The above billboard's ad inventory (behind the tree) promoted an important charity. But less than 1 in 1000 people who passed by it knew what was being advertised. They couldn't see it even if they wanted to, but few people wanted to, which is why they could only afford the discount billboard inventory. Almost all traditional advertising is heading in that direction - noise to be ignored.
Worse yet, when you buy ads you usually end up paying for some such ad inventory...
- the phantom distribution created by newspapers and magazines that were printed then burned (or never even printed in the first place)
- the newspaper website that creates inventory by refreshing the page every 5 minutes
- the TV ad that runs at the wrong time and/or is delivered to the wrong audience
- the niche clean traffic source that pads their numbers with low value & low cost social media traffic
- the ad unit at the bottom of the page that nobody sees
- the incidental ad clicks in Gmail
- the social media and warez junk your AdWords account subsidizes if you stick with default settings
- the "cheap" AdSense ad clicks that are clicked on by nothing but robots
- the shady Yahoo! Search "partners" which make AdSense look like a clean source of traffic and allow Google to charge 3X as much per click
By the time there is a standard ad unit advertisers and publishers are busy perverting it while everyone else is learning to ignore it. The best advertising typically looks more like information than advertising.
The liquor store looks like something right out of the white pages. Simple, direct, effective. They could have a fancy sign that is hard to read, but the clarity and location of the sign makes it compelling.
I think that picture is a strong analogy when comparing the efficacy of advertising elsewhere versus making your own website better and creating a service that is worthy of word of mouth marketing. Make your site better & deliver more value and anyone who finds you has an opportunity to benefit from it. There are a lot of ways you can improve your authority, but the stuff you do on your site is generally going to have the best ROI
Advertising that looks like advertising is rarely as effective as the type of advertising you can generate by creating something remarkable. People spend money with the goal to influence and manipulate. But when you get word of mouth coverage it is more like helpful tips, advice, and information from a friend. Just yesterday there were 2 unsolicited Tweets about our membership program.
Each of their kind reviews is worth far more than 20 or 50 or 100 typical AdWords clicks because we don't trust advertisers - particularly in the internet marketing space. A customer who bought something and likes it provides independent social proof of value. Customer recommendations become a form of advertising that resonates.
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