Word of mouth, but with an online twist, will be central to construction advertising in 2012
Advertising is wasteful. That has been acknowledged since John Wanamaker famously observed about a hundred years ago: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Advertising works on the premise that if you put your ad in front of enough people enough times, they will buy or specify your products. Unfortunately people are becoming less accepting of advertising and it is likely that very much more than half of the money spent on advertising will be wasted.
Just as newspaper readers jump past the ads and TV viewers move their attention away from the TV, so web users develop techniques to avoid looking at the ads. Those who watch users with an eye tracker can see how users do this; they will even avoid legitimate content if it looks like an ad. This, together with the growing range of advertising media, means that advertising models are changing, and yet we do not know what they are changing to. What we can surmise is that traditional advertising as we know it will become less effective and less cost-effective.
Uncertainty and waste are both pretty certain for advertising as we approach 2012.
As technology advances, more people are connected to each other, and studies of how people are influenced to make purchases show that the biggest factor is what you are told by people you trust
Social networks have added a further medium to traditional online click-through ads, posters, periodicals and TV, cinema and radio; soon they will be joined by ever-greater numbers of ads targeted at individuals through their phones or displayed on a poster in front of them. All of which will give advertisers more opportunity to waste money, and probably more uncertainty about which elements of the promotional mix are working.
Construction advertising is a little different from consumer advertising in that it serves a community of people interested in the same thing; it is communities that will be the key to advertising success in the future.
As technology advances, more people are connected to each other than ever, through websites, emails, social networks, SMS and so on, and when you look at studies of how people are influenced to make purchases, the biggest factor is not print or TV advertising, nor is it animated banners, nor it is sponsorship, it is what you are told by people you trust. What we used to call a good reputation, word of mouth is the single biggest influencer on purchasing and specification. And to successfully employ word of mouth, you have to give people something to talk about. What we might call good content.
As the success of viral ad videos has shown, good content will spread by itself. And whereas amusing playlets for lager may not be exactly what construction audiences want, it is symptomatic of the new advertising that it will inevitably involve the user in spreading the message. Companies need to acknowledge that their advertising will be shaped through audience participation. Plonking your Twitter feed or Facebook page address at the end of an ad will not be enough; nobody will visit those without a good reason, which means your advertising message must give an appropriate reason to engage.
To successfully employ word of mouth, you have to give people something to talk about – what we might call good content. As the success of viral ad videos has shown, good content will spread by itself
This of course is approaching the marketer’s dream of highly targeted campaigns with customised messages that are personally relevant to the needs of the audience, which are then spread by the audience itself. And for that to happen the advertisements, or rather the mix of advertising, must be highly relevant, intriguing and interactive. Content and message will be more important than the media. Waving at customers no longer works, but showing them something useful to them does.
However, nothing has been expelled from the advertising media mix. Traditional media are not dead; there will always be a need for print ads, exhibitions, posters and the like, as they do things that digital advertising cannot. Google used posters to announce its new browser because it recognised there were web users it could not reach in any other way.
So how will we do construction advertising in 2012? We will be concentrating more than ever on the message, which will be useful and relevant and worth repeating.