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Digital Advertising: Relevance versus Intent

4 minute read

Chris Leone   by Chris Leone February 20, 2017

This year, online advertising will surpass television advertising for the first time ever. 

By 2020, advertising dollars spent on mobile will equal that of television (if not, surpass).

Make no mistake: advertising dollars are flying into digital channels at the expense of traditional channels. 

While that's creating a ton of exciting new opportunities for businesses like yours, you must tread carefully, because...

a lot of online advertising is done poorly.

Let's start with acknowledging the obvious: If there's attention, the marketing dollars will follow (see stats above). And when there's volume, there's a wide spectrum of quality. 

Let's also acknowledge some of the unintended consequences of (bad) online advertising: 

1) it clutters our social channels
2) it clutters the games we play
3) it clutters the content we're trying to read

(and we wonder why the ad business gets such a bad rap...)

But unintended consequences aside, well-executed online advertising can be effective. Really, really, really effective. 

That naturally begs the question of "which type of online advertising should I invest in?"

Rather than just give you a fish, I'll give you a rod and teach you how to think about this question.

In the world of online advertising, there are two primary ways to intersect a potential customer. One way is through intent. Let's call this...

intent-based advertising.

"Intent" refers to the intention of our potential customer, i.e. why they are doing whatever it is they are doing. 

When I go to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, my intent is to be entertained or informed. Not to shop. 

When I go to Google or Bing (just kidding, no one uses Bing), my intent is to find something very specific. I'm essentially asking to be marketed to. Seth Godin refers to this as "permission marketing."

Search marketing has historically generated some of the highest returns on investment. That’s because it’s easier to convert a user who has the intention of making a purchase than one who isn't.

If you can't reach someone through intent, then we do it through relevance. Let's call that...

relevance-based advertising.

This is about getting the right message in front of the right person, regardless of whether or not they're in the buying the mode. They haven't shown an intent to buy, but we're hopeful that if we can make a case compelling enough, they'll abandon what they're doing and come check us out.  

Here's the thing.

Relevance-based advertising is nothing new. It's essentially how all advertising worked before the Googles and Yahoos of the world came along. But similar to how search "stole" ad dollars from more traditional relevance-based channels, new iterations of those channels are stealing ad dollars back. And Facebook is the biggest culprit. They figured out...

how the right targeting & context changes the game.

People love buying things, but hate being advertised to. Why is that? If buying a product is such an enjoyable experience, why isn’t the discovery of that product also enjoyable?

It’s because marketers have overloaded us with irrelevant advertising.

When a potential customer is interrupted by ads selling things they have no interest in, their time is being wasted. This creates bad associations with a brand and advertising in general.

But when an ad is precisely matched to its target market, the experience of seeing that ad is completely different. 

Facebook recognized this problem and fixed it. They did it by offering...

laser precision targeting.

Advertisers can now reach their target marketing more directly than ever before. This includes matching ads to job title, interests, geography, age, demographics. If you want to target female HR professionals with families in California who are over 30, Facebook will let you.

This type of targeting ensures only the most qualified individuals see your ad. It's a game changer, and it...

solved the context problem.

Instead of slapping random ads alongside the content users actually care about, Facebook’s algorithms carefully place relevant advertising content within the Facebook timeline. Strict formatting guidelines ensures ads look and feel similar to the social content users are used to seeing. The result is a seamless experience between social content and advertisements.

The ads don’t feel out of place. Instead, they are a natural extension of the rest of the content. This solves the context problem. Make sense? Good. So...

where does that leave us?

If you're matching to intent, know their intent better than they know it themselves. If you're matching for relevance, make it as relevant as humanly possible. Go narrow and go deep.

Search = intent.
Social = relevance.

However you choose to reach your market, respect where they are and why they're there. Then, do it better than your competitors.

 


 

As President, Chris is responsible for leading all the day-to-day operations of WebStrategies. His work has been featured on the Google Analytics and Hubspot blogs, and he’s a regular columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch.

 

Topics: Facebook, Digital advertising

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