internet Scams and Fraud

The list of ways that theft is perpetrated via the Internet is seemingly endless.

The FBI maintains a website resource of Internet Crime Schemes and how to avoid such. The FBI notes a whole bunch of common categories of Internet fraud. Here are a few:

  • Internet auction fraud
  • Non-delivery of merchandise purchased from websites
  • Credit card fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Business fraud
  • Nigerian Letter Fraud

That last is so well known as an example of Internet fraud that the FBI lists it on the same page as its own singular category. Although it has been bilking individuals of their savings “online” since the 1990’s, the scam goes back decades earlier in the form of direct mail and faxes.

Work-at-Home Scams

Many scams can be identified with the simple admonition, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Most work-at-home scams could be avoided by simply respecting that age-old common sense.

A work-at-home scam usually involves a victim who is lured by a home employment offer to do some simple task for a disproportionate compensation. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.

To be sure, there do exist legitimate work-at-home opportunities. Many people do, in fact, work in the comfort of their own homes. But anyone seeking such an employment opportunity should be wary of accepting a home employment offer and apply due diligence, common sense and the following advice from the Justice Department.

Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

Internet fraud is common. And even though “auction fraud” is one category listed by the FBI, the vast majority of purchases made via auction sites, such as eBay, are fairly transacted. In other words, only a small percentage are fraudulent. The same is true for business fraud and online credit card transactions in general: the vast majority of purchases made over the Internet are transacted fairly.

The US Justice Department lists a number of ways to avoid becoming defrauded, including:

  • Being Careful About Giving Out Valuable Personal Data Online
  • Being Especially Careful About Online Communications With Someone Who Conceals His True Identity
  • Watching Out for “Advance-Fee” Demands

For more info on protecting yourself from internet scams click on this link from the United States Department of Justice on Internet Fraud.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

It’s been about thirty years since I read the original text by Al Ries and Jack Trout and I just finished reading the 2001 version. It’s a classic marketing book. Here are a few tidbits from the book.

  • Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.
  • Positioning as an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.
  • The basic approach to positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.
  • Advertising is not a sledgehammer. It’s more like a light fog, a very light fog that envelops your prospects.
  • In the communication jungle out there, the only hope to score big is to be selective, to concentrate on narrow targets, to practice segmentation. In a word, “positioning.”
  • The best approach to take in our overcommunicated society is the oversimplified message.
  • In communication, as in architecture, less is more. You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind. You have to jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it some more if you want to make a long-lasting impression.
  • If you have a truly new product, it’s often better to tell the prospect what the product is not, rather than what it is.
  • To find a unique position, you must ignore conventional logic. Conventional logic says you find your concept inside yourself or inside the product. Not true. What you must do is look inside the prospect’s mind.
  • In a product ad, the dominant element is usually the picture, the visual element. In a service ad, the dominant element is usually the words, the verbal element.
  • The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.
  • Trying harder is rarely the pathway to success. Trying smarter is the better way.
  • Never be afraid of conflict.
  • An idea or concept without an element of conflict is not an idea at all.
  • With a given number of dollars, it’s better to overspend in one city than to underspend in several cities. If you become successful in one location, you can always roll out the program to other places.
  • With rare exceptions, a company should almost never change its basic positioning strategy. Only its tactics, those short-term maneuvers that are intended to implement a long-term strategy.
  • Creativity by itself is worthless. Only when it is subordinated to the positioning objective can creativity make a contribution.
  • Objectivity is the key ingredient supplied by the advertising or marketing communication or public relations agency.
  • To be successful today in positioning, you must have a large degree of mental flexibility. You must be able to select and use words with as much disdain for the history book as for the dictionary.
  • Language is the currency of the mind. To think conceptually, you manipulate words. With the right choice of words, you can influence the thinking process itself.
  • The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.

In our overcommunicated society, the name of the game today is positioning.

How to Hire a PPC Freelancer or Agency for the Most Value

Should you hire a PPC freelancer or a PPC agency?

PPC Freelancer vs PPC Agency

In brief, freelancers are usually less expensive than an agency. As well, often you could expect a larger commitment from a freelancer than an agency. On the other hand, you can anticipate more diversified experience from an agency, relative to a freelancer. However, such is not always the case with freelancers or agencies. Like anything else in life, buyer beware.

