Saturday, March 6, 2010

Of Ads and Artichokes

One of my hobbies is cooking. One of my professions is advertising.

So I guess it is not surprising that I often find links between the two. But Ads and Artichokes?

It occurred to me the other day, when I was preparing one of my favorite Italian artichoke recipes: fried artichoke hearts with garlic. Like much authentically good Italian cuisine, the dish is surprisingly simple. Take some artichokes and remove the stems, leaves and choke, leaving just the heart. Slice the heart into bite sized pieces. Sauté some chopped garlic in olive oil, and then add the artichoke pieces. Fry gently until nicely browned and crisp. Add salt and pepper, and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Voilà (or perhaps better, Eccolà)! Just eat with your fingers. Mmmmm….Yummy!

Of course, you will find yourself left with a ton of pretty useless artichoke stems, leaves and chokes. Actually, the edible part of the artichoke is less than 10% of the original plant. And so far, I have not been able to find much of anything useful to do with this leftover stuff, except to toss or compost it.

Which brings me to advertising…….
I am now convinced that much of the historically successful business model for advertising was persuading advertisers that they needed to deliver a lot of useless ads. Ads with the wrong message, delivered to the wrong target.
The guiltiest ones were perhaps newspapers. How often do you recall receiving that massive lump of paper on a Sunday, with tons of ads for houses in neighborhoods you were not interested in; jobs you would never want; junk you would never buy? And yet, each and every one receiving a paper got the same mass of stuff.

That’s because there wasn’t really much of a way to target the advertising to the people receiving it: one size had to fit all, and everyone was delivered the same mass of advertising, irrespective of their interests. Who paid for all this waste? Why, the advertisers of course. There is the old saw, “I know half of my ad budget is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” This joyless assessment of an ineluctable reality was what paid for my two children’s costly private education…

Newspapers were among the guiltiest, but by no means the only ones. Wasted radio spots blaring at listeners who had tuned out; television commercials shining into living rooms emptied of their inhabitants who had gone for a beer or a pee….Just lots of waste.Which is why everyone held out such great hopes for online advertising: finally, a truly effective way to dispense with the waste; to deliver only the right messages to the right audience.

Therein lies a great problem for online advertisers: they are selling the hearts of the artichokes, with none of the rest of the plant. Which makes the entire business model that much more difficult to price correctly. Why do online advertisers—at least those using display ads—continue to base their prices on a CPM (cost per thousand) messages delivered basis? Why do they continue to use the same measures of performance that are being used by their artichoke relatives in the realms of classical, old line print, radio and TV ads?

There must be another way, you say, and you are right. To find out which one, stay tuned to this blog. But first, buy a copy of my new book, “The Impossible Advantage – Winning the Competitive Game by Changing the Rules”. It has some hints that might just show you the yellow brick road to advertising success: without the rest of the artichoke!

3 comments:

Chris said...

I will have to try that artichoke recipe, and take a photo so you can post it. Also would be nice if you added a link to your book. People like things easy. :)

Gill@acm.org said...

There is the direct marketing model, charging for response, which some click-thru pricing approximates. There seems to be a Kulturkampf over whether the Internet is best used like a traditional mass medium, a traditional targeted medium, or something new and different. This won't get settled theoretically but rather by success in the marketplace.

Soulless Ghost said...

Really cool post u have here. It would be great to read more concerning this topic. Thank you for sharing this information.