There’s been a lot written recently about the advertising model of Facebook and other online social networks. A lot of this is concerned with the lack of success banner adverts have on these sites, and whether all of the billion dollar valuations are predicated on banner adverts starting to work or the development of a new strategy that will be successful.
Banner adverts are based on a model that, Seth Godin opines, is exhausting people. “Commercials used to be a minute long, sometimes two. Then someone came up with the brilliant idea of running two per minute, then four. Now there are radio ads that are less than three seconds long”. This is the advert-as-flick-book – you view it very quickly, get the message, move on. You don’t want to hang around to watch it, and only occasionally see something you want to click on.
On the opposite side of this, there’s the model of the advert as photo album – something you do want to go back to, to look at even when you don’t have a reason to, to show other people. In the UK, there have been some superb examples of this recently, the below all from Fallon London:
Play-doh (Sony Bravia)
Gorilla (Dairy Milk)
It’s kicking back, not only at the increasing shortness of TV adverts, but also people’s increased ability to skip them.
A lot (especially in the context of social software) is talked about the relevance of the advert to the user. However, relevance is actually something we, as consumers, are quite used to outside the internet; it’s the default setting. We watch TV shows that reflect our interests; the ads the breaks are going to be targeted at people with those interests or (presumed) demographics. We buy magazines on possibly even more specific interests, and the advertisers in those magazines are selling to people with those interests.
Having said that, not all magazines are equal. Some, in time, become trusted sources of information and this trust extends to the adverts inside them. The Economist and Harper’s Bazaar would be examples of these – this is advertising as directory, as a valid starting point for research. The things that will be advertised are even more predictable than usual, and the readership know enough about at least some of these categories for denser, text-heavier adverts to make sense.
Which model will Facebook, MySpace and their ilk choose? Generally online advertising is a flick book – lots of messages, lots of logos, increasing awareness and salience to uncertain ends. A manager for MySpace’s TV unit recently said, “I don’t think our monetization strategy will be a prize-winning Harvard Business School study” – I’m looking forward to the strategy that does win prizes, that creates a new model of advertising entirely suited to the web.