PPC Freelancers Based on Price

The rates that a PPC freelancer charges are not the only factors to consider when hiring. But generally speaking, a more expensive freelancer has more experience. It’s a good idea to check references. But even so, it’s important to ensure there’s communication compatibility. This is a position that is key to the very lifeblood of your existence: generating leads and sales for your business.

Here are some approaches to consider when evaluating pay rates.

a) Hiring an inexpensive and inexperienced PPC freelancer is the most unpredictable. It would be more acceptable if you are very experienced with PPC yourself and can closely scrutinize the details of their work.

b) Hiring a PPC freelancer with mid-pricing is less risky than hiring the least expensive resource. You should expect they’ll be able to follow your instructions. Although you’ll still need to scrutinize their work to confirm the job is being done per your requirements. But it’s a good bet that any required modifications will be done swiftly and competently as your needs come more info focus, from their perspective. Hiring a mid-tier PPC freelancer can be most workable if you are trying to save money compared to more expensive resources. Nevertheless, later on, you may still want to try a more expensive PPC freelancer to see if your PPC performance can be further improved.

c) In an ideal world, hiring the most experienced PPC freelancer at the top of the price range will generate the best results — at least in terms of seeing how effective the PPC advertising will be. But an ineffective marketing and sales funnel will not be made profitable by PPC alone (more on that below). Also, hiring the most experienced/expensive freelancer is a particularly good idea if you are not sufficiently experienced with PPC advertising and can benefit from more informed guidance. In other words, the less you know, the more expertness and experience you should hire.

Having said all that, the focus of this article is not on whether you should hire a freelancer versus an agency, or what approach to use when making hiring decisions; this is about how to make the overall experience more valuable and profitable after you’ve made the hire.

Marketing and Sales Funnel

In this article, when referring to Marketing and Sales Funnel, I mean the online evolution of:

  • Raising awareness in the minds of potential buyers that your product or service exists
  • Becoming a candidate in their decision process
  • Closing the sale

PPC Search vs PPC Display

There’s a lot one can learn about PPC advertising. For the purpose of this presentation, I’m going to overly simplify PPC into two general categories of “Search” and “Display.”

Search PPC is getting your ads in front of people who are searching for your product or service right now. If someone is searching for “red shoes” and they click on your ad about “red shoes,” then your PPC ad did a good of targeting the right prospects. Now, of course, just because they clicked your ad and went to your website, does not mean they will buy your red shoes. But the point is that with this kind of search PPC ad, you are able to get in front of potential buyers right now.

Display PPC is a different animal altogether and it’s what most of us are already familiar with because we see them almost every time we go online — whether we want to or not. We may not be searching for red shoes. Instead, we might be reading a sports article or a new recipe. However, we may also see an ad for red shoes. In this case, the display ad is hoping to take us away from the content we are consuming to visit their shoes. Display PPC is not as effective as Search PPC. There’s also a substantially larger pool of placements for an advertiser to get their message out to a broad public via display than search. For both these reasons, display ads are less expensive than search ads.

Both search and display advertising have their respective merits. Your business might benefit from one more than the other, but many businesses benefit from using both, particularly for different parts of the marketing funnel.

About Retargeting and Remarketing

Retargeting, also known as remarketing, is a form of online advertising that can help you keep your product or service in front of visitors after they leave your website. For the majority of websites, only 2% of web traffic converts on the first visit. Retargeting is designed to help businesses reach the 98% of users who did not convert right away. Retargeting allows you to strategically position your ads in front of these audiences on other websites they visit later to remind those past visitors about your brand and/or to make a purchase.

PPC Marketing and Sales Funnel Advertising

PPC advertising is often only one part of an overall marketing funnel. But different PPC campaigns can target different parts of the funnel. For example:

  • “Top of the Funnel” campaigns are about introducing potential buyers to your products or services. Although display PPC or search PPC can be used here, if there’s not enough search ad volume, you can find more robust volume via display ads. And “what” is being advertised might be content that is relevant to the type of prospects who would buy your product. For example, if you sell financial services, you might promote financial “How to” guides to get in front of potential prospects.
  • “Middle of the Funnel” campaigns are intended to insinuate your offering into the potential buyers’ decision process. Depending upon the product or service and market, these types of ads might be directed to more detailed descriptions of your product or service. To continue the above example, if you are promoting financial services, you might direct retargeted ads to those who got your “How to” guides to direct those prospects to detailed information about your financial services.
  • “Bottom of the Funnel” campaigns (often remarketing and retargeting) are intended to generate sales. These have a call to action and often some type of special “Buy Now” offer. And just like ads for the other parts of the funnel, you’ll want to test many variations to find better-performing messages.

