Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Marketing Delusion: "They Love Our Ads!"

Over at Church of the Customer Blog, Jackie Huba rightly calls out self-absorbed marketers who think the world just wants more ads. The quote, from a Yankee Group analyst, is too great not to share:
"The day is coming when wireless users will experience nirvana scenarios -- mobile ads tied to your individual behavior, what you are doing, and where you are."

Ads on my mobile phone - now that's nirvana! I hear people complaining all the time that all they can do with their phones is talk to friends and family, or sent them text messages, or surf the web. No ads. It's a total bummer, you know?

The safest assumption is always that nobody wants to see your ad, nobody cares, and more than likely they'll view it as an intrusion. That means it had better be relevant and well-produced and useful. Will that lead to "nirvana?" No, it will lead to people not completely hating you, and thus perhaps paying attention. But it's like the DMV: the biggest compliment you're going to get is, "That wasn't too horrible."

If you click through from Jackie's post to the article on the expected Google Phone, you find that the scenario is actually that you get ads, and then you talk for free. I think there is a market for that, perhaps among young people or others who otherwise couldn't afford a mobile phone.

But frankly, the whole thing makes my monthly AT&T bill a great deal. Pay that, and just talk to people? Great. That's why I have a phone. Google's plans are interesting, but I think they're fundamentally different than what they've done elsewhere. Pay-per-click search ads work becaue they fit with what the user is doing - I'm searching for something, and the ads provide things that are often better than the organic search results, especially if I'm looking to buy something.

When I'm using my phone, I'm in a completely different frame of mind. The ads, rather than an enhancement of my search experience that also happens to make money for somebody, become a barrier to get through to do what I reallly want to do. That's a critical difference, and why I think the Google Phone's market - as the device and service have been described so far - is just for a "can't/won't pay the phone bill" niche.

And given the history of Google search and AdWords ads, even if they get it right initially - providing such useful information and services that you don't mind the ads - I think it's likely that an army of marketers will be there figuring out how to game the system. Google's search results, once excellent, are now as cluttered with useless links as everybody else's. AdSense results are often similarly unhelpful. If the phone is a success, expect the long decline to begin there too.

But hey, I could be wrong, and there may be some important details about this that we haven't heard yet. But until I learn about some innovative twist to this, I'm with Jackie: that "nirvana" sounds more like something out of The Inferno to me.


Mary Schmidt said...

Yes, and I wake up every morning just hopin' and prayin' that somebody will call and try to sell me something!

This is just toooo goofy. Can I get some of what they're smoking? ;-)

John Rosen said...

I look forward to the day I get a contract to do some focus groups or even quantitative market research to determine which of the following annoys, disturbs, and ultimately "turns off" customer the most:
1. Those subscription forms in magazines that fall out on the floor of your living room
2. Telemarketing phone calls that arrive just when you're giving your first born a life lesson
3. Being transferred sixteen times at a call center "help" line.
4. Getting an ad on your cell phone right when you want to use the phone, not look at it!