When “The Numbers” No Longer Mean Anything…

It’s the ad business. We throw projections around like confetti at a wedding. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little optimism. But there is something wrong with the numbers.

Jean-Louis Gassée, a general partner at Allegis Capital in Palo Alto, writing for The Guardian, argues that the $20bn “opportunity” in mobile advertising is “a mirage.” Gassée believes we have trouble seeing things for what they are, because of “an age-old and dangerously misleading algorithm.”

The [new thing] is like the [old thing] only [smaller | bigger]

In other words, we see mobile phones like newer versions of televisions and desktop computers, only smaller.

Gassée does not say the mobile device is too intimate for advertising to work, but I will forward that idea again. Strange as it is, millions of people sleep with their cell phones, and stare lovingly into their phones on the bus, in meetings, on the thrown and on dates. Plus, a mobile is also not the family computer — it’s yours, and you don’t want any unwanted numbers or pitches in it.

It’s easy to extend this to the problem digital advertising has as a whole. The potential to reach people when and where they’re considering a purchase — online and in-store — is a glimmering jewel of a concept, but without better execution of the idea it mostly remains potential unrealized.

Earlier this week, I suggested that online ad units need to be interactive, content-rich, data-sensitive and a pleasure to work with. Readers want to be surprised and delighted, whether they have a printed paper in their hands or a screen. When it is a screen they’re handling, the ads must work harder to deliver value.

Can you imagine a mobile ad delivering the kind of value that would surprise and delight you? Say you’re seeing Gov’t Mule at House of Blues and the venue knows you’re there and how to reach you on your mobile (because you opted in at the door). Now a relevant offer like a price reduction on drinks, or on merchandise, makes sense.

At the same time, should another offer from HoB come out of context, the next day during a lunch or a meeting, it would be intrusive and unwelcome. Which is to say, brands hoping to reach customers on their phone, better think it through and show people the kind of respect that they clearly desire and deserve (which, interestingly, is not a problem technology can solve).

Previously on AdPulp: Brands Don’t “Get” Mobile, And Techies Don’t “Get” Brands



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.