This week, Adblock Plus announced that it would start serving ads, which is of course, the most predictably ironic thing to happen online in some time. But my question is this: are targeted social ads really that bad?
No; they’re not.
Admittedly, in answering this question, I’m a little bias. After all, if it wasn’t for things like social ads and the industry in which they find themselves, I’d probably be out of a job. This one, anyway. But my professional reliance on advertising notwithstanding, I still think that targeted social ads are, in fact, a good thing. The problem is with the lack of knowledge marketers have about their capabilities, resulting in the removal of the word ‘targeted’ from the equation.
An Explosion in Advertising
Call it what you want – direct advertising, social media advertising, content marketing, influencer outreach – paid media is paid media in all its forms. And, considering we have seen the amount of branded content we are exposed to on a daily basis increase by tenfold in the last three decades (about 5,000 pieces of branded content per day, by the way) I can understand why consumers are so sick of it. In this generation of free, the last thing we want is to have our highly tailored experience online ruined with ad content we didn’t ask for, right? And yet, there we are, at every turn, facing a brand new ad.
Advertising is nothing new. Broadcasting messages to a wide audience dates back about 6,000 years (in the form of flash banner ads, obviously) and modern advertising (arguably) dates back to 1836, when ‘La Presse’ in France sold space in its newspaper so that it could lower its price to consumers. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing these ads, we might just have hit a tipping point in terms of how much irrelevant content we are willing to take in. And right there is why targeted social ads can be a good thing.
Getting to Know You
Social presents an incredible opportunity to advertisers that so few are properly identifying. Blanketing your ads to the general public will lead to a higher cost-per-click, a lower click-through rate and an overall underperforming campaign. That’s unfortunate when social provides the tools necessary to generate the exact opposite.
By properly identifying your audience and drilling down into the specifics that make up a persona, you can serve ads that fit right into their online experience. That means that instead of angrily resisting your content, they will be much more likely to explore it. This, of course, won’t always be the case, but by implementing these kinds of strategies, marketers can begin to join in on the experience of social as opposed to taking away from it. This leads users to seek out the ad blocking software that has grown so rapidly in the last few years.
Alas, this is largely not the case. The simplicity with which marketers can use these ad platforms and the cost effectiveness of running large-scale campaigns with generic messages has rendered the social audience exhausted. Targeted social ads can mean a greater connection to your audience, and the first steps in the development of a deeper connection, but so few brands are properly utilizing that strategy. Until they do, social ads are going to be more of an experience detractor rather than something that can benefit both sides of the transaction.
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