Sat 20 Sep 2014 06:38:42 AM PDT
What can brands do now?
(edit 26 Mar 2015: remove confusing uses of the P word.)
Giving respect to brand advertising, by Doc Searls, is the latest chapter in the blog conversation about the problems that targeted web advertising poses for web publishers and brand advertisers. It's fun to speculate about big-picture fixes, such as finally cleaning up trackability problems in the browser. But that's potentially slow-moving development work. Fixing an old software bug that people have had to work around always is.
So is there anything that brand advertisers can do today? Not changing the industry, or changing the ecosystem, but items we can take to the meeting we have to have about this stuff this week?
I'm inclined to say yes. (Otherwise I would have had to stop writing right here.)
Avoid making decisions based only on online metrics. The chances are good that at least one fraud ring or overenthusiastic intermediary is tainting those numbers. Sales numbers and offline surveys are harder to mess with.
You can "advertise online" using media that create online echoes. You can have a presence at events covered online, or even stick with TV and other old-school advertising that doesn't have the fraud problems of online. (Ever notice that people post TV commercials on social sites, but not the other way around?) Stick with search ads where they work, but avoid throwing money at fraudulent online display and video ads.
Reward your existing customers for using tracking protection. If your brand is related to computers at all, help people load up and use Privacy Badger. And run an exclusive area of your site, just for tracking-protected users, that offers some exclusive product, service or other benefit.
The point is not to prevent customers from being "poached" by competitors using creepy deceptive advertising, but to push yourself into the future by a few years. You can't change the whole technology market, but the sooner you have some experience working with tracking-protected customers, the better.
Tracking protection could turn into a crisis for many intermediaries, but it's an opportunity for brands. Have fun with it.
Social media reputation can be a way to measure some customer-facing aspects of the business, for some product categories (Not necessarily—some social sites are terrible at this.) Social media can be a way to get a second chance to fix customer service issues that dropped on the floor. But you can't build reputation in social media.
The brands that have good social media reputations are the ones where customer-facing employees have a good attitude. You can't fix this with "social media marketing." You have to do the whole enchilada for everyone who talks to a customer: decent pay, reasonable schedules, don't order people to abuse or deceive customers, all that.
It's a waste of time to do perky social media marketing that contrasts with stressed-out service people—even the best Social Media Manager can only make things look worse. (Bonus link: Conversations about brands. A Primer. by George Tannenbaum)
Remember when Apple took a stand against Adobe Flash and a zillion post-Flash web development products popped up? Now, Apple is taking a stand against creepy advertising. We can expect better tracking protection on the client to be a thing, and there are certainly startups brewing in the post-creepy space. But for brands, it's not just time to pass the popcorn and wait for the IT industry to fix its brokenness. There's low-profile work to do that will help you today.