Many business owners want to focus on bottom-of-the-funnel advertising. If that works for your product or service, by all means, do it. On the other hand, unless you have an inexpensive product and known brand, many prospects will need to see your ads multiple times before they’ll buy from you. Hence, the whole idea of providing different PPC ads to different types of prospects is to make your PPC advertising more effective and provide more value for the same expenditures.

PPC Freelancers vs Marketing and Sales Funnels

For some businesses, PPC may be the primary means of generating traffic and sales. Nevertheless, it’s still only a part of the entire marketing and sales funnel.

PPC freelancers are generally not hired to inform your overall marketing strategy. They focus on the platforms themselves, whether that be Google Ads, Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads, Amazon Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, that’s the industry norm.

To underscore the obvious, a PPC freelancer or agency is only one part of a solution towards making your sales funnel more effective. What this boils down to is if you are hiring someone to administer your PPC, ideally you would also be savvy enough with PPC and marketing yourself to maximize the value of the partnership.

If your marketing and sales funnel is already well-optimized, then the PPC advertising will amplify your sales, as long as the cost-per-conversion is profitable. But if you don’t have an efficient funnel and offer, then the PPC will result in more traffic but the conversion costs will run in the red. (Even so, the PPC may still be desirable in a number of businesses, since the financial loss on the initial conversion may be surpassed by the percentage of buyers who make further purchases after they become a customer).

PPC Opportunity – Use the Data!

It’s a wasted opportunity if a business owner or marketing manager is not using the PPC platform data to inform improvements in the overall marketing strategy and sales funnel (not just the PPC strategy). Yet, in most cases, it’s not the freelancer’s role to consult the business owner about overall strategy or the business sales funnel, even if/when the freelancer or agency is aware of such.

As a simple example in another field, if you were hiring a company to execute your direct mail campaign, in most cases, you wouldn’t expect them to also inform your strategy or even your copywriting. Their job is to print the letters, stuff and stamp the envelopes and get the mail to the post office. In many cases, they aren’t even qualified to discuss strategy or copywriting — that’s simply not their job.

As a comparison, any PPC freelancer or agency should, of course, be technically qualified to interact with the details of their respective platforms. But that does not suggest their expertise extends outside the platform itself. For example, a common suggestion PPC freelancers or agencies may make when asked about increasing ad performance is to “spend more money.” Although that may generate more traffic and sales, it may also be contrary to the best interests of your business if it’s not going to increase ROAS (return on ad spend).

A more meaningful suggestion would be “Look, we’re spending 30% of your PPC budget on a product that is only generating about an 8% response. If we move that budget to the higher converting products, we’ll see a better ROAS.”

As a business owner, you may say, “Thanks. Let’s do that right away.” Or, on the other hand, “Yes, I see, but that 8% response is for our highest-profit product.” In the latter case, dedicating 30% of the budget to a lower PPC performing product may be a perfectly valid business decision. In certain cases, it might even be worth increasing that part of the budget, regardless of the lower response, if it’s making more money.

Additionally, significant data is available from the PPC advertising that can inform your overall marketing: such as demographics, geographic locations and keywords used by those who engage with the ads. For example, what if you’re selling motorcycle jackets and you find that 20% of your buyers are women but all your messaging is targeted to men? Or what if you are marketing consulting services to divorced parents and the PPC data reveals a significant percentage of respondents are also using legal keywords as a basis of their search and you barely mention this part of your service on your landing page? These represent important opportunities to change your marketing strategy and sales funnel. In the former, you would be wise to set up special landing pages for women with photos of women wearing the jackets. In the latter, you would be wise to expand the messaging of your legal-related services and test specific ad campaigns and landing pages targeted to those visitors.

Greatest PPC ROAS

The greatest ROAS re PPC expenditures can be derived from adjusting the overall strategy and sales funnel, not merely optimizing the logistics and details of the ad platform. (Although, of course, optimizing the on-platform PPC performance is mandatory).

The strategy and sales funnel (as well as PPC) may be best viewed as a living, dynamic entity that needs continual maintenance, evaluation and optimization, as opposed to something that is left on automatic.

For example, the best PPC technicians are worth their weight in gold because they may be able to generate a few percentage points better ROAS than someone who is competently experienced but not at the highest echelon of PPC performance.

