Advertising, ye ‘old engine of capitalism, sure has been taking a pounding lately. Is it a victim of the “wild west” internet and the lovely chaos we’re all involved with? In the world of Web 2.0 marketing, value-add content (i.e. useful information) is king, and when everybody starts chatting, re-tweeting, and blogging about this valuable information, it builds the brand. “No need for your filthy, self-centered ADVERTISING,” so the reasoning goes.
A lively conversation about Brand Bank Accounts went on last week within David Meerman Scott’s WebInkNow blog. I found myself defending advertising. I used to write a lot of B-to-B product and service ads before I gravitated to other forms of marketing communications.
It’s true that AdSpeak, brag and boast, and me-me-me ad copy are definitely ineffective and passé. Good riddance. But advertising can focus on delivering the kind of valuable content that Web 2.0-focused marketing folk are talking about.
For instance, Case Study copy allows potential customers to visualize themselves benefiting from a new technology, and “how-to” themes provide helpful tips and application ideas.
Ads accelerate awareness, and should provide a way for the marketplace to comment. On-line ads certainly could be formatted to let people chime in – rather than just expecting the reader to click-through to a static website for more information (or unfortunately in many cases, a hard-sell pitch).
Take a look at IBM’s new “Decade of Smart” campaign. Two-page spreads running this month in Business Week, Forbes and other magazines provide a fact-rich narrative on the ways that various industries are using smarter information systems. This is thought-provoking stuff. No hype for IBM products. It ends with an invitation to “join us” in building a smarter planet at ibm.com/smarterplanet.
This is advertising that doesn’t “subtract” from brand equity, as suggested (categorically) by Huib Van Bockel (a marketing director for Red Bull) as reported in David’s blog: “Brands withdraw from their accounts through the attention that they demand from consumers in the form of television commercials, print ads and the like.” Mr. Van Bockel’s important theme, however, is that brands add to their “accounts” by creating things of value, and that a brand needs to give more than it receives. So true.
Unfortunately, too high a percentage of advertising doesn’t offer valuable information, and much of it is blatantly self-serving; in the B-to-B world we have an opportunity to do better than this. Let us know what you think.