John Battelle's Search Blog
Thoughts on the intersection of tech, business, and society.
So says Lost Remote….
So says Lost Remote.
I know this is like the 15th time I’ve quoted this phrase in the comments here on this blog over the years, but I keep coming back to Google “Ten Things” corporate philosophy:
“Google firmly believes that ads can provide useful information if, and only if, they are relevant to what you wish to find.”
I keep coming back to this, because I need someone to explain to me why television ads (or radio ads, or print ads, or any of the various other ads Google is offering) are relevant to what I wish to find? Aren’t television ads the antithesis of relevance ads? Isn’t the whole point of television advertising to get me interested in something that I otherwise was not interested in finding? Aren’t television ads more about branding and perception-alteration, than about relevance?
I keep asking this question, because I’ve never gotten a satisfactory explanation. Could someone enlighten me? How is it that television ads are not against everything that Google stands for?
this is test time. Now i am understand this is has a popularyt
this is test time. Now i am understand this is has a popularyt. Excuse me
Google will look to target a market that it can not reach via online alone. Its pretty normal for any marketing arm of a large company; The only surprise is that it has taken this long.
Will be interesting to see what approach they say.
JG – you certainly pose an interesting challenge. But perhaps you are thinking about what advertising used to be (or really still is) but not what it can be. In the days of interuption, shout at the customer, tell them why you are better communication, yes, it is difficult to find relevance. But if you can see a potential in the medium of advertising as a different way to engage in a conversation, there is tremendous opportunity for marketers to use it. There is still power in the video format, but marketers need to understand how to use it very differently.
Thanks ChrisP — Yes I see that there is a desire for corporations to speak with customers in new ways. Battelle likes to talk about conversational marketing, etc. I’m sure that video/telly ads can find a way to speak in that manner, too.
But those sorts of interactions only really come about when those conversations are already relevant to the consumer. When the consumer has already self-developed an information need, and wants to have that need met. When the consumer has no need, then the ads, or the conversation, or whatever, is non-relevant.
What I don’t understand on television is how any ads can be made relevant. When I sit down to watch The Office, all I care about is relaxing to a little bit of Dwight Shrute wackiness. I am not interested in seeing ads about paper and office supplies, even though the show is ostensibly “about” paper and office supplies. I am even less interested in seeing ads about car sale-a-thons. Or some new fast food chicken sandwich.
How is this non-relevance based television advertising going to change? If paper and office supplies is not even relevant to me, while I am watching The Office, what is going to be relevant? I feel like nothing will be relevant. So I don’t get it. More to the point: I don’t believe it. I’m open to having my mind changed, but I just don’t see it.
Maybe 2 or 2+ years ago, I do remember Battelle offering a scenario on telly advertising in which he said something about his wife asking him whether he’d bought some new baby pram, or diapers, or something like that. So he did a web search on those things. Then, 15 minutes later when he went to watch TV, the ads that were shown were for prams and diapers.
Maybe, just maybe, that scenario would be “relevance” based, because it extends an earlier user intentionality into a new medium, in a time-narrow window.
But again, I would just feel interrupted by that, because I was now watching Dwight Shrute. I want to relax, not think about any tasks or chores I need to do. That is to say, even this scenario would not be relevance-based, because at the moment of interruption of the ad into my consciousness stream, I would no longer have that same information need.
JG – I agree with everything you posted, especially about The Office, man that dinner party was painful. Allow me to take one more shot at trying to make some sense of this topic. Currently, unfortunately if you will, TV ads are a necessary evil. The only reason you get to watch The Office for free (well, after you have paid your cable/sat bill plus DVR charges) and zap thru the ads is because a bunch of advertisers, with a bunch of money, still think it is an effective way to reach you. I agree with you, that interrupting what you are really there to do isn’t a relevant or particularly motivating tactic. I rarely watch network shows (not including HBO, which is a different model, and perhaps a better way to get entertainment that the networks, but let’s leave that to another post) at their scheduled time, because I don’t want to sit thru the ads anymore either, and I work in this ridiculous industry – if I hear AT&T tell me one more time how they can DELIVER my world (while they couldn’t even manage my local phone service) I am going to throw a brick thru my TV.
