26th May 2016

Digital Marketing — The User Strikes Back

In my last post I spoke about what I thought digital marketing was. My ever-growing quest to understand what I do and be able to explain to my clients, friends and family in a clear and concise way.

As I said before, this is important to me because I truly believe that in order to do my job effectively for my clients and team, I have to be able to explain everything I do in very simple terms. In my eyes, by being able to explain it in this way, it means I understand it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In this post, I want to dive a little bit deeper. I want to try and get into the mindset of the most important people to us as advertisers… The client.

At this point, many agencies will be nodding their heads in agreement. What they don’t realise is that I have very cleverly lured them to a cloud city of deceit.

We love our clients. We take them for drinks and meals. We treat them like royalty but I hate to break it to you…

Your clients are not the droids you’re looking for.

The real people we should be serving is our client’s client. The end customer, the consumer, the people who actually look at and interact with our ads and content.

Advertisers often see themselves as a kind of Jedi. Using our powers of persuasion and in depth knowledge of what we do to create change in the world around us. I have news for you. If we are Jedi then the people that we target are the force. Like the force they are sentient and powerful and without them, we are nothing.

In order for us to be able to serve our users, we need to understand them thoroughly and instead of trying to manipulate them, we should be learning from them, allowing them to guide us. They are literally (well maybe figuratively) our life force.

I love advertising. It was an industry I fell into accidentally and immediately adored. So many of my idols labelled it as a dark art and candidly warned me off it but, I had a different point of view. I saw it as an opportunity to improve people’s lives by providing them with the information they needed when they needed it and more importantly provide them with things that would add value to their lives.

As much as I am biased towards advertising, I am not naive. If you don’t know this already you might want to brace yourself. This is the bit about the dark side.

People don’t like being sold to. (Duh duh duuuuuuhhh)

I know, it’s dramatic right? The general public don’t like to feel like they are being funnelled or swatted or whatever you want to name your framework. They don’t want ads unceremoniously shoved down their throat. If advertising provided nutrition then the world would look like Jabba the Hutt. There are just so many bad ads out there it is shocking. Going onto the internet today is like kissing a beautiful princess only to find out later that she is in fact your sister. In many cases you could describe it as ‘a wretched hive of scum and villainy’.

We look at software like ad blockers as a rebellion strike against all that we stand for but, maybe we should step back and reassess our options. People have been rising up against bad advertising since the practice began. If people are blocking our ads then, instead of looking at how we infiltrate or circumvent the software, maybe we should look at how we deliver our messages in a different way.

Bad advertisers are the empire. They use the force, just the same as the Jedi but, they use it for nefarious purposes. If I had my way every intrusive banner ad, every spammy email, every single badly targeted search ad would be pre-cursed by the imperial march.

Our users are the most valuable asset we have and as a industry we too often present them with flashy diamonds that at the smallest scratch reveal a powdery, coal like substance.

How do we resolve this issue?

If we are the survive then the empire must be destroyed!

The answer is fairly simple but, the journey is long. Like so many things, the easy path is rarely the right one.
The age of advertising has changed. We have the ability to understand our users better than ever. We should use this information for the good of the audience, not just as a way to manipulate them. We should be data led and results focused but our ultimate goal should be putting our users at the centre of our advertising. Creating stories that make our audience the hero.

To get back to my Star Wars references, an advertiser should be like Obi Wan Kenobi in episodes V and VI. We should be invisible. A guiding hand delivering wisdom when it’s most needed. Observing them from afar and adjusting our activity to give them the best experience possible. Do this, and your advertising will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

The basis of what we do should be to provide informative, engaging content that is relevant to the user at the time they are reading it.

It’s not about using content as a replacement for every other tactic but utilising it to give our users everything they need, when they need it. There needs to be a sense of balance with everything we do.

It’s also about educating our clients to the point that they understand that although we report to them, provide them with metrics and results, the most important thing is their customer and that is who we aim to serve.

For those of you that don’t believe me I’ll leave you with a quote from Master Yoda:

‘That is why you fail’

May the force be with you.

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