Why I have a “love/hate” relationship with advertising

As someone who works in the web marketing business, I have a strange relationship with advertising.

First, I want it for free.
Second, I don’t like doing it.
Third, I know if I don’t do it, nothing happens.

So, it’s a love/hate relationship.

When I started my web design business in 2003, I did my utmost to avoid paying for any kind of advertising. I focused on search engine optimisation (doing it all myself), writing articles and submitting them to directories, handing out flyers and business cards – anything that would promote my business for free.

In 2008, I discovered Google AdWords. It was painful to see Google hammering my credit card each month. But within six months, the turnover of my business had doubled and I’ve never looked back.

So, I know advertising works. But still, I hate paying for it. What makes it less painful, when I see my credit card statement, is thinking of the new clients I have gained in the past month, who have come directly as a result of those Google ads. The lifetime value of those new clients will pay for the advertising at least tenfold.

Still, I’m glad I know how to do AdWords for myself. Honestly, I would hate to rely on most web marketing agencies to do my advertising. From what I’ve seen, it’s a Wild West out there.

Marketing agencies are basically lazy. They’ll look for easy ways to make money – for them, not you.

They’ll say:
Let’s create a new logo
Get your website redone
Do social media to create “engagement”
Run Adwords
Install Google analytics

And all you have to do is pay $xxx each month and well make sure you’re busy.

I’m sure you’ve heard that before.

What I’ve come to realise through experience, is that cookie cutter approaches to advertising online simply don’t work. It’s not enough to just do all the technical things right.

The truth is, Google AdWords is getting tougher and tougher. Fewer people are clicking on ads, because they know its an Ad. They choose organic first. That’s the honest truth, from someone who specialises in Google AdWords.

So, to be successful, you can’t just copy everyone else’s ads. Your advertising has to be unique. It has to connect with your target audience. Your marketing messages must address what your buyer is already thinking.

This is the lost art called copywriting. Truly great copywriting is largely instinctive. It’s the ability to connect with people. It has little to do with being able to write well in an academic sense.

I’ve met some brilliant advertising copy writers who failed English (and most other subjects) at school. But they know how to sell. It’s something intuitive that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Hence, the problem with most marketing agencies. What can easily happen is they end up alienating your customers by doing lazy marketing that hasn’t been thought through, and in many cases has nothing to do with the conversation your buyer is already having with themselves.

You must have something unique. You must be saying the right thing and stepping into the conversation, you must also be prepared to take an element of risk.

As an example of a copywriter who truly “got it”, I would like to share one of my favourite ads of all time. This was many years ago, when I was living in the UK. Here’s the ad, for a chocolate drink called Ovaltine.

“The French drink Ovaltine for breakfast. They say it gives them energy. They can’t understand why the English drink it at bedtime. They think we’re all bonkers.”

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