Having said all that, think about 2 potential ways to make TV advertising relevant, both are uphill battles, but this obviously isn’t going to be easy. Perhaps one way could be relevance by association. A relevant ad to someone watching The Office would not be about office supplies or long distance (as you rightly point out), but maybe an advertiser could be relevant in an attitude and an approach to a message. Certainly not a hard sell, but maybe an invitation to connect on a different level. I agree that you want to be entertained, not sold to, but TV ads aren’t going away anytime soon, and if there is a brand that can relate to the humor and wit of The Office, maybe you could be intrigued to follow up with a conversation at a later date. Not a brand talking at you, but talking in a way that you may want to learn more about. Tall order, I get it, but there are still lots of folks that are forced to sit the commercial breaks, and we can try to make the best of it. And I realize that the vast majority of brands would struggle to pull this off in an kind of authentic manner.
Another potential way to make TV relevant (and its advertising by association) is to think about even more convergence. What if Google (and its web-based backbone) was the network that delivered your TV programming to you? Could your viewing habits, coupled with your search habits, purchase history, social network connections/info, blogs you read, etc., enrich all of those activities individually? To alter Battelle’s example of the pram slightly, what if, when you searched online, that search was informed not by simply the context of that given search, but all of your “media” habits – knowing that you watch The Office, like Ryan Adams, are a Cubs fan, and spend a ton of money on supplements may change the brands that would appeal to you. The TV ads themselves may become more or less relevant (I really agree with your entertainment interruption challenge) but until the TV world looks a lot more like HBO/Showtime, this might work. It also gives greater accountability to each individual channel, so advertisers can get smarter and smarter about how/when/where to try to engage in a conversation.
OK, this is getting way too long; I will post this plus some final thoughts on my blog when I get some more time. Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far.
Oh, I read the whole thing, ChrisP… no worries 😉
I see where you’re going with that. I follow ya. The more, overall, you know about every aspect of someone’s life, the more that you can fill the empty moment’s of that person’s life with messages that fit who they are and what they want to do. Right? That’s what you’re driving at?
I guess.. I reluctantly admit.. that might actually stretch things far enough so as to fit within a broader definition of “information need” and “relevance”. (I am operating under the traditional information retrieval notion that “relevance” is a concept that only exists within the scope of a given “information need”.)
Still, if things need to stretch that far, to accommodate that notion of relevance, I worry that the boundaries will essentially become flabby and useless.
Put another way: Defining relevance this broadly lets you claim things like any and all food advertising is relevant to me, because (after all) I have to eat. Part of what makes me who I am is the fact that I put edible “fuel” in my body so as to avoid death. Right?
Ok, maybe I am being a little bit silly, with that example. But I still think that trying to broadly tie advertising to the general patterns of who I am and what I do in my life means that you lose the powerful and highly-correlated immediacy of being able to give information that is directly relevant to an information need that I have right this very moment, as I am doing a search.
And, to add one more (hopefully) quick thing: I guess I also have a bit of difficulty understanding exactly how many products out there are so individually tailored, or even tailorable, to the fact that someone likes The Office and drives a Taurus and enjoys knitting and favors Obama and reads mystery novels and also watches Nascar. To the company advertising aloe-soaked nose-wipe tissues, how much does all that.. nay how much can all that, really matter?
Business is in the business of coming up with products that matter the most to the most number of people.
So it’s almost like you’re in a catch-22. The more you whittle down people into niches based on their television show watching patterns, blog reading habits, and social network connections, the less of a chance there are that there exist product specifically tailored to that niche. On the other hand, if you don’t whittle people down to that level, then you aren’t really doing “relevance”-based advertising.
So I’ll keep my mind open, keep thinking about this. But even though I see where you’re coming from, I still don’t fully get it, yet.
I think the point is, JG, that when Google owns something, then it’s relevant (simply because Google owns it — it’s kind of like defining “relevant” as anything that is owned by Google). I realize this may sound a little abstract, but it’s the best answer I can come up with to your question.
Thanks you Battelle Media.
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