Trust-based Advertising

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John Robb:

"The conclusion I reached was that traditional "eyeball" based advertising was dead. Customers want objective decision making tools to decide between alternatives and advertisers want to pay for acquired customers and not eyeballs. Unfortunately, every ad firm or portal I talked to refused to see it this way, they were too busy pushing the old, ineffective model of advertising. I still believe that this is the future of advertising despite the resistance of the existing players. […] Of course, the big portals and advertisers still don’t get this, but you can see Yahoo flirting with this in the quote below. They are starting to provide more focused content, but it isn’t objective content. In the Yahoo model of focused content, customers get screwed."

"[O]bjective decision making tools" make so much more sense from the client’s perspective. Now, if your job is to pitch an inferior product, you don’t want to dance to that song. Yes, companies want to sell what they have, but that only works in the short term. That big online incumbents either don’t get it or don’t want to, is an opportunity for new niche players. I’ve always liked the Gomez model (Robb’s former company he’s writing about), and the Tom’s Hardware Guide of the world demonstrate how much more compelling they are versus the quarter-hearted attempts at verticalization by bland generic portals.

09/12/02 update: Rick Bruner gets all riled up! Rick comes with many sensible arguments, though I don’t think John had consumer brands in mind as much as portals. There’s room for both performance-based and brand advertising, but frankly, this is only tangential to the discussion at hand (this is just the accounting and risk-sharing part of it). The Internet allows a deepness of content that makes shallow ads less and less relevant. Not that their content was "relevant" on TV either, but at least they don’t feel out of place there. And the crass commercialism of, say, X10 who played the impression game to death, isn’t exactly compatible with all brands and the values they want to convey.
I’m sorry if purchase-related informative content doesn’t work for the NYT (Rick’s example), and that’s probably why I’m not reading anything about products I want to buy there. Most ads displayed there are not even relevant to me because I couldn’t even buy the products in Europe. This impression-based business is so random you need huge volumes of ad inventory to start making any money. Yes, TV is random too, but guess what, most brands never advertise there either.
So where are all these potential buyers, as well as more and more advertisers? Try Google, as everyone who mentions products and brands will witness in their referrer stats. Or Usenet, where there’s still a lot of interesting discussion if you know where to look. That’s the reality of how people behave online, and frankly, many publishers and advertisers demonstrate they still don’t really get it.
Many companies seem to mistakenly believe they’re in the impulse purchase business. Well, show me anything above $100 that people don’t ponder before they buy (some clothing at the mall maybe?) People even keep $25 books in their wish list for months. Now of course who researches CPG commodities? That’s a moot point out of the scope of this discussion. And I hardly ever see P&G, Coke or Marlboro ads online, so I’m not sure Rick started a post about online ads but in fact ended up defending TV and in-store merchandising.

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