Companies spending enough advertising money recognize it almost doesn’t matter what the high-level freelancer charges because the improved performance surpasses the money the advertiser would save on someone less experienced.

Regardless, the biggest gains are on the over-arching advertising/marketing strategy and funnel, not the PPC logistics. 

Hence, you can hire the best PPC expert in the world and lose money if the PPC expert is only focused on maximizing the platform value of driving traffic to the funnel rather than leveraging the data to optimize the funnel. (Again the former is typically all they are expected to do. It’s YOUR responsibility to strategically leverage the data). 

In other words, the existing funnel may simply not provide enough opportunity. Furthermore, the PPC expert is typically not getting paid to consult the business owner on sales funnel points, even when the PPC freelancer is aware of them.

You can derive much greater value and ROAS when hiring a PPC expert if you personally are:

1) Experienced enough to provide optimal instructions and know when the instructions are being followed, or not.

2) And most importantly, able to evaluate the ongoing PPC data yourself. 

Unfortunately, that’s not practical or real for many business owners and it’s an understood fact by the freelancers.  Hence, the overall value of the partnership with your PPC provider may be lower.

Bottom Line

You need a well-conceived marketing and sales funnel and it needs continual optimization. And the PPC metrics are a source of important data that can inform the sales funnel and strategy, not just the advertising on the specific platform.

Whether the PPC advertising is successful or not is relative to how much it costs to keep a stream of traffic flowing through your funnel profitably, while continuing to revise and optimize the ads and funnel before consumer response begins to lag while going through natural longer-term performance cycles.

A PPC freelancer or agency represents a partnership between the PPC platform and your own website and strategy. But the PPC platform can provide more value than just the PPC itself if you harness the data that it’s aggregating each and every day while you’re paying for advertising.

For Google Ads, this means you should have access to the online Google account controlling your ads so you can regularly analyze the data. For Facebook advertising, the Facebook Ad Manager is where you will gain the available info. For every other PPC platform, there is a respective interface to monitor analytics.

Log into them.

Look at them.

Ask questions.

Get answers.

If you use the metrics, your marketing and business will benefit from more than just the PPC advertising itself. It’s part of what you are paying for on a PPC platform, so take advantage of it. Furthermore, it will provide more value in your relationship with whoever is managing your PPC.

Outsource Online Lead Generation

There are a number of online lead generation models, and they all center around the concept of providing relevant, targeted, current (even real-time) sales leads.

In addition to continuing your own lead generation strategies – online or otherwise – an additional option is to outsource this activity. In exchange for payments on a per-lead basis, you can follow up with fresh leads as they come in.

Internet Lead Generation Agencies

There are outsourced agencies that provide online leads that can be used for a variety of purposes such as list building for e-newsletters or direct sales. The idea would be to call the leads immediately (for a telephone sales organization), or to plug the leads into an appropriate sales funnel.

Internet lead generation agencies may develop their own websites to capture leads and/or partner with other lead generation sources who have their own websites.

Various models of online lead generation exist, but typically, a consumer who encounters a lead-generation website enters their contact details in exchange for a free offer of some sort.

♦ In some cases, the info seeker would enter his/her information directly within a banner advertisement and the lead could be sent directly to the advertiser.

♦ A full-page lead generation advertisement may promote some free offer to encourage visitors to enter as much personal information as required to process the lead and for the individual to receive their free item. This type of online lead generation can result in lots of leads, some of which can be low-quality, including leads with purposefully inaccurate information, since the information was entered for the purpose of receiving something free and not as a result of a sincere desire to be contacted.

♦ Another common Internet lead generation model is through co-registration advertising (Co-Reg). Through this process, an individual is offered the opportunity to receive additional free information while registering for some other service. For example, while subscribing to a magazine or ordering printing services, a consumer might request additional information that is being offered. In other words, the demographic info provided by the consumer, as well as the service they were signing up for would indicate the category of lead. Following the same examples, someone who was signing up for a health magazine subscription and also requested info for a nutritional product might be categorized as a “Health and Fitness” lead or “Weight Loss” lead, depending upon the specifics of the nutritional product. A consumer who is purchasing online business cards from a printing service, and who also registers for information about working at home, could be categorized as a “Business Opportunity” lead.

Pay-for-Performance (P4P) leads and sales represent another category of lead generation or sales programs. Some of the above examples might be conducted on a P4P basis, or not. Meaning, on the one hand, you pay for the leads regardless of their quality. And on the other hand, some P4P models might base remuneration on actual sales. Such will typically cost more, but of course, you’re not paying unless you get results.

These are not the only ways lead-generation agencies generate their inventory, but they are some of the ways that lead agencies can provide current, targeted leads to your phone or email inbox.

Like everything else in the marketing world, you would be wise to start small and test the effectiveness of a given online lead generation service (or several such services) and scale up your efforts for a lead source that shows promise.

Of course what is understood is that you have a lead processing activity already in place, to effectively utilize these paid leads, whether that might be calling the leads immediately, or including the purchased emails into your existing sales funnel.

Should You Create an Infomercial for Your Product?

eCommerce

After 1984, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated regulations to govern the commercial content of television, infomercials began to proliferate the late-night airwaves because they were cheap to make and proved to be a highly profitable media, selling anything that could be easily shipped.

In fact, infomercials became so profitable that more and more money poured into the industry and by the dawn of the 21st century, big brands started pumping money into the infomercial profit party in a much bigger way. This raised the profile of the infomercial industry as a whole, and furthered the acceleration of rising rates.

Having been involved with some of the most successful infomercials, I have observed that infomercials, as an advertising media, have matured in a way somewhat analogous (although not nearly as fast), as what has happened in the Pay Per Click advertising channel. As PPC became a successful advertising model, over the years advertisers have driven up PPC costs.

Further, the level of sophistication in PPC strategies to stay profitable has also increased.

In a similar way, the costs and risks associated with creating and testing infomercials have skyrocketed since their humble beginnings.

And yet, the investment to test for sales potential via PPC is less than TV.

So, when someone asks me if they should produce an infomercial, rather than delve into the relative merits of their product or service and how broad the demographics are for the market that buys it, I simply ask how much testing has been done through less expensive media?

When that has been refined and scaled up to maximize the demand and profits, enough marketing data will be gained to determine what are the best keywords and messages that underlie this product’s success. And all that data will be very important as a research basis for scripting and producing an infomercial TV “test,” to see how it would do on a limited trial basis as a TV advertisement.

There is much more to know about creating infomercials, but the simple answer about whether you should create an infomercial for your product would be based upon how well it’s selling on the Internet and using the supporting data to help evaluate a translation to TV.

Stated another way, for most business persons, the question about whether a product would be successful as a national infomercial shouldn’t even be considered until it’s been tested online and then tested in smaller geographical regions on TV.

How Google Search Works (in 5 minutes)

Every time someone searches for content on the internet, there are thousands, sometimes millions, of webpages available. How Google figures out which results to show starts long before a searcher begins to type.

In brief, Google evaluates the search terms a user enters into its search engine and matches them to the content on the web, seeking the content that is most likely to be helpful and reliable and then automatically putting it all together in a search results page designed to provide the information desired.

Google has been mapping the web since 1998, which creates an “index” of content. The index is like a library, except it contains more info than in all the world’s libraries put together.

In a fraction of a second, Google’s Search algorithms sort through hundreds of billions of webpages in their Search index to find the most relevant, useful results for what searchers are seeking.

Google’s ranking algorithms are constantly evolving in an ongoing attempt to better understand and serve relevant results to users.

The search words used are analyzed with respect to the same or similar words on websites (keywords). Additionally, existing web links leading to the pages are also analyzed, which helps inform relevancy. Furthermore, geographical locations and how recent the content was published are a few other factors that help filter the final results searchers are presented.

Google’s algorithms are also continually being developed to better identify scam websites to remove them from search results.

Google engineers continue to refine search results by conducting hundreds of thousands of experiments every year, resulting in thousands of improvements. It’s a never-ending process of improvement.

Technology Advertising: It’s the Story! (Not the Technology)

To marketing and advertising types, the technology of getting a message out can be seductive. Regardless of whether it’s (particularly in the past) via direct mail, magazine ads, radio, TV commercials, etc., such does demand a certain amount of attention to make everything work effectively.

Sometimes the technology can take center stage when you have imagined, produced and executed an idea that generates impressive returns on investment.

Alternatively, it can be disheartening when the increase in new sales does not surpass the money and resources it took to create and get the message out.

Nowadays what can be accomplished with technology — particularly regarding the use of the internet, databases, data science, artificial intelligence, and instant information processing — is beyond the reality of many.

Sure, text messages, video-on-demand, social sharing and related channels are readily embraced by a massive chunk of individuals in our world.

  • But what about emerging ways to personalize a message so that a marketing ad can be more relevant to a consumer at the instant they view it?
  • How about marketing videos that allow viewers to engage with the video subject in real time?
  • How about video advertising that includes subtle elements like a clock in the video that displays the correct time of your current geographical location?
  • Or a marketing video that displays the same weather as your location, or even geographic elements from your location?
  • And what if such personalization were tied to something as inherently ignored as a traditional online banner ad viewed on a computer, tablet or any smart phone?

As intriguing as this or any new or future technology may be, what is rightfully emphasized in the world of marketing and advertising is “the story (or idea).”

As obvious at that may seem, it’s worth emphasis and re-emphasis and even over-emphasis as it’s too easy to be allured by the magic of technology in and of itself.

Without a compelling story to sincerely capture the attention of real people to then engage their attention, the technology is for naught.

Of course, now, more than ever, determining the most effective idea, or story, is perhaps more magical than any technology might ever be.

Scientific Advertising

You’ve read a few marketing books. How many ‘old’ marketing books have you read?

I’ve gobbled up a bunch over the years and continue to do so as much as possible. And although I have a few favorites, in my opinion, the most important one is not a new one. In fact, it may very well be the oldest:

Scientific Advertising was written by Claude C. Hopkins in 1923 and is truly a seminal book for the world of direct response marketing. The principles of testing and measuring that Hopkins established are as important today as back then. The difference being that what took months to test back then through newspapers, magazines, and direct mail, can be tested nowadays with extraordinary speed online.

The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in a single ad. Weeks of work sometimes. The ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people. But back of that ad may lie reams of data, volumes of information, months of research.

So this is no lazy man’s field.

Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins, 1923

The mantra of 21st century marketing is the same as back then: Test, Test and More Testing!

Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them—not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort—the buyers of your product. (1923)

Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins, 1923

“Traditional Media is Changing” (Today’s Understatement)

Digital Media

“Traditional media is changing.” That’s an understatement. The real facts are that traditional media is going through a tectonic shift of historical proportions. Although the pattern has been established for many years, advertising money has been, and still is, moving away from TV, radio, direct mail and print media towards digital online advertising. In particular, print newspapers and magazines have been hit hard by declining ad revenues, forcing some out of business and leaving others trying to make sense of a new media landscape which seems to reward “clicks” over quality.

Regardless of how much, or how little, you may care about how fast traditional media is changing, the real story is how much the world of online media continues to expand. We are amidst an unusual period of history where so much is concurrently being developed so fast, in terms of new media and advertising, that the rules of play are in a state of flux. How you are participating in the game today could have a significant impact on your business tomorrow.

In the past two decades Google has gone from a new but well-considered search engine to the dominant advertising behemoth on the planet.

Several years later, Facebook grew from college campuses to become the largest social network ever experienced. And along the way, it’s broken established privacy expectations while becoming the largest “social” advertising platform, surpassed in ad revenue only by Google. Facebook also serves as an interesting example where an important part of its earlier success was attracting businesses to their platform to share their messages socially “for free,” while step-by-step eclipsing that with a paid model.

Nowadays, Amazon, already the largest retailer on the planet, is making notable headway as another global advertising player.

LinkedIn is a significant force in the B2B ad space.

Let’s not overlook the myriad social and other ad platforms; and expect more to come.

Data science and artificial intelligence are not new to the advertising world but their pace of integration is accelerating. AI in fast becoming a guiding force in a significant portion of the world’s advertising optimization.

And how could we talk about new media without mentioning video. Never before has video creation and consumption been so accessible (re your phone). As a business, leveraging video is akin to having a website in the 90s.

In spite of all the changes, one thing remains constant: media is still heavily reliant upon advertising revenue for survival. Although there are some exceptions, such as paywalls which require consumer payment to receive media, for the most part, consumers are still resistant to paying for media for an extended period.

Hence, how your business gets its message out to potential new customers is largely going to be informed by new media advertising. More importantly, it’s usually a strategic mix of media that makes for the most effective marketing.

The good news is that advertising with smaller budgets has never been so opportune. The bad news is that determining the right opportunities for your business will typically require some experimentation and testing along the way, which may result in a temporary inefficient use of resources.

By the way, testing and optimizing marketing and advertising dollars is not new, it’s just that digital media facilitates the process in ways that could not be dreamed prior to the internet. It just takes effort to gain the fruits of increasing